Roby Gilbert has been reunited with his son Sky after American courts awarded him full custody today.

The pair had been apart for three years after ex-wife Juliette abducted Sky and fled the United States for New Zealand in April 2003.

She was discovered last weekend in Rotorua and deported with Sky this week.

Detective Lori Blankenship, of the Kitsap County Sherriff's office, said father and son were getting on extremely well.

"He talked to his daddy from the airport yesterday and was on the phone for an hour," she said from Washington this morning.

Ms Blankenship accompanied Sky from San Francisco to Washington State yesterday, where he spent the night in state care.

This morning son and father were reunited after the courts awarded Mr Gilbert custody.

"Everything went really well and he's back home. He's now reunited with his dad."

Nine-year-old Sky has spent the last three years living as a fugitive, including 10 months with Gilbert's fiance, Bay of Plenty engineer Craig Henwood.

Mother and son were captured in Rotorua last weekend, after hiding out in a tent near Lake Rotoma for two months.

Gilbert, an overstayer in New Zealand, is now in the San Francisco county jail awaiting extradition to Washington State.

Mr Gilbert -- a 39-year-old artist and animation teacher from Bainbridge Island, Washington -- said he had thought of his son every day since the abduction.

"It's been a lot of sleepless nights," he told an American television station. Mr Gilbert's fiancee, Laura Schmidt, agreed.

"There's been an empty place waiting for him that will be filled soon. We can't wait," she said.

The couple has asked the media for quiet time, so they can re-acquaint themselves with Sky and get him the appropriate counselling.

"His world has been shattered and will continue to be until he gets proper help," Mr Gilbert said.

Juliette Gilbert is expected to face charges of custodial interference and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. A friend in the Pacific Northwest faces possible investigation for helping her while she was on the run.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES