Monday, March 07, 2022

PREVENTING CHILD ABDUCTION TO LEBANON

 by Jeremy D. Morley

Lebanon is, in my opinion, a proven safe haven for international parental child abduction. I testified to this effect last month in great detail in a case in Texas.

My credentials include extensive research concerning Lebanese family law, consultations with numerous clients, and often with Lebanese counsel, concerning abductions and potential abductions to Lebanon, and my hosting of a meeting about Lebanese family law. in New York with three Lebanese judges (one from a Christian court, one from a Sharia court and one from a civil court) as well as a top Lebanese family lawyer.

Lebanon has failed and refused to adopt the Hague Abduction Convention. It has a religious-based judicial system in the sphere of family law matters. It does not have one civil code regulating personal status matters. There are 15 separate personal status laws for the country’s different recognized religious communities, twelve of which are Christian and four are Muslim, with the remaining courts and laws being for Druze and Jews. Each of these laws are administered by separate religious courts. It is often extremely difficult to enforce custody orders in Lebanon and it is relatively simple for parents to frustrate the process for extended periods of time by moving to other locations in Lebanon or by initiating new civil or criminal proceedings within Lebanon.

Given the current overwhelming challenges that Lebanon faces with terrorism, corruption and a collapsed economy, it is most unlikely that the extreme difficulties faced by left-behind parents in trying to secure the return of children who have been abducted to Lebanon will be ameliorated in the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

INTERIM MAINTENANCE IN HIGH-NET-WORTH CASE IN ENGLAND, DESPITE NEW YORK PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENT


                                                                                                                        By Jeremy D. Morley*

High-net-worth divorce cases in England can be both unpredictable and extremely expensive, even when the parties have signed a well-drafted, thoroughly reviewed and subsequently modified New York prenuptial agreement containing substantial provisions for the lesser wealthy spouse. A case on point is Collardeau-Fuchs v. Fuchs, [2022] EWFC 6 (21 February 2022).

The parties had signed a New York prenuptial agreement, in which the husband had disclosed a net worth of more than £1 billion, and the wife a net worth of about £4 million. They had then signed a modification of the prenuptial agreement during the marriage. Fortunately for the wife, she was able to bring her divorce case in London, where the family owned an extremely valuable home. The family also owned extremely valuable residential properties in New York, France and other locations.

An interim decision in the case was rendered a few days ago, solely on the question of the amount of interim maintenance to be paid by the husband, pending the final resolution of the case. It was only an 8-year marriage, although in England it would be deemed a 12-year relationship since the parties had cohabited for 4 years prior to the marriage (or only for 2 years according to the husband).  The length of the relationship is a factor of far greater significance in England than in New York.

The prenuptial agreement, as modified, provided that the wife would receive a lump-sum payment upon a divorce of £23.5 million plus 18 years of rent-free accommodation at the family home in West London, valued at £30 million.

Under English law, the prenuptial agreement could not modify or limit the duty of the English court to provide for interim maintenance to parties in “need.” New York does not necessarily so provide. The decision of the English court by the Hon. Mr. Justice Mostyn -- an English High Court judge who had himself once achieved fame as a barrister with the nickname of “Mr Payout” because of the enormous sums he had won for divorcees – concerned nothing more than the extremely preliminary issue of interim maintenance.

The English court determined that, during the pendency of the divorce case, the husband must pay to the wife sufficient sums as would meet her “reasonable needs.” It held that English law required that the term “reasonable needs” must be interpreted in light of the standards enjoyed by the parties during the marriage. Since the reality was that “the husband and wife in this case belong to a tiny percentage of the world population who have control and management and entitlement to huge sums of money,” the wife’s “reasonable needs” must be considered “according to the standards of the ultra rich.” The court insisted that it had a duty to “avoid the risk of confining [the needs of the wife] by the application of scales that would seem generous to ordinary people.”

The court found that the portion of the parties’ annual living costs that was attributable to the wife, for the last full year before the parties separated, was approximately £855,000.00 ($1,368,000.00), of which about 55% (£475,000.00) was for (obviously lavish) vacations. This sum did not include the cost of staff for the West London house (two chefs, a house manager, 2 or 3 housekeepers, a launderer, and numerous contractors such as gardeners, pool maintenance builders, plumbers, electricians, and handymen) solely, as well as other “Overheads.”

Accordingly, the court ordered the husband to pay the sum of £855,000.00 a year to the wife on an interim basis until the conclusion of the case, plus £2.78 million a year for staff and overhead, for a grand total of £3.635 million (almost $5 million) per annum.

The court also ordered the husband to pay all of the wife’s legal fees, both past due and those yet to be incurred. Judge Mostyn explained that, although the litigation was only “at a relatively early stage,” the parties had nonetheless already incurred considerable legal costs which amounted to about £917,000.00, with another £288,700.00 anticipated through the end of the next month, for an interim total of £1,205,000.00 ($1.64 million).

Meanwhile, the very much larger issue of the full effect of the prenuptial agreement in England remains to be determined. In this regard, the contrast between New York and English law remains extreme. It is clear the public policy of the New York courts to encourage marrying couples to create certainty about their financial arrangements by entering into prenuptial agreements. The New York courts will enforce the terms of a well-drafted prenuptial agreement upon a divorce absent proof of unconscionability or extreme unfairness or duress, or other unusual circumstances. But courts in England are far more circumspect in their enforcement of such agreements, even when there has been full financial disclosure and independent legal representation. English judges remain particularly protective of the rights of less wealthy spouses and the need to consider “fairness” in determining whether to apply or modify the terms of a prenuptial agreement. The wife in the just-reported case seems to have been extremely fortunate, or extremely wise or strategic, to have been able to bring her case in London, and not in New York.

_____________________

* Jeremy D. Morley is a New York lawyer who collaborates with counsel in England and other jurisdictions in handling international prenuptial agreements. He may be reached at www.international-divorce.com and www.internationalprenuptials.com

 

Monday, February 14, 2022

FINANCIAL RESTITUTION AGAINST INTERNATIONAL PARENTAL CHILD KIDNAPPERS

U.S. law allows a left-behind parent whose child has been abducted to the United States to compel the abducting parent to repay all of the fees and expenses incurred in seeking the child's return. 22 U.S.C. §9007(b)(3). But there is no similar provision that clearly entitles a left-behind parent whose child has been abducted out of the United States to seek reimbursement from the abductor of the fees and expenses incurred in seeking the child's return to the United States.


There is appears to be a split between the Ninth and Tenth Circuits as to whether federal legislation that authorizes an award of restitution to a victim of criminal offense can be used to recoup a left-behind’s parent’s legal expenses in cases of international parental child abduction once the abductor has been found guilty of international parental child kidnapping pursuant to the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act (the “IPKCA”) 18 U.S.C. §1204.

The Victim and Witness Protection Act of 1982 authorizes a federal district court to sentence a criminal defendant to pay restitution to a victim of the offense to the extent of “expenses related to participation in the investigation or prosecution of the offense.” 18 U.S.C. §3663(b)(4).

In U.S. v. Cummings, 281 F.3d 1046 (9th Cir. 2002), the defendant father was successfully prosecuted under the IPKCA for having abducted his children from their home in the State of Washington to Germany. The left behind mother brought a return action against the father in Germany under the Hague Abduction Convention and an action in the State of Washington for contempt of court for his violation of a custody order. The father was sentenced to a term in jail and was required to pay the mother’s legal fees and expenses in the two civil actions. The Ninth Circuit upheld the restitution award, holding that the mother’s civil cases were not “wholly separate” from the government’s prosecution of the father. This was supported by the fact that, by initiating a case under the Hague Convention, the mother had followed the procedure specifically described in the IPKCA as the preferred “option of first choice” for a left-behind parent.

More recently, however, the Tenth Circuit held in U.S. v. Mobley, 971 F.3d 1187 (10th Cir. 2020) that it would not follow Cummings. In Mobley, the government prosecuted a mother under the IPKCA for her abduction of her children from their home in Kansas to Russia. Once she was in Russia, she had filed there for divorce and custody in Russia. The left-behind father had then sued for divorce and custody in Kansas. The Russia court had given custody to the mother, and the Kansas Court given custody to the father. The district court found the mother guilty under the IPKCA and ordered restitution to the father of the legal fees and expenses that he had incurred in connection with the two civil cases.

On appeal, the Tenth Circuit overturned the restitution award. It held that §3663 is not satisfied by evidence that the expenses were incurred in proceedings that were merely “related to” the criminal offence. Instead, the expenses must be “related to participation in the investigation or prosecution of the offense or attendance at proceedings related to the offense.” It held that the terms “investigation”, “prosecution” and “proceedings” are limited to the government's investigation, the government's criminal prosecution, and the criminal proceedings, in accordance with the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in Lagos vs. U.S., 138 S. Ct. 1684 (2018). There was no evidence that the government had directed or sanctioned the father’s civil proceedings, and the mother's attempts to secure children’s return “did not assist the government in its investigation or of prosecution of the mother.”

It remains to be seen whether Mobley will, in future cases, be successfully distinguished on its facts. Specifically, it is possible that proof could be elicited that the litigation efforts of a left-behind parent assisted the governor's prosecution of an international parental kidnapping case. In such a case, a restitution award might still be deemed appropriate. Even then, restitution would be restricted to those few cases in which an abductor is prosecuted under the IPKCA. Of course, recovery in any such case would be extremely remote. 

Friday, February 11, 2022

Hague Abduction Cases: Left-behind Parents, Lawyers & Judges Must Understand How Central Authorities’ Roles Vary Dramatically between Countries

 The Hague Abduction Convention requires each treaty party to establish a Central Authority to provide assistance in both outgoingcases in which a child is taken away from a country and “incoming cases in which a child has been brought into the country. The Convention leaves it up to each country to decide how the Central Authority will operate.

In some countries the Central Authority exercises a leading role in handling cases under the Convention. In other countries, such as the United States, the Central Authority’s role is extremely limited. This discrepancy is often unrecognised, and it may lead to confusion and even serious error.

In Australia, the Central Authority is a department within the Attorney-General's Department of the Australian Government. There are also separate Central Authorities for each Australian state or territory. In most Hague Convention cases in Australia, the appropriate Central Authority itself initiates judicial proceedings in the Australian courts for the return of children allegedly abducted to Australia. Indeed, the Central Authority is the plaintiff in any such case and the Central Authority lawyers do not take instructions concerning the conduct of such cases directly from the left-behind parent, who is not even a party to the legal proceedings. Left-behind parents may, in the alternative, start a case in their own name but this is unusual and perhaps ill-advised.

Similarly, the Central Authorities in Germany and New Zealand take on a substantial role in initiating judicial proceedings under the Convention.

However, cases in the United States are handled in a completely different way. The Central Authority in the United States is the State Department's Office of Children's Issues in the Bureau of Consular Affairs. It does not initiate litigation in any Hague Convention case and it has no power to do so. It has no responsibility or function to bring any cases under the Convention or to be involved in any significant way in any Hague Convention judicial proceeding. The Office of Children’s Issues has no judicial function whatsoever. It has no authority to secure a child’s return pursuant to the Convention. It is exclusively the responsibility of the left-behind parent to retain counsel and to commence a court case in the United States to seek an order that an abducted child must be returned.

Upon receipt of an application that is made by a left-behind parent under the Convention, whether the application is submitted by a foreign Central Authority or even if it is submitted directly by the left-behind parent, the United States Central Authority may assist with locating the child, and it will send a simple letter to the other parent suggesting mediation or a voluntary return, but it will certainly not file a case in court for the return of the child. 

Unfortunately, foreign Central Authorities may not fully understand that the U.S. State Department does not have any proactive role in litigating Hague Convention cases and they may not inform left-behind parents that they must start their own cases in the United States.

The fact that this critical distinction between Central Authorities that handle the Hague Convention case and those that do not is often misunderstood is even reflected in the current website of the Australian Central Authority, which includes advice on “International parental child abduction” that includes a flowchart of the “Application process for return of an abducted child to Australia.” The flowchart states that the steps to recover a child who has been abducted from Australia are as follows:

·       The first step is “Application received by Australian Central Authority (ACA).

·       The second step is “ACA assesses application against the Hague Convention.”

·       The third step, if there is a positive assessment, is “Application accepted by ACA, transferred to relevant CA in other country.”

·       The fourth and critical step, according to the flowchart, is:

“Overseas central authority takes appropriate action which may include mediation, seeking a voluntary return, or filing in court for the return of the child.”

Unfortunately, that advice is completely incorrect and misleading with respect to abductions to countries such as the United States. In particular, the U.S. Central Authority does not file a court case for the return of the child. To make matters worse, the Australian website does not warn left-behind parents that it is their sole responsibility to start the Hague case in the United States, and that the U.S. Central Authority will not handle it.

Similar confusion is shown in a case that is currently before the courts in New York. The Central Authority in Luxembourg is the State Prosecutor’s Office (the Parquet Generale Cite Judiciare). As is the case with Australia, that office is responsible for prosecuting incoming abduction cases in Luxembourg and its role is expansive and proactive. In the pending matter in New York, the Luxembourg Central Authority submitted to the U.S. Central Authority a formal referral of an application for a child’s return to Luxembourg, in which it requests the U.S. State Department to “take all the measures contained in article 12 of the above-mentioned Convention for the immediate return of the child to Luxembourg.” As stated above, the State Department does not take any such action and cannot do so. Is it any wonder that a left-behind parent would expect that the U.S. State Department is handling the matter?

In my extensive experience, left-behind parents often think that, merely because they have submitted an application for their child’s return from the United States under the Convention, they have “started a Hague case.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Central Authorities must ensure at a minimum that they do not provide incorrect information to their citizens. Nor should they suggest that left-behind parents should seek legal advice from the U.S. Central Authority, which cannot provide any such advice. In addition, I must reluctantly state that many of my clients have informed me that they have received incorrect or incomplete advice from the U.S. Central Authority.  

Left-behind parents must be warned that, if they do not commence a case in a U.S. court within one year of the date of the wrongful removal or retention, the abductor will be able to take advantage of the provision in Article 12 of the Convention that the court need not order the return of a child who has become settled in the new environment. The International Child Abduction Remedies Act provides that “the term ‘commencement of proceedings’, as used in Article 12 of the Convention, means, with respect to the return of a child located in the United States, the filing of a petition in accordance with subsection (b) of this section.” 42 U.S.C. § 11603(f)(3). Accordingly, the one-year period is not tolled by reason of the mere filing of a Hague application even if the left-behind parent believed that filing the application was sufficient or believed that the U.S. State Department was handling the case.  Monzon v. De La Roca, 910 F.3d 92 (3d Cir. 2018).

The submission of an application to the Office of Children’s Issues does not constitute the initiation of judicial proceedings, does not stop the clock for purposes of the “one year and settled” exception to the Convention, and does not require the alleged abductor to take or not to take any action. The Office does not appoint attorneys for left-behind parents, and it does not file return petitions with the courts. Unlike several other countries, and notwithstanding the advice that may be provided by some Central Authorities, the responsibility for starting a Hague case in an appropriate court in the United States rests exclusively with the left-behind parent.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

SUPERVISED VISITATION TO PREVENT INTERNATIONAL CHILD ABDUCTION TO INDIA OR UAE: CANADIAN COURT RULING

 by Jeremy D. Morley

 

Supervised visitation is sometimes the only effective way to prevent international child abduction, especially when a country does not have effective exit controls.

For this reason, in a decision dated January 7, 2022, the Superior Court in Ontario, Canada (Pinto J.) has required that a father’s access to his child should be supervised in order to prevent him from abducting the child to India or the UAE. The ruling was based in significant part on my expert evidence concerning the child custody laws of both India and the UAE and my opinions concerning the risk of potential international child abduction. Lakhtakia v. Mehra, 2022 ONSC 201.

The parents are of Indian origin and the father is an Indian citizen with significant connections also to the UAE. Their child was born in Canada and then lived with both parents for a time in India. When the parents separated in India, the mother unilaterally returned the child to Canada and alleged domestic violence. At trial, I was accepted as an expert qualified to provide expert opinion evidence before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice as to the matters before the court concerning international child abduction and the laws and procedures of India and the UAE.

I testified that India has purposefully refused to accede to the Hague Abduction Convention, that it is usually fruitless to initiate litigation there seeking the return of an internationally-abducted child and that I counsel against it unless the left-behind parent has great fortitude and very substantial funds.

There was a sharp disagreement between me and another expert on Indian law concerning whether or not measures could be required by the Canadian court, or provided by the father, that would reliably ensure that the child would be returned to Canada if abducted to India by his father. I did not agree that the current state of the law in India relating to the enforcement of foreign custody orders allows for the expeditious return of the child to the custodial parent through a writ of habeas corpus. I also disagreed with the suggestion that Indian jurisprudence since 2018 has evolved and allows for the issuance of a “mirror order” whereby an Indian court would issue an order that contains all the terms of an order of a foreign court. I clarified that there have been a couple of Indian cases where the Indian courts have asked courts in foreign jurisdictions to issue a mirror order, but that does not constitute the Indian court issuing a mirror order. The court adopted my evidence that there were no such measures and that the risk of abduction was too high, given the specific facts of the case. Judge Pinto determined that the father was a flight risk and was untrustworthy. Accordingly, and also because the father had spent little time with the child, he determined that unsupervised visitation presented too great a risk.

On cross-examination, and as summarized by the court, I explained that, in cases arising from the abduction of a child to India, the Indian trial courts normally make a de novo custody review of the best interests of the child; that they  have tremendous discretion as to how to apply that test; that the first court’s decision is generally reviewed by a first appeal court, and then often by a second appeal court; that it is “utterly unpredictable” as to whether the process would be expedited; that there are many ways in which the parent who wants the child to remain in India can use the procedures of the Indian legal system to lengthen the time over which the court considers the issue; and that, given that a long time has passed, the Indian courts regularly determine that the child has become well settled in India so that it would be unfair to return the child to the foreign jurisdiction.

With respect to the UAE, I testified that that country has chosen not to accede to the Hague Convention, and that the U.S. government has reported to Congress that “The UAE does not adhere to any protocols with respect to international parental child abduction,” that the UAE authorities persistently failed to work with the American Department of State to resolve child abduction cases, and that 50% of requests for the return of abducted children remained unresolved for more than 12 months. I further testified that the concepts of child custody and guardianship in the UAE are completely different than a Canadian or American context and encompass age-specific and gender-specific criteria, and I explained the UAE rules concerning travel bans.

I further opined as to the risk factors concerning international child abduction, the applicability of those factors to the facts with which I had been provided and the need to balance the laws and procedures concerning the return of abducted children of a foreign country with the level of risk presented by the application of the risk factors to the facts of the case.

The court ultimately adopted and applied my conclusions that:

(i) If the father were able to remove the child from Canada in defiance of Canadian court orders, there was an extremely significant risk that the mother would be unable to secure the child’s return or even to obtain access to the child,

(ii) The facts with which I had been presented, if true, showed that there was a significant risk that the father would not comply with the terms of a Canadian court order, and

(iii) The only way to effectively prevent the father from taking the child overseas was to require that the father’s access to the child be strictly supervised.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Danger of Self-Help After An International Child Abduction

 This story shows inherent risks of “self-help” in “re-kidnapping” internationally-abducted children. See my articles on preventing child visits to LebanonJordanEgyptother countries if parent anticipates non-return. 

Thursday, October 28, 2021

INTERNATIONAL CHILD RELOCATION FROM CANADA

 by Jeremy D. Morley

With effect from March 1, 2021, the Divorce Act of Canada has made significant changes to the Canadian law concerning child relocation, including international relocation. However, while the legislation contains a helpful clarification concerning the applicable burden of proof, it includes a list of factors that should be considered in relocation cases that are plainly deficient in respect of international child relocation cases.

Burden of Proof  

The new law provides that the burden of proof in a relocation application will shift depending on whether or not the parties are to share custodial time equally.

If the parties substantially comply with an order that provides that the child spends “substantially equal time” with each parent, the party intending to relocate has the burden of proving that the relocation would be in the best interests of the child.

But if the parties substantially comply with an order that provides that their child “spends the vast majority of their time” with the party who intends to relocate, the other party has the burden of proving that the relocation would not be in the best interest of the child. (Sections 16.93(1) and (2) of the Divorce Act).

For “in-between” situations, where the child is spending unequal time with the parents but less than the vast majority of time with one, “each parent must demonstrate why the proposed relocation is or is not in the best interest of the child.” (Section 16.93(3) of the Divorce Act).

Statutory Factors to Consider

In deciding whether a relocation is in the best interest of a child, the new law requires that, in addition to considering the usual factors to be considered in any custody case, the court should also consider certain specific additional factors relating to relocation. These factors are:

  1. The reason for the relocation;
  2. The impact of the relocation on the child;
  3. The parenting time and involvement that each person has with the child;
  4. Whether the person planning the relocation has given the proper notice;
  5. Whether there is a court order and agreement that says a child is supposed to live in a certain place;
  6. Whether the proposal to change the parenting arrangement is reasonable; and
  7. Whether the people involved have been following their courts under an agreement.

A Serious Omission

The list of factors set forth in the Divorce Act to be considered does not include a group of special factors that are of the most extreme significance in any international relocation application. These factors are:

  1. a) Whether the courts and legal system in the foreign country will recognize and effectively enforce the relocation provisions of the Canadian court;
  2. b) Whether the foreign court will have the power to modify the Canadian order;
  3. c) The criteria that the foreign court will adopt when considering a modification application; and
  4. d) Whether even the domestic custody orders issued in the foreign country will be effectively enforced

Consider the case of an application to relocate a child from Canada to Japan. If the Canadian court is not provided with admissible and reliable evidence as to the laws and procedures of Japan -- concerning such matters as the recognition in Japan of foreign custody orders, the jurisdiction of a Japanese court to issue custody orders once a child has been relocated to Japan, the substantive laws of Japan concerning child custody and child visitation, and the extent to which Japanese custody orders are actually enforced in Japan -- the Canadian court may well act under the assumption that Japanese law and procedure are similar to the Canadian law and procedure. But that assumption would be totally mistaken and could prove extremely damaging to a relocated child and to a left-behind parent.

In fact, (a) the courts in Japan will not recognize the Canadian custody order, (b) the courts in Japan will have unfettered child custody jurisdiction once a child is living there, (c) the Civil Code of Japan precludes any sharing of custody, (d) there is no reported case of international child visitation ever having been awarded by a Japanese court, and (e) visitation orders are unlikely to be enforced in Japan.

Thus, expert evidence concerning Japanese family law would be an essential element of any considered evaluation of an application in Canada for relocation of a child to Japan. The same applies to relocation to any other foreign destination.

It is essential in any contested case in which a request is made to move a child overseas that the court is provided with reliable advice concerning the effect of domestic courts order in the foreign country. It is surprising and unfortunate that the new Canadian law does not contain an explicit requirement that such information must be s

Jeremy D. Morley, a New York lawyer who concentrates exclusively in international family law, and formerly an Asst. Professor of Law at the Faculty of Law, University of New Brunswick, has written, lectured and testified extensively in Canada and many other jurisdictions as an expert on Japanese family law and the family laws of numerous other countries. His website in www.international-divorce.com

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Informal Notes on Habitual Residence in U.S. Courts in Hague Abduction Convention Cases

by Jeremy D. Morley

I had the pleasure this week of participating in a panel discussion organized by the Singapore Bar Association with three brilliant international family lawyers, Yap Teong Liang of Singapore, Kiran Dhaliwal of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Keturah Sageman of Sydney, Australia. The topic was Relocation v Abduction – Fight or Flight: Is Abduction a Hindrance to Return? We used a case study primarily drafted by T.L. Yap. 

Here are some of my extremely informal notes on the issue of habitual residence in a U.S. Hague Abduction Convention case. For more on the topic see my book.

If the habitual residence issue were heard in a U.S. court the outcome would definitely be uncertain. Last year, the U.S. adopted a new test of habitual residence in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Monasky case. The good news is that the test has now been clearly and simply stated. The bad news is that the test has now been clearly and simply stated. The test is simply that of the “totality of the circumstances,” but no one really knows what that means, since it is almost completely fact-based.

What is clear is that the old rule adopted by several U.S. circuits, of a primary focus on the last shared intention of the parents, has mostly been abandoned and that it has been replaced by looking far more at the situation through the eyes of the child. Where did the child think was her “home”?

In the case in the excellent case study, we were given some of the relevant circumstances, but we would need many more details in order to be able to make a prediction as to how a U.S. court would rule.

In support of Australia being the habitual residence is the child’s one-half year in Sydney plus her attending school in Sydney during that time. In support of the habitual residence still being in the U.S. is that she lived there for the first 8 years of her life, her father kept the family apartment in New York and the family retained Sophia’s school place in New York and that the parties’ original intention was to return to New York. The parents’ citizenships cancel each other out and in any event are probably not significant to a 9-year-old child. Among the facts that we still need to know are the following:

·       Where are Sophia's friends?

·       Is Sophia close to family in Sydney or more with family in New York?

·       Where is their family’s “stuff”? Where is Sophia’s stuff in particular?

·       Did they buy new furniture in Sydney? Did they buy cheap furniture from IKEA or expensive designer furniture from a high-end store?

·       Has Sophia settled well into school in Sydney or was she doing better in school in New York?

·       And with respect to the parents’ agreement to return to New York if things didn’t work out in Australia, was a return to New York implicitly contingent on Sergio's good behavior? Was there an implied term that he would do better and that he would work on repairing the relationships? Since he is the one who apparently sabotaged the agreement by hitting Sophia, isn’t it wrong to reward him for his own misconduct?

I should note that, unlike the affidavit-based focus in Singapore, the presentation concerning these issues in U.S. courts will primarily by means of witness testimony, which may include intense cross-examination. In addition, even in an expedited Hague case, pre-trial discovery is often ordered, and this may include pre-trial depositions as well as extensive document production.

My final point on habitual residence is that the Supreme Court ruled in Monasky that these issues are to be decided by the trial court and should not normally be reviewed on appeal because they are so intensely fact-based, which is the province of a trial court, not an appeal court.

 


Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Date of Wrongful Abduction Governs Hague Convention Habitual Residence Determinations

 

by Jeremy D. Morley

In any Hague Abduction Convention case, the court must determine the date of the alleged wrongful removal or retention of the child before determining the child's habitual residence. A decision on the applicable date may well resolve the entire case.

Yesterday, the Sixth Circuit in Douglas v. Douglas (6th Cir.9/21/21, Case No. 21-2335), in which I had an advisory role, affirmed an award of summary judgment dismissing a Hague petition on the ground that the child was habitually resident in the United States, rather than Australia, where she was born and lived for four months until her mother took her to Michigan, to live there permanently (mother’s claim) or for a mere visit (father’s claim).

It is most unusual to succeed on a motion for summary judgment in a case about habitual residence, because the Supreme Court’s test of “totality of the circumstances,” established in Monasky v. Taglieri, 140 S. Ct. 719, 723 (2020), is factual and open-ended. See: Jeremy D. Morley, The Hague Abduction Convention: Practical Issues and Procedures (3d ed).


But here the petitioner had alleged in his original petition that the wrongful retention had not occurred until 7½ months after the infant child was taken to Michigan. This allowed the trial judge to grant summary judgment in respondent’s favor, since the infant had consensually spent so much time in Michigan before the date of the alleged wrongful retention.

The Sixth Circuit affirmed that ruling, stating that, after 7½ months in Michigan (which followed only four months in Australia, during which the parents had separated and the mother had planned to return to the United States), the child was “at home” in Michigan on the relevant date.

Critically, although the petitioner had sought to amend his pleadings to allege that an earlier wrongful retention date should be used, that application had been denied, and that determination had not been appealed.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

U.S. Diplomatic Protest – Ecuador & International Child Abduction

 

Jeremy D. Morley

In May 2021, the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Ecuador delivered a formal diplomatic protest known as a “demarche” to members of President-elect Guillermo Lasso’s transition team. The Department noted that Ecuador has been cited for demonstrating a pattern of noncompliance in the 2021 Annual Report on International Child Abduction during 2020, specifically for judicial delays.


Specifically, the State Department has determined that the Ecuadorian judicial authorities failed to regularly implement and comply with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

As a result of this failure, 17 percent of requests for the return of abducted children under the Convention remained unresolved for more than 12 months. On average, these cases were unresolved for one year and three months.

Ecuador was previously cited for demonstrating a pattern of noncompliance in the 2015-2020 Annual Reports.

 

Monday, September 13, 2021

U.S. Diplomatic Protest – Costa Rica & International Child Abduction


Jeremy D. Morley

In May 2021, U.S. Embassy San Jose delivered a formal diplomatic protest known as a “demarche” to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica concerning Costa Rica’s citation for demonstrating a pattern of noncompliance in the 2021 Annual Report on International Child Abduction for demonstrating a pattern of noncompliance during 2020.


Department officials raised continuing concerns with the Government of Costa Rica about the Costa Rican judiciary’s persistent failure to regularly implement and comply with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Specifically, the Department raised concerns with delays in the judicial process and Costa Rica’s compliance with the Convention.

 

 

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

U.S. Diplomatic Protest - Brazil & International Child Abduction

 

 Jeremy D. Morley


In June 2021, the Deputy Chief of Mission at U.S. Embassy Brasilia delivered a formal diplomatic protest known as a “demarche” to the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, notifying Brazilian officials that the Department again cited Brazil in the 2021 Annual Report on International Child Abduction for demonstrating a pattern of noncompliance during 2020.


The demarche expressed concern about Brazil's continued failure to comply with its obligations under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.


In particular, the demarche noted U.S. concerns with excessive delays within Brazil's judiciary and language in more than one judicial decision that was clearly noncompliant with the Convention.


The State Department has reported that the Brazilian judicial authorities failed to regularly implement and comply with the provisions of the Convention and failed to take appropriate steps to locate children in an abduction case, contributing to Brazil's persistent failure to implement and abide by the provisions of the Convention.


As a result of these persistent failures, 75 percent of requests for the return of abducted children under the Convention remained unresolved for more than 12 months. On average, these cases were unresolved for three years and eight months.


Brazil was previously cited for demonstrating a pattern of noncompliance in the 2006-2020 Annual Reports.

 

 

Friday, September 03, 2021

HOW TO WIN A HAGUE CONVENTION CHILD ABDUCTION CASE

 


by Jeremy D. Morley Author of The Hague Abduction Convention: Practical Issues and Procedures for Family Lawyers, published by the American Bar Association. Here are some tips for attorneys and clients faced with instituting or defending child abduction proceedings under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, whether in the United States or internationally.

Thursday, September 02, 2021

U.S. Diplomatic Protest - Argentina & International Child Abduction

 

Jeremy D. Morley

In June 2021, the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires delivered a formal diplomatic protest known as a “demarche” to the Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship, notifying Argentine officials that the Department cited Argentina in the 2021 Annual Report on International Child Abduction for demonstrating a pattern of noncompliance during 2020.


The demarche expressed concern about Argentina’s continued failure to comply with its obligations under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

In particular, the demarche noted U.S. concerns with excessive delays within Argentina’s legal system, which allows multiple appeals both on the merits of the decision and on the manner in which decisions are enforced.

The State Department has reported that, in 2020, the Argentine judicial authorities failed to regularly implement and comply with the provisions of the Convention. As a result of this failure, 67 percent of requests for the return of abducted children under the Convention remained unresolved for more than 12 months. On average, these cases were unresolved for six years. Argentina was previously cited for demonstrating a pattern of noncompliance in the 2015-2020 Annual Reports.

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

BANGLADESH, THE HAGUE ABDUCTION CONVENTION, AND AN ABDUCTION FROM JAPAN

 by attorney Jeremy D. Morley, www.international-divorce.com

A terrifically interesting issue is pending before the courts of Bangladesh. My client is a Japanese doctor in Tokyo. Her estranged husband abducted the children from Tokyo to Dhaka, Bangladesh. The Family Court in Tokyo has ordered their return, but the father has failed to comply with the order. The matter is now before the courts in Bangladesh. However, Bangladesh has not signed the Hague Abduction Convention. See e.g. this article.


In my opinion, at its core, the fundamental issue in the Bangladesh courts in is whether Bangladesh is a safe haven for international child abduction and, indeed, an international outlaw.


One theory that may be pursued is that, since more than 100 countries have adopted the Hague Convention and since the Hague Abduction Convention is the most important international treaty in all of family law (possibly subject to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989), the provisions of the Convention have become part of customary international law and should therefore be applied by the courts in Bangladesh.


This theory is consistent with the decision of the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh in 2017 in considering the relevance of the principle of non-refoulement in relation to a Rohingya refugee being held in detention long after completing a formal prison sentence. Although Bangladesh was not a party to the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the Supreme Court determined that it was nevertheless applicable in Bangladesh since the treaty had “become a part of customary international law which is binding upon all the countries of the world, irrespective of whether a particular country has formally signed, acceded to or ratified the Convention or not.” Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) v Government of Bangladesh, Writ petition no. 10504 of 2016, Bangladesh: Supreme Court, 31 May 2017 www.refworld.org/cases,BAN_SC,5d7f623e4.html


There is a strong argument that the same position should be taken with respect to the fundamental principles of the Hague Abduction Convention that abducted children should normally be returned expeditiously to their habitual residence and that an international child abductor should not be rewarded by being able to transfer child custody jurisdiction to the courts in the country to which he has abducted a child.  


It remains to be seen whether the courts in Bangladesh will require the matter to proceed by means of a length plenary custody case, in violation of the Japanese courts’ jurisdiction and in violation of the Hague principles, or whether they will respect the comity of nations and return the abducted children forthwith to Japan.

 

Saturday, August 28, 2021

BANGLADESH: THE DOWRY PROHIBITION ACT OF 2018


by Jeremy D. Morley

 

The Dowry Prohibition Act of 2018 (the "Act") of Bangladesh prohibits the giving or receiving of a dowry.  The primary purpose of the Act is to end the custom whereby the bride’s family makes a financial payment to the groom’s family upon a marriage. The system is now seen to be a “social curse,” which frequently leads to disputes between the families and the harassment of innocent parties.


Section 3 of the Act criminalizes the act of directly or indirectly demanding a dowry, punishable by imprisonment of up to five years and/or a significant fine Section 4 of the Act makes it an offense to give or receive a dowry, or to abet such actions, which is likewise punishable by a fine or imprisonment. Section 2 provides that the parties who may be prosecuted for such actions may include the bride, the groom, their parents or legal guardians, “or any other person directly involved in the marriage” from the side of the bride or the groom.

The term “dowry” is defined as "money or any other asset" demanded by a party as the consideration for a marriage. However, it does not include a dower or mahr, in those cases in which the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) applies to the parties. Nor does it apply to wedding gifts.

Section 5 of the Act provides that any agreement for giving or taking of a dowry is void.

In an attempt to limit the number of false cases and harassment of an innocent party, Section 6 of the Act criminalizes filing a false complaint or causing a false complaint to be filed.

Finally, the offenses committed under the Act are “cognizable, non-bailable, and compoundable.” This means that, as a “cognizable” offense, the police may arrest the accused without a warrant; as a “non-bailable” offense an accused does not have an automatic right to be released on bail; and as a “compoundable” offense the parties are allowed to settle the issue outside of court.

It should also be noted that there are additional remedies available in Bangladesh for dowry-related violence, including the “Nari-O-Shishu-Nirjatan-Daman-Ain, 2000” law, which provides severe penalties for any dowry-related offense which causes hurt, grievous hurt or death, and the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, which defines "domestic violence" as any conduct which harasses, harms, injures, or endangers an aggrieved person, including any act done with a purpose to coerce an aggrieved person to meet any unlawful demand for a dowry.

 

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Fee Award in Hague Abduction Convention Case

by Jeremy D. Morley


It is gratifying that, in its award of legal fees to my client, whose child was successfully returned from New York to Spain pursuant to the Hague Abduction Convention, the U.S. district court’s calculation was based in part on my status as “one of the leading experts” on the Convention, who has lectured, written and testified as an expert on the Hague Convention and international family law. Grano v. Martin, 2021 WL 350016 (S.D.N.Y., Aug. 9, 2021). 


The fee award was granted even though there was some evidence of abuse by the petitioner. The district court ruled that this case, which was almost entirely about psychological as opposed to physical abuse, and in which both sides were less than candid, did not rise to the level of those cases justifying complete denial of an award. Further, an award of at least some fees serves the statutory purpose of deterring future child abductions. 


The Second Circuit’s affirmance of the original return order (Grano v. Martin, 821 F. App'x 26 (2d Cir. 2020)) is an important application of the new U.S. interpretation of the key term of “habitual residence” that was established by the Supreme Court in Monasky v. Taglieri, 140 S. Ct. 719, 722 (2020).  


For a full discussion of the Monasky case, see Jeremy D. Morley, The Hague Abduction Convention: Practical issues and Procedures for Family Lawyers, (Third Edition, 2021, published by the American Bar Association), available here.