By David Raleigh
The appeal against a court ruling allowing a Limerick couple take custody of their brother's children following his death in North Carolina could take up to a year to be heard, it has emerged.
The attorney for the children's stepmother, Molly Martens, who fought a bitter custody battle against the family of Jason Corbett, said the children Jack, aged 10, and Sarah, aged 8, had left the United States and were on their way home to Limerick.
David Freedman said the appeal could take up to a year but that it would not affect the court's ruling allowing the children to go back to their Irish relatives.
The Corbett children are expected to fly into Shannon Airport at 7am Saturday morning with their aunt and uncle-in-law Tracey and David Lynch and other members of their father's family.
"My understanding is the cases were dismissed yesterday and the children left for Ireland last night," Mr Freedman told this reporter.
"That's my understanding...the contact I had was that they were leaving last night."
He added: "That doesn't effect the appeal. The appeal still goes forward."
Asked how Ms Martens was feeling, he said: "She's distraught."
"How would any mother feel, who's been a mother for eight years to two different children who were ripped away from her in the middle of the night, and have been taken out of the country," Mr Freedman said.
Jason Corbett and Molly Martens
He added: "It could be six months to a year before the appeal is heard."
"I felt the best interests of the children were to stay with Molly, because she's their mother. They refer to her as mammy."
"She was very active in their day to day life. She was at school with them. As a volunteer, she was a swim coach for them, she helped them with their horseback (riding)."
"She was the one who was there for them on a day to day basis."
Mr Freedman said Ms Martens wish to right for custody of the children "never meant any disrespect to the Lynch's".
"We've had nothing but good things to say about the Lynch's. It's just that we felt the children should stay with the person they determine as their mother," he said.
Jason Corbett's mother Rita said on Thursday she expected the children to land at Shannon Airport at 7am, Saturday morning.
Speaking this evening, the children's other grandmother, Marian Fitzpatrick, said she understood the children would still be coming home on Saturday.
"As far as I know, yeah," she confirmed.