Thursday, July 18, 2013

Our client: International custody case child returns to Sweden

In this March, 2013, photo provided by Stacey Warren, the Des Moines attorney representing Magnus Anderung, is Magnus Anderung with his daughter. The 3-year-old girl that was the center of an international custody dispute between her divorced father living in Sweden and her mother, Raina Anderung, who brought her to Iowa, is boarding a plane to return to Sweden as ordered by a federal judge. Riana Anderung said the her daughter boarded a flight departing Des Moines Wednesday, July 17, 2013, with her father. (AP Photo/Stacey Warren)

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A 3-year-old girl at the center of an international custody dispute boarded a plane to Sweden on Wednesday after a federal judge ruled that her mother was violating a treaty by keeping her in Iowa.

Linnea Anderung left on a morning flight from Des Moines with her father, Magnus Anderung, said attorney Stacey Warren, who represented the father in the federal case. Anderung's ex-wife and Linnea's mother, Raina Anderung, did not leave with them.

Magnus Anderung filed a lawsuit in February in Iowa alleging that his ex-wife never returned after leaving Sweden in May 2012 on what was supposed to be a 90-day visit to see her mother in Pleasantville, a small town about 30 miles southeast of Des Moines.

A federal judge sided with him in May, ruling that Raina Anderung had wrongfully kept their daughter in the U.S. since last August in violation of the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The treaty, which outlines child custody rules between countries that sign the agreement, was signed by the U.S. in 1988 and by Sweden in 1989.

Warren said the parents met a couple of times in the past week, together with Linnea, to make the transition easier for her. She has not lived with her father in more than a year, although he had come to Iowa to see her and to await the outcome of the court fight.

"He has been in Des Moines for 118 days, waiting to board a plane with his child and go home," Warren said. "His life, which has been on hold for the entire time, can finally resume and Linnea will be able to celebrate her fourth birthday at her home in Sweden."

Raina Anderung said that her daughter was upset at having to leave her mother and clung to her. She said her ex-husband had agreed to allow her and their daughter to move to Iowa, but Magnus Anderung denies that claim. She said she's now in debt from paying for her attorney but that she will continue to try to get custody of her daughter. She said parting with her daughter was "terrible, traumatic and a travesty" for the girl.

U.S. District Court Judge James Gritzner issued a ruling last month ordering the mother for the second time to return her daughter to Sweden. The judge argued that Raina Anderung had taken her daughter from the only country where the girl had ever lived.

Gritzner allowed the mother to appeal but ultimately found that none of the new evidence she submitted was compelling enough to overturn his earlier ruling. He said allowing further delays wouldn't be fair to the girl's father, who has been staying in Iowa because of the custody fight. He said Raina Anderung had the option of returning with her daughter to Sweden, where her father now has sole custody.

The parents had joint custody in Sweden before Raina Anderung left the country. After the Iowa judge's May ruling that ordered the child be return to Sweden, Magnus Anderung filed for a modification of their custody agreement in a Swedish court.

Under the international treaty, custody is decided in the nation from which it originated.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Hong Kong Strengthening Commitment to Hague Abduction Convention

Hong Kong appears to be strengthening its commitment to the Hague Abduction Convention process. The focus on tougher exit controls to discourage international child abduction stands in sharp contrast to the U.S. “open borders / no exit controls” policy that greatly hinders U.S. efforts to deter international child abduction.
See the following announcement (July 11, 2013) from the Hong Kong Government:
The Child Abduction Legislation (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2013 will be gazetted tomorrow (July 12). The Bill seeks to implement the recommendations of the Report on International Parental Child Abduction (the Report) published by the Law Reform Commission of Hong Kong (LRC) and to better support the operation of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (the Hague Convention).
The Hague Convention, which has been given the force of law in Hong Kong since September 1997 by the Child Abduction and Custody Ordinance (Cap.512), provides that children abducted from one contracting state to another should be located and returned to their home jurisdictions as quickly as possible.
The Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, said, "The LRC's review aims at improving Hong Kong's current legal protection against international parental child abduction."
Noting that the Report aims to help prevent children from being abducted out of Hong Kong by one of the parents, Mr Cheung said, "The recommendations will help prevent parental child abduction which usually occurs when a relationship between two parents breaks down and one of them absconds with the child to another jurisdiction. As pointed out by the LRC, when a child is abducted, he or she suffers the trauma of being taken away from home, and from the custodial parent and other family members.
We are also concerned that such abduction will be a harrowing experience for the child's left-behind family.
"The legislative amendments will minimise the likelihood of such an occurrence. One of the key amendments in the Bill is to provide a specific power to the local law enforcement agencies to hold a child suspected of being abducted at any border control points so that the child can be returned to the custodial parent or taken to a place of safety."
The Bill will be introduced into the Legislative Council for first and second readings on July 17.
The LRC has reviewed the existing legislation in Hong Kong relating to child abduction as well as the relevant laws of England and Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Australia and made a total of six recommendations. The recommendations include the introduction of legislative restrictions on removing a child from Hong Kong without the required consent; a specific power to the court to order the disclosure of the whereabouts of a child and to order the recovery of a child; a specific power to the authorities to hold a child suspected of being abducted so that he can be returned to the custodial parent or taken to a place of safety, etc.
The Report is the second in a series of four reports published by the LRC on guardianship and custody of children.
The first report on Guardianship of Children was followed up by the Labour and Welfare Bureau (LWB), resulting in the enactment of the Guardianship of Minors (Amendment) Bill 2012. The third report on the Family Dispute Resolution Process is being followed up by the Home Affairs Bureau. For the fourth report on Child Custody and Access, the LWB has decided to take steps to work out the legislative proposals and other implementation arrangements.