New York Matrimonial Trial Handbook

The New York Matrimonial Trial Handbook by Joel R. Brandes is available in Bookstores and online in the print edition at the Bookbaby Bookstore, Amazon Barnes & Noble, Goodreads and other online book sellers. It is also available in Kindle ebook editions and epub ebook editions for all ebook readers in our website bookstore. The New York Matrimonial Trial Handbook is divided into five parts: (1) Preliminary Matters Prior to the Commencement of Trial, Conduct of Trial and Rules of Evidence Particularly Applicable in Matrimonial Matters; (2); Establishing Grounds for Divorce, Separation and Annulment and Defenses; (3) Obtaining Maintenance, Child Support, Exclusive Occupancy and Counsel Fees; (4) Property Distribution and Evidence of Value; and (5) Trial of a Custody Case. There are thousands of suggested questions for the examination and cross-examination of witnesses dealing with very aspect of the matrimonial trial. Click on this link for more information about the contents of the book and on this link for the complete table of contents.

The New York Matrimonial Trial Handbook was reviewed by Bernard Dworkin, Esq., in the New York Law Journal on December 21, 2017. His review is reprinted on our website at with the permission of the New York Law Journal.

Joel R. Brandes, is the author of Law and The Family New York, 2d (9 volumes) (Thomson Reuters), and Law and the Family New York Forms (5 volumes) (Thomson Reuters). Law and the Family New York, 2d is a treatise and a procedural guide. Volume 4A of the treatise contains more than 950 pages devoted to an analysis of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and the International Child Abduction Remedies Act. It contains a complete discussion of the cases construing the Convention which have been decided by the United States Supreme Court, the Circuit Courts of Appeal, the District Courts, and the New York Courts.

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Sunday, January 20, 2019

Leonard v Lentz, --- Fed.Appx. ----, 2019 WL 181185 (Mem) (8th Cir., 2019)[Turkey][Grave risk of harm][Petition denied]

         In Leonard v Lentz, --- Fed.Appx. ----, 2019 WL 181185 (Mem) (8th Cir., 2019) Ozgur Leonard, a dual citizen of Turkey and the United States, claimed that Rachel Lentz, a United States citizen, had wrongfully removed the couple’s three minor children, I.Y.L., E.M.L., and S.M.L, to the United States, and he sought the return of the children to the Republic of Turkey. Lentz denied having taken any wrongful action. As an affirmative defense, she asserted, inter alia, that E.M.L., who had been born with End Stage Renal Disease and needed a kidney transplant, required a much more advanced treatment facility and medical team than Turkey could provide; and that returning the children to Turkey would create a grave risk that they would suffer some physical or psychological harm, or place them in an intolerable situation.

          The district court concluded that Leonard had established a prima facie case for wrongful removal.. The district court further determined, however, that Lentz had established the grave risk exception to removal, finding, as relevant, that the evidence, particularly testimony provided by E.M.L.’s doctors at the University of Iowa Health Care (UIHC), showed that ordering E.M.L. to be returned at that time would pose a grave risk to her physical health, and that E.M.L. would need to remain in close proximity to UIHC for the duration of her post-transplant recovery. Accordingly, the court denied Leonard’s request to return the children to Turkey. Just weeks after E.M.L. received a kidney transplant from Lentz, Leonard asked the court to reconsider its decision and, as relevant, to “order the return of the [c]hildren contingent on a future medical ‘release’ by [E.M.L’s nephrologist] stating [she was] satisfied that E.M.L’s further care [could] be provided in Turkey.” The district court found that the issue of whether E.M.L. could be returned to Turkey post-transplant was not ripe for consideration.

          The Eighth Circuit affirmed the judgement. It rejected Leonards argument that, inter alia, that the district court improperly denied his request to return the children to Turkey because the transplant had already occurred and because there was no evidence before the district court demonstrating that Turkish medical facilities were unable to provide adequate post-transplant care. It agreed that the issue was not ripe for consideration, as the record contained neither evidence that E.M.L. had reached the point in her recovery where her medical team was prepared to release her nor evidence establishing the point at which post-transplant return to Turkey would be safe for E.M.L. See Parrish v. Dayton, 761 F.3d 873, 875 (8th Cir. 2014) (ripeness is reviewed de novo; “[a] claim is not ripe for adjudication if it rests upon contingent future events that may not occur as anticipated, or indeed may not occur at all”).

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Malmgren v Malmgren, --- Fed.Appx. ----, 2019 WL 211324 (Mem) (4th Cir., 2019)[Sweden] [Well settled defense] [Petition granted]

          In Malmgren v Malmgren, --- Fed.Appx. ----, 2019 WL 211324 (Mem) (4th Cir., 2019) Dick Goran Malmgren (“father”) filed a petition against Lisha Chevonne Malmgren (mother”). for the return of his daughter to Sweden. The district court determined that the child had been wrongfully removed from Sweden, her country of habitual residence, but because she was well settled in the United States, the court denied the petition and did not order that the child be returned to Sweden. The Fourth Circuit vacated the judgment and and directed the district court on remand to expeditiously grant the petition for return.

          The Court pointed out that it reviews the district court’s factual findings for clear error and reviews de novo the court’s conclusions regarding principles of domestic, foreign, and international law. Bader v. Kramer, 484 F.3d 666, 669 (4th Cir. 2007). It noted that Article 12 of the Convention directs that when a child has been wrongfully removed or retained, the Contracting State shall order the prompt return of a child to his or her country of habitual residence if less than a year has elapsed between the wrongful removal or retention and the commencement of the proceeding, unless one of the enumerated exceptions applies. Convention, art. 12. If the petition is not filed within one year of the child’s removal, the court “shall also order the return of the child, unless it is demonstrated that the child is now settled in its new environment.”  For a child to be settled within the meaning of the Convention, the child must have significant connections demonstrating a secure, stable, and permanent life in his or her new environment.” Alcala v. Hernandez, 826 F.3d 161, 170 (4th Cir. 2016). The “well-settled” defense, however, is not applicable if the petition was filed within one year after the wrongful removal or detention. Article 12 states “[t]he general rule that when a court receives a petition for return within one year after the child’s wrongful removal, the court shall order the return of the child forthwith.” Lozano v. Alvarez, 572 U.S. 1, 5 (2014); see also Miller, 240 F.3d at 402 n.14 (finding that “the ‘well-settled’ defense [ ] has no application” because “the petition was filed within a year of the wrongful removal”).

          Tthe district court found that the father established that the child was wrongfully removed from her habitual place of residence in violation of his custody rights. Nevertheless, the court allowed the mother to establish that the child is now well settled in the United States, reasoning that it could consider this defense because the father unreasonably delayed in filing the petition for return even though it was filed within the one-year period. Finding that it had equitable discretion to consider the mother’s “well-settled” defense even when the petition was filed within one year of the wrongful removal, the court determined that the mother established this defense and thereby denied the father’s petition.

          The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court’s finding that it could consider the “well-settled” defense even if the petition was filed within the one-year timeframe is not supported by the Convention or case law analyzing the relevant articles. See Convention, art. 12; Lozano, 572 U.S. at 5. It is mandatory under Article 12 that if the court determines that the petition for return is filed within one year of removal, with exceptions that are not relevant here, the child must be returned to her country of habitual residence. Miller, 240 F.3d at 402 n.14. Accordingly, it vacated the district court’s order denying the petition for return and directed the district court on remand to expeditiously grant the petition for return and order the prompt return of the child to Sweden, her country of habitual residence.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Pfeiffer v Bachotet, 2019 WL 190927 (11th Cir., 2019)[Switzerland] [Rights of custody][Petition denied]

      In Pfeiffer v Bachotet, 2019 WL 190927 (11th Cir., 2019) the Eleventh Circuit affirmed a judgment of the district court which denied the petition of Plaintiff-Petitioner Marcellinus Pfeiffer, who sought the return of his children N.A.R. and R.H.E. from the United States to Switzerland.

          Pfeiffer and Rachel Bachotet were married in France in 2010. Two years later, in 2012, they moved to Switzerland. Pfeiffer and Bachotet had two children: N.A.R., a nine-year-old daughter, and R.H.E., an eight-year-old son. Until June 17, 2018, both children had lived continuously in Switzerland since 2012. In June 2017, Pfeiffer and Bachotet obtained a divorce when the District Court of Meilen, under the Canton of Zurich, Switzerland, issued a Sentence and Decree of Divorce (the “Divorce Judgment”). Among other provisions, this Divorce Judgment provided for the two children to “remain under shared custody of both parents.” It further “require[d] both parents’ consent [to relocate the children] if the new place of residence is located abroad or if relocation has some impact on the exercise of parental custody or visitation rights of either parent.” Nonetheless, section 3.2.a) of the Divorce Judgment expressly specified that Pfeiffer “does not object to the mother’s taking residence abroad (US or France) at/after the end of the school term 2016/2017.” Other parts of the Divorce Judgment also indicated that it anticipated Bachotet would relocate with the children outside of Switzerland. Paragraph 3.2.c) aa provided, “Until [Bachotet] relocates with the children abroad (see section [3.]2. a [)], last paragraph above), the children’s father is entitled and obliged to exercise his obligation of care towards the children as follows ....” Similarly, paragraph 3.2.c) bb stated, “As from relocation of [Bachotet] and the children abroad (see section [3.]2. a [)] last paragraph) the following visitation regime shall be effective .... Once per year, [Bachotet] shall pay for travelling costs (round trip), when the children visit their father. Any other visitation-related costs shall be borne by the father.”
Until Bachotet relocated the Divorce Judgment awarded Pfeiffer parenting time with the children every other weekend, with additional time for holidays and during the summer. In 2018, the guardian appointed to oversee the custodial arrangement between the parties modified the parents’ custodial agreement so that Pfeiffer and Bachotet had equal time with the children. While she entered a new parenting plan, under Swiss law, she lacked the authority to modify the Divorce Judgment. Therefore, the Divorce Judgment remained unchanged.

          At the end of the children’s 2016-17 school term, Bachotet began the relocation process by applying for a K-1 (fiancé) Visa for herself and K-2 Visas for the children to emigrate from Switzerland to the United States. Bachotet received notice that the United States had authorized the Visas on May 17, 2018. They were valid until July 6, 2018. On June 9, a letter from Pfeiffer dated June 7 was delivered to Bachotet. In that letter, Pfeiffer wrote that he “revoke[d] [his] consent to [Bachotet’s] relocation with [the] children ... abroad, in the US or in France, as expressed in the [Divorce Judgment] in 2017.” That same afternoon, Bachotet booked plane tickets for herself and her children to the United States for June 17, 2018. On June 15, 2018, Pfeiffer sent a letter to the District Court of Meilen, which had jurisdiction over the Divorce Judgment. In that letter, Pfeiffer stated that he “revoke[d] [his] consent to the relocation of [the] children ... to the United States of America.” He requested that the court “immediately impose a travel ban ... without consultation with ... Bachotet, in order to keep her from leaving [Switzerland] with the children.” The record contained no subsequent order from the Swiss court acting on Pfeiffer’s request. On about June 17, 2018, Bachotet left Switzerland with the children for the United States. The three currently resided in Marietta, Georgia, with Bachotet’s American fiancé.
On July 17, 2018, Pfeiffer filed the litigation seeking return of the children to Switzerland under the Hague Convention.

          Following a hearing, on August 29, 2018, the district court issued an order denying Pfeiffer’s petition. The court reasoned that Pfeiffer had failed to satisfy his burden to show that Bachotet’s removal of the children from Switzerland violated Pfeiffer’s rights of custody, in light of the Divorce Judgment’s provision awarding Bachotet “the exclusive right to determine whether the children would remain in Switzerland or move to the United States or France at the end of the 2016/2017 school year.” The Eleventh Circuit affirmed.  It found that Pfeiffer had established that the children’s habitual residence at the time of removal was Switzerland, but the district court nonetheless correctly denied Pfeiffer’s petition because Pfeiffer had not demonstrated that Bachotet’s removal of the children violated his custody rights under Swiss law.

          The Eleventh Circuit Court noted that in identifying when a child’s habitual residence has been changed, it has set forth two requirements to alter a child’s habitual residence: (1) the parents must share a “settled intention” to leave the old habitual residence behind; and (2) an “actual change in geography and the passage of a sufficient length of time for the child to have become acclimatized” must occur. Ruiz, 392 F.3d at 1252-53. Both must be present to change a child’s habitual residence. It concluded based on the second requirement, that the children’s habitual residence had not changed as of the date of the challenged removal. As of the time of the challenged removal, June 17, 2018, the children—then seven and nine years old—had lived continuously in Switzerland for six years. Nothing in the record indicated that they had ever lived in—or even spent significant time in—the United States as of that date. Nor did the record suggest or did the parties argue that any other country could have served as the children’s habitual residence as of June 17, 2018. And since acclimatization cannot take place without the parties’ physical presence in a new country, the children’s habitual residence as of the date of removal was Switzerland.

          The court also found that Bachotet’s removal of the children from Switzerland did not violate Pfeiffer’s custody rights under Swiss law.  Rights of custody, include “rights relating to the care of the person of the child and, in particular, the right to determine the child’s place of residence.” Convention art. 5(a). It observed that Article 133 of the Swiss Civil Code, Code Civil [CC] [Civil Code] Dec. 10, 1907, SR 210, RS 210, as amended, art. 133, endows courts with the authority to “regulate [] parental rights and obligations in accordance with the provisions on the legal effects of the parent-child relationship. ... In particular it [has the power to] regulate []: ... residence ....” Under Swiss law, in cases like this one, where the parents enjoy joint parental responsibility, either the consent of the other parent or “a decision of the court or the child protection authority” is necessary before one parent may establish a new place of residence outside Switzerland. Swiss Civil Code, Art. 301a, Code Civil [CC] [Civil Code] Dec. 10, 1907, SR 210, RS 210, as amended, art. 301a. Here, the Divorce Judgment constituted a decision of the Swiss court. And though Swiss law generally provides parents with a ne exeat right as it pertains to removal of a child from Switzerland, see Swiss Civil Code, Art. 301a, the Divorce Judgment here expressly empowered Bachotet to relocate with the children to either the United States or France “at [or possibly after] the end of the school term 2016/2017.” So, by Swiss law, under the Divorce Judgment, Bachotet had the sole rights of custody as they pertained to determining whether to move the children to the United States.

          Pfeiffer did not contest this analysis, but he nonetheless asserted that events transpiring after the court entered the Divorce Judgment revoked Bachotet’s authority to remove the children from Switzerland. In support of this claim, Pfeiffer urges that Bachotet’s authority to remove the children was time-dependent and automatically expired when Bachotet failed to move them to the United States in June 2017. The Court could not conclude that Bachotet did not take steps to remove the children as soon as possible after the end of the 2016/2017 school term. Second, Pfeiffer contended that, following the court’s entry of the Divorce Judgment, he reestablished his rights of custody to determine the children’s place of residence, based upon the modification to the custodial agreement that the guardian reached and the parents agreed to. But Pfeiffer had not showed that the guardian’s modification of the custodial agreement cognizably revoked the court’s order authorizing Bachotet to remove the children to the United States at the end of the 2016/2017 school term or modified the Swiss Court’s Divorce Judgment. Nor had Pfeiffer showed that the Swiss court ever amended the Divorce Judgment to incorporate or otherwise recognize the modified custodial agreement, even though under Swiss law, the Swiss court retained jurisdiction to amend its orders regarding custody. Under the Divorce Agreement, Pfeiffer did not enjoy a ne exeat right as it pertained to Bachotet’s authority to move the children from Switzerland to the United States. And since the Divorce Agreement was a court order that has not been modified, it constituted Swiss law for purposes of ascertaining the parties’ rights of custody to determine the children’s place of residence. The Court was bound to apply its terms and affirm the district court’s conclusion that Pfeiffer had not satisfied his burden to establish a prima facie case of wrongful removal under the Hague Convention.

Cocom, v. Timofeev, 2019 WL 76773(D. South Carolina, 2019) [Belize][Consent][Petition granted]

         In Cocom, v. Timofeev, 2019 WL 76773(D. South Carolina, 2019) the district court granted the petition of Raquel Margarita Cocom against her child’s father Andrey Timofeev and Grandmother, Irina Timofeev to have her child minor child returned to her in Belize.  

          Cocom was a Belizean citizen who had lived in Belize all her life. Timofeev was a Russian citizen who moved to Belize towards the end of 2008. At the time of Timofeev’s relocation to Belize, Grandmother was already living in the United States as a lawful permanent resident. Cocom and Timofeev met in Belize in March 2009.  Cocom and Timofeev were the biological parents of the Child, who was born in Belize in November 2015. Until her travel to the United States with Timofeev in 2017, the Child’s only residence was Belize. Early in their relationship, Timofeev told Cocom of his intention to immigrate to the United States. At trial he testified that moving to Belize was always part of his plan to immigrate to the United States, because it was an English-speaking country close to the United States. Cocom testified that, prior to the Child’s birth, she had no problem with Timofeev immigrating to the United States, but that she intended to remain in Belize with J.J.R. and her family. Grandmother filed Form I-130 with the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) on May 27, 2009, in which she petitioned for Timofeev to (1) receive a visa to travel to the United States as an unmarried adult son of a naturalized American citizen, and (2) become a lawful permanent resident. Timofeev testified that, at around the time of this initial filing, he considered himself in a common law marriage with Cocom, though the Child was not yet born. Shortly after the Child’s birth in November 2015, Timofeev again mentioned his plan to immigrate to the United States. Cocom explained at trial that she had been open to this idea, but only if she, Timofeev, the Child, and J.J.R. all immigrated to the United States together as a family. Around the same time as this conversation, Timofeev completed an online Form DS-260 that he electronically signed and filed with DHS on May 9, 2016. Cocom testified that she did not know that Timofeev had been filing any of these immigration papers. After Timofeev e-filed his Form DS-260, Grandmother filed Form I-864 with DHS affirming that she was sponsoring Timofeev to become a lawful permanent resident. This time, however, Grandmother included the Child on the immigration form as an immediate family member of Timofeev, who was the principal immigrant she would be sponsoring. The Child was a derivative beneficiary eligible to receive a visa to travel to the United States to become a lawful permanent resident. Around the same time, Timofeev also had completed the Form DS-260 online for the Child. Cocom testified that she did not know that Timofeev had started the process for the Child to receive a green card. She claimed she did not know about this process until Timofeev and the Child were already in the United States. In July 2016, the Child was examined by a doctor as part of the paperwork for her immigration to the United States. During the doctor’s exam, Cocom testified that she questioned the doctor regarding the Child’s shots because the Child already had an appointment scheduled for October of that year to receive her vaccinations. The doctor responded that the Child would be in the United States at that time.  Cocom claimed that she asked Timofeev to explain what the doctor meant after the exam finished. She said that Timofeev explained that the Child was getting shots that the government of Belize could not afford to give to all Belizeans. Timofeev testified that, at that appointment, he “explained we are applying for, permanent residence for me, my child...”   The parties’ accounts of the visa interview also diverged. Timofeev claimed that the interviewer explained that only Timofeev and the Child would be travelling to the United States and that Cocom might not see the Child for several years. By contrast, Cocom testified that she was at the United States Embassy in Belize on July 11, 2017, but was not formally interviewed or put under oath. She claimed that Timofeev was the only one to answer any questions that were asked. She testified that she never gave consent to an embassy official for the Child to travel to the United States permanently, and that she did not raise any objections while at the embassy because of Timofeev’s bad temperament and her lack of understanding of the process. Cocom testified that Timofeev explained to the official at the consulate that Cocom would be travelling to the United States on a tourist visa, leading her to believe that the whole family would be getting tourist visas. Following the completion of the immigration process, Timofeev and the Child received visas to travel to the United States and to become lawful permanent residents. Cocom testified that she was not aware of this, instead thinking that they had received tourist visas. Timofeev testified that his and the Child’s visas for permanent residency status were approved in mid-October 2017, and that he informed Cocom of this immediately. Cocom testified that she was not made aware of the permanent residency visas and was rather told on November 4, 2017 that Timofeev and the Child would be departing for a two week visit the following day.  On November 4, 2017, Grandmother purchased tickets for Timofeev and the Child to fly from Belize to Miami the following day. The parties testified when they arrived at the airport the next day, November 5, 2017, the Belizean immigration authorities required a signed document from Cocom authorizing the Child to fly out of the country. The document was drafted and signed at the airport shortly before the flight. The document authorized Timofeev to take the Child out of Belize, but was silent as to the length of the trip or the scope of the authorization. Cocom testified throughout the trial that she and Timofeev had agreed that Timofeev would take the Child to the United States for two weeks to visit Grandmother and would then return home. By contrast, Timofeev claimed that the plan at the time of his departure was that he and the Child would travel to the United States and then petition to bring Cocom and her son, J.J.R., into the United States legally. Timofeev and the Child arrived in Miami on November 5, 2017, and presented themselves to Customs and Border Protection for admission into the country. Timofeev and the Child became lawful permanent residents, and several weeks later they received their permanent resident cards (“green cards”) in the mail. After arriving in the United States, Cocom would routinely speak with Timofeev and the Child over the phone. The Child began living with Timofeev and Grandmother in Georgetown County, South Carolina, where she currently lived.  

          Cocom testified that upon learning that Timofeev would not be returning with the Child two weeks after the child departed Belize, she visited INTERPOL in Belize to request information about the location of Timofeev and the Child. She did so on November 21, 2017, shortly after the alleged fourteen-day return deadline passed on November 19, 2018. She also visited a governmental agency, Human Development, which serves as the Belizean Central Authority under the Hague Convection. At that time, she applied for return of the Child under the Hague Convention.  The next day, November 22, 2017, Cocom visited the Orange Walk Police Department and filed a police report. In that police report, she stated that the parties had an agreement for the Child to return from the United States after two weeks, but that Timofeev violated the agreement by failing to return the Child to Belize. Cocom also testified that during this time she continued to ask Timofeev to return the Child to Belize. She testified that when she would ask Timofeev to return the Child, she would remind him that they had a verbal agreement that the Child would only be gone from Belize for two weeks. Belizean officials completed the application for the Petition on or about January 26, 2018, after which it was transmitted to the United States Department of State. Cocom then obtained pro bono counsel in the United States to locate the Child and to file the Petition. Cocom’s petition before the court, filed on August 14, 2018, alleged wrongful detention of the Child, in violation of the Convention and ICARA.  The court held a trial on the merits of this case on December 5–6, 2018.

          The district court indicated that the Ninth Circuit’s opinion in Mozes v. Mozes has served as a guide for federal courts in determining parental intentions in Hague Convention cases.” Maxwell, 588 F.3d at 251. The court found that the habitual residence of the child was Belize and that the Child had not acclimatized to life in the United States to such an extent that returning the Child to Belize would be improper under the Convention. It also found that the Child’s removal violated her rights of custody. “[R]ights of custody for purposes of Article 3 of the Convention means rights of custody at the time of removal.” White v. White, 718 F.3d 300, 307 (4th Cir. 2013). Courts should rely on the law of the state in which the Child was habitually resident to determine whether the petitioner possessed rights of custody at the time of the Child’s removal. See Bader v. Kramer, 445 F.3d 346, 349–50 (4th Cir. 2006). Under Belizean law, biological parents have “rights relating to the care of the person of the Child.” Belizean family law mandates that “[e]very parent shall have parental responsibility for his [or her] child.” Belize Families and Children Act Ch. 173, Rev. Statutes of Belize 2011, § 6(1). The court finds that Cocom had rights of custody under the Convention at the time when the Child was removed to the United States, and has thus proven the second element of her prima facie case. Cocom presented sufficient evidence at trial to allow the court to conclude that she was caring for the Child, who was living with her, at the time that the Child was removed from Belize.

          The evidence at trial clearly demonstrated that Cocom did not acquiesce to the Child’s permanent retention in the United States after Timofeev and the Child arrived here. Regarding whether Cocom had consented to the Child’s permanent relocation to the United States before she departed Belize, Cocom testified that her agreement with Timofeev regarding where the Child and the whole family would reside shifted with time. She claimed that she and Timofeev first agreed that they would obtain visas to immigrate to the United States together, but that Timofeev then changed plans and only applied for a visa for himself and the Child without informing her. She claims that Timofeev first told her on November 4, 2017 that Grandmother had bought tickets for him and the Child to fly out of Belize the very next day. At this point, according to Cocom, the parents no longer had a shared intention that the Child would permanently relocate to the United States. Rather, as Cocom testified, the parents agreed that Timofeev would only travel to South Carolina with the Child for two weeks to visit his family, after which Timofeev would return with the Child. By contrast, Timofeev testified that the plan was always for him and the Child to come to the United States first, obtain green cards, and then apply to have Cocom and J.R.R. join them in the United States. He testified that Cocom was fully aware of this plan when he and the Child left Belize. Timofeev testified that he and Cocom had expected that he and the Child would receive their green cards about two weeks after arriving in the United States, at which point they would be able to begin the process to bring over Cocom and her son. At the trial, Timofeev explained that this must be the basis for Cocom’s “two weeks” theory, implying that she had agreed to the plan until it took more than two weeks for him and the Child to receive their green cards, at which point she abandoned the original plan and initiated proceedings to ensure the return of the Child. The operative fact in this case was that Timofeev had not proceeded with the immigration process for Cocom and J.R.R to move to the United States, even though he received his green card one year earlier in December 2017. According to his narrative, this promise to pursue immigration status on behalf of Cocom and her son was part of the original plan. Yet at trial, Timofeev testified that he had since abandoned that plan because Cocom initiated this proceeding against him. The physical evidence admitted at trial did not conclusively support one narrative over the other, and the court found both stories to be plausible. It held that Cocom had the burden to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that she and Timofeev had not shared a settled intention that the Child relocate permanently to the United States. On the other hand, Timofeev had the burden to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Cocom consented to the Child’s removal in order successfully assert “consent” as an affirmative defense.

          The district court held that it would order the return of the Child due to Timofeev’s violation of the conditions of Cocom’s consent. Under the Convention, the court must consider all of the “conditions” of consent. Here, the court found that a crucial condition of Cocom’s alleged consent was violated and should be remedied. The court’s decision was also motivated by the reality that, by bringing the Child to the United States but not fulfilling his promise to also bring Cocom, he had essentially deprived Cocom from seeing the Child for the remainder of her childhood. Cocom, who was proceeding in the court in forma pauperis with pro bono counsel, was not financially capable of making frequent visits to the United States to visit her child. Without making a determination regarding which of the parties’ factual narratives were accurate, the court found that, even if it relied on Timofeev’s version of events, Timofeev violated the condition of Cocom’s consent, which rendered the consent invalid.

          Thus, the court found that the Child has been wrongfully detained in the United States in violation of the Convention and granted Cocom’s Petition.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Vite-Cruz v Sanchez, 2018 WL 6680514 (D. South Carolina, 2018)[Mexico] [Discretionary return] [Re-abduction]

          In Vite-Cruz v Sanchez, 2018 WL 6680514 (D. South Carolina, 2018) the district court granted the Petition filed by Petitioner Jose Luis Vite-Cruz (” Father”) for the return of A.V., a twelve-year-old child (the “Child”), to his habitual residence of Hidalgo, Mexico.  The Court held a bench trial in Columbia, South Carolina. Mother was present in the courtroom, and Father was present via teleconference from Mexico.  Child was born in Charleston, South Carolina, on March 17, 2006.  He was a dual-citizen of Mexico and the United States.  Father was a Mexican citizen and resident.  Mother was born in Mexico; had been a Lawful Permanent Resident of the United States since August 19, 1997; and was a resident of Richland County, South Carolina, where she resided with the Child.  Child resided for some time in South Carolina from his birth in 2006 until he began residing in the state of Hidalgo, Mexico, with Father. The parties stipulated Child was a habitual resident of Hidalgo, Mexico, at the time Mother removed him on or about December 1, 2016. Father had rights of custody over Child under Mexican (Hidalgo) law. Both parties agreed that Father was exercising his custodial rights at the time Mother removed Child from Mexico. As a result, Mother’s removal of Child from Mexico was a breach of Father’s custody rights. Based on the stipulations and facts properly before the Court, Father proved a prima facie case for the return of Child under the Hague Convention by a preponderance of the evidence.

          The Father and Mother were married in the United States in 2005 while living in Charleston County, South Carolina.  After the Child’s birth, Father and Mother traveled to Mexico with the Child in 2006. For approximately four months, the family lived together in Zacualtipán de Ángeles, Hidalgo, Mexico.  Thereafter, Mother and the child traveled to North Charleston, South Carolina. For a period of time while Father remained in Mexico, the Child lived with Mother and her parents in the North Charleston area. In 2008, Father returned to North Charleston, South Carolina. At that time, Mother was in a relationship with another man and was pregnant with his child. After Father returned to North Charleston, he and Mother lived apart but shared the care and custody of Child. Child would stay with Mother for a few days and then go to stay with Father for a few days. Mother fell on difficult financial times. When this happened, Child went to live with Father.

          Over the next twelve to eighteen months, Child continued to live with Father in North Charleston. Child continued to live in North Charleston with Father until 2010. In 2010, Father advised Mother that he was going to move back to Hidalgo, Mexico with Child. Father testified that Mother did not visit Child or help raise him and that the reason for wanting to return to Mexico was to be closer to Child’s paternal grandmother, who could provide him assistance with raising Child. Because Mother opposed the proposed move, Father did not move back to Mexico immediately after their initial discussion. However, when Mother did not visit Child for another month or so, Father proceeded with the plan to move back to Hidalgo, Mexico.  On or about April 2010, Father and Child returned to the same city where the family had lived before: Zacualtipán de Ángeles, Hidalgo, Mexico. At the time of this move, Father had been Child’s custodian and caregiver for almost two years in North Charleston. Father continued to be the sole custodian of Child in Mexico from April 2010 until November 28, 2016.  During the roughly six and one-half years Father and Child lived together in Mexico, Mother did not make any effort to support, visit, or communicate with Child or Father. The earliest message from Mother to Child admitted at trial was dated November 8, 2016. When Mother first contacted Child through Father’s Facebook account on November 8, 2016, she asked for his address so she could send Child some gifts. Mother received the address several days later.  Shortly after Mother began her communications with Child, she made a plan to visit him later that month in Mexico. Before she left for Mexico, Mother did not advise Child or Father she was going to see Child in late November 2016. On or about November 28, 2016, Mother arrived in her former hometown in Mexico. At the time she arrived, Child was ten years old and a well-adjusted young boy who spoke only Spanish. Mother then asked Father if she could take Child to the United States to visit with her and her family. Father made it clear he would not consent to Mother taking Child outside of Mexico. However, after a visit to the local police station, Father did consent to Mother taking Child for a short visit with her to a beach in a nearby Mexican town, provided she return Child at a specified date, time, and location. Child also understood and agreed he would go on a short beach trip to get to know his Mother. Mother agreed to these very specific and limited terms. Contrary to her express agreement with Father, Mother took Child from Mexico to the United States without Father’s consent and without telling him they were leaving the country. Father immediately requested that she return Child as promised; however, Mother refused to do so. Unbeknownst to Father, Mother took Child to North Charleston, South Carolina. Shortly after their arrival, on or about December 8, 2016, Mother enrolled Child in fifth grade at Pinehurst Elementary in Charleston County School District One. Child began fifth grade on or about December 12, 2016. Mother did not list Father on the school’s registration form as the father of Child. Despite Father’s repeated requests through telephone calls and electronic messaging, Mother refused to provide her and Child’s address or any specific information about his wellbeing. Messages from Mother to Father during this time also indicate that she was willfully preventing Father’s contact with Child and taunting him when he asked to speak to his son.  Less than two months later, on January 28, 2017, Mother withdrew Child from Pinehurst Elementary and moved from North Charleston to Columbia, South Carolina.

          The Court found that a preponderance of the evidence did not support the finding that Child was well-settled and that application of this narrow defense was not warranted. See Alcala, 826 F.3d at 170.  Mother argued that Child was sufficiently mature to permit the Court to consider his objections to returning to Mexico. The Court concluded that, regardless of his actual maturity, Mother failed to present sufficient evidence for the Court to apply this narrow defense. Mother failed to present any evidence showing that Child had a particularized objection to living in Mexico sufficient for the Court to take his views into consideration. The Court held that Mother had not carried her burden in proving consent or acquiescence.

          The court stated that analyzing the affirmative defenses did not end the Court’s inquiry. Instead, “the courts retain the discretion to order return even if one of the exceptions is proven.” Miller v. Miller, 240 F.3d 392, 402 (4th Cir. 2001) (quoting Feder v. Evans-Feder, 63 F.3d 217, 226 (3d Cir. 1995)); see also Hague Convention art. 18 (”The provisions of this Chapter do not limit the power of a judicial or administrative authority to order the return of the child at any time.”); Lozano v. Alvarez, 572 U.S. at 18 (Alito, J., concurring) (discussing factors relevant to the exercise of discretion). Exercising its discretion, even in the event one of the affirmative defenses were to apply, the Court concluded that equitable justifications warranted the Court’s exercise of its discretion to return Child to Mexico.

          This alternative holding was buttressed by the Court’s factual finding that Mother abducted Child. While Mother’s motives may not have been malicious, the consequences of her actions could be enormous. As the Supreme Court of the United States has noted, An abduction can have devastating consequences for a child. Some child psychologists believe that the trauma children suffer from these abductions is one of the worst forms of child abuse. A child abducted by one parent is separated from the second parent and the child’s support system. Studies have shown that separation by abduction can cause psychological problems ranging from depression and acute stress disorder to posttraumatic stress disorder and identity-formation issues. A child abducted at an early age can experience loss of community and stability, leading to loneliness, anger, and fear of abandonment. Abductions may prevent the child from forming a relationship with the left-behind parent, impairing the child’s ability to mature. Abbott v. Abbott, 560 U.S. 1, 21 (2010).

          The Court considered a number of factors in reaching its equitable decision. First, Mother had taken steps to sever Child’s relationship with Father, including not disclosing where Child was living, not allowing Child to have any regular contact with the Father, taunting Father about her possession of Child, and not allowing Father to meaningfully participate in Child’s life. Second, if Child remained in the United States, it would be virtually impossible for him to see Father ever again, at least until he reached the age of eighteen. Father was financially prohibited from coming to the United States to see Child or attend a custody hearing. Critically, Father did not have legal status to permit him to visit Child in the United States, while there are no legal prohibitions keeping Mother from visiting Child in Mexico.

          Finally, an order denying Father’s request to return Child would have the effect of sanctioning Mother’s unilateral action to abduct Child in violation of Mexican and international law. The evidence presented indicated Father only consented to Mother visiting with Child for a short, specified time period in Mexico. Mother admitted she agreed to these terms but then chose to ignore her agreement so she could take Child to another country where she knew Father could not travel. Put plainly, this was the exact type of behavior that the Hague Convention seeks to prevent.

          Mother argued that her actions were justified because Father was the first to take Child to another country without consent. However, courts have consistently rejected this same argument when faced with a parent who “re-abducts” a child instead of seeking redress under the Convention. See Moreno v. Zank, 895 F.3d 917, 924 (6th Cir. 2018) (characterizing re-abduction as a disregard for Convention and threat to a child’s well-being); see also Kijowska v. Haines, 463 F.3d 583 (7th Cir. 2006) (”To give a legal advantage to an abductor who has a perfectly good legal remedy in lieu of abduction yet failed to pursue it would be contrary to the Hague Convention’s goal of discouraging abductions by denying to the abductor any legal advantage from the abduction.”).

          An order refusing to return Child to his habitual residence would not only reward the Mother, it could motivate other parents attempting to settle a difficult family situation to resort first to self-help and the protections of a foreign country rather than seeking the aid of the local authorities. This Court could not allow Mother to take matters into her own hands and effectively minimize or even terminate Father’s relationship with Child by bringing him to the United States. Instead, the Court had to follow the dictates of the Hague Convention and the equitable considerations present in this case.

          Based on the foregoing, the Court alternatively concluded that equitable justifications warranted the Court’s exercise of its discretion in granting the Verified Petition and ordering the return of Child to Mexico.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Chumachenko, v. Belan, 2018 WL 6437062 ( S.D. New York, 2018)[Ukraine] [Habitual residence] [Petition granted]

        In Chumachenko, v. Belan, 2018 WL 6437062 ( S.D. New York, 2018) the District Court granted the petition of Olena Chumachenko  a Ukrainian citizen, for the return of her two minor sons to Ukraine. 
        Petitioner and Respondent, both of whom were Ukrainian citizens, were the parents of P.B. and D.B., P.B. was four years old and D.B. was three. Petitioner and Respondent started cohabitating in Ukraine, in 2013, when Petitioner became pregnant with P.B. In March 2014, Petitioner and Respondent traveled to Orlando, Florida to take up temporary residence in anticipation of P.B.’s birth. in order to take advantage of the country’s medical facilities. In Orlando, Petitioner and Respondent purchased a car and rented an apartment for an unknown duration. P.B. was born in June 2014, and the family remained in Florida until July 2014. the parties returned to Ukraine with P.B. in August. When Petitioner and Respondent returned to Ukraine, Petitioner cared for P.B. full time and did not otherwise work. The family reintegrated into their community. Around February 2015, Petitioner discovered she was pregnant with the couple’s second child, D.B. Again, Petitioner and Respondent decided to give birth in Orlando and, in late August 2015, traveled to Florida to carry out their plan. Petitioner and Respondent leased an apartment, bought furniture, and purchased a car. D.B. was born in December 2015 and, in January 2016, the family returned to Ukraine. P.B. and D.B. remained in Ukraine until October 2017, when Petitioner and Respondent again traveled to Orlando after learning that Petitioner was pregnant with the parties’ third child. Petitioner and Respondent discussed a permanent move to the United States around this time, but the parties had not made a final joint decision to relocate permanently before they returned to Florida in anticipation of the birth of the third child. Respondent was consistently interested in relocating to another country and preferred the United States. The parties purchased round-trip tickets for their journey to and from Florida. The parties removed P.B. from his preschool in the Ukraine, but in no other way cut ties with Ukraine. When they arrived in Florida in October 2017, the parties entered into a seven-month residential lease and purchased a car and furniture, just as they had done with Petitioner’s prior pregnancies.The parties enrolled P.B. in a pre-K program in Florida but neither Petitioner nor Respondent had obtained a visa that would allow them to remain in the United States legally for more than a few months. Neither Petitioner nor Respondent took steps to obtain work or permission to work in the United States during this time. Petitioner miscarried around December 2017, and the parties returned to Ukraine in late January 2018. They put the furniture that they had purchased in storage and left their car in the care of Belan’s brother, who resided in Florida. Upon their return, the Children were again enrolled in daycare and resumed activities with their family and friends. Petitioner rented out her apartment, but moved with Respondent and the Children to another home—an apartment they purchased in Kherson. Around mid-February 2018, Respondent had to attend to proceedings in two lawsuits that were pending in Ukraine. In March 2018, Petitioner started an interior design business in Kherson. At all relevant times, Respondent’s business remained in Ukraine. Respondent asserted that, during the spring of 2018, he was reorganizing his business so that he could run the company remotely. This testimony made it evident that, as of the spring and early summer of 2018, the parties had not relocated to the United States. The parties’ return to Ukraine following Petitioner’s miscarriage marked the beginning of a particularly tumultuous period of their relationship, during which Petitioner vacillated as to whether she wanted to relocate to the United States with Respondent and the Children. Petitioner had learned of Respondent’s relationships with other women in the winter of 2017. In March 2018, Petitioner “had reached [her] limit” with Respondent’s affairs and placed an advertisement on a dating website. Months later, Respondent discovered that Petitioner herself had started a relationship with “a man who lived abroad” and, in response, Respondent moved out of their shared apartment. In late June, the parties apparently reconciled and Respondent told Khrystych, who Petitioner understood to be Respondent’s girlfriend, that he “intended to stop all communication with [her] and that he was no longer interested in [Khrystych] working for him.” Also in late June, Petitioner discovered that Respondent was “continuing to communicate with his girlfriend.” Nonetheless, around this time, Respondent returned to the apartment he shared with Petitioner and the parties made plans to travel together to Florida. There was no credible evidence that the trip was jointly planned to implement permanent relocation to the United States. The night before they were scheduled to leave for Florida, the parties “got into an argument” and Petitioner refused to go on the trip. Respondent took the Children to Florida without Petitioner and, on July 13, 2018, returned with them to Kiev rather than Kherson.

          On July 20, 2018, Petitioner agreed to reconcile with Respondent and cease communication with the “man who lived abroad,” in order to reunite as a family. However, their reconciliation was short-lived. On July 22, 2018, following a heated argument, Respondent told Petitioner he was taking the Children to a swimming pool in Kherson. In a telephone call and text messages as he prepared to take the Children to the airport, Respondent told Petitioner that he was taking the Children to the United States, and then he took them to Los Angeles.
        The District Court found that Petitioner never consented to Respondent taking the Children to the United States. Respondent testified that he and Petitioner “never discussed” living in the United States “not as a family.” Petitioner’s lack of consent was further evidenced in her text messages to Respondent following his departure with the Children. Four days after Respondent took the Children to the United States, she contacted an attorney. On August 21, 2018, Petitioner “filed a Hague case in the State of California.” From August 23, 2018, to September 8, 2018, Respondent stopped communication with Petitioner, and did not inform Petitioner of the Children’s whereabouts. On September 24, 2018, Respondent filed an Order to Show Cause in New York State Court seeking temporary custody of the Children. Respondent’s state court petition included a false representation that Petitioner had abandoned the family in January 2018, and also asserted that the family had planned to relocate to the United States in the summer of 2018 (rather than in October 2017, as Respondent I had maintained in these proceedings). On October 23, 2018, Ms. Chumachenko filed a petition with the district Court seeking the return of the Children to Ukraine.

          The parties agreed that Petitioner had custody rights under Ukrainian law, recognized by the Convention, which she was exercising at the time Respondent removed the Children to the United States. Therefore, the second and third elements of the habitual residence test were satisfied, and the Court was left to determine the Children’s habitual residence. The District Court observed that to determine a child’s habitual residence, the Court (i) inquires into the shared intent of those entitled to fix the child’s residence at the latest time that their intent was shared, and (ii) considers whether the evidence unequivocally points to the conclusion that the child has acclimatized to the new location and thus has acquired a new habitual residence, notwithstanding any conflict with the parents’ latest shared intent. Gitter v. Gitter, 396 F.3d 124, 134 (2d Cir. 2005). Respondent did not argue that the Children had become acclimatized to the United States. Since, “[n]ormally the shared intent of the parents should control the habitual residence of the child,” Gitter at 134, and “a change in geography is a necessary condition to a child acquiring a new habitual residence,” Gitter at 133, the Court focused its habitual residence inquiry on whether Petitioner had proven her contention that the parties never had a shared intent to change the Children’s habitual residence from Ukraine to the United States notwithstanding the family’s move to Florida in October 2017 or whether, as Respondent contended, the parents formed such a shared intention prior to October 2017 and cemented it by moving to Orlando in October of that year.

          The court stated that to determine whether the parents shared an intent to fix the child’s residence, “the court should look ... at actions as well as declarations.” Id. at 134. “Shared intent” conditioned on certain prerequisites will not fix the child’s residence if those conditions do not materialize. See Mota v. Castillo, 692 F.3d 108, 115 (2d Cir. 2012) Petitioner asserted that Ukraine at, at all relevant times, had been the Children’s habitual residence. According to Respondent, “[t]he parties’ last shared intention as to what the children’s country of habitual residence would be was the United States,” and “the parties had this last shared intention prior to their travel to the United States with the children in October 2017.” The Court concluded that Petitioner demonstrated by a preponderance of the credible evidence that Ukraine was, and remains, the Children’s habitual residence. The Children spent the overwhelming majority of their lives in Ukraine. They had attended school in Ukraine. Their friends and extended family were almost entirely in Ukraine. Their parents were Ukrainian citizens who owned property and Werke in Ukraine. The record included no objective evidence that the parents jointly decided to abandon Ukraine as their home or to relocate the Children to another country regardless of the domicile of one or both parents. The credible testimonial evidence regarding the parents’ subjective intentions persuaded the Court that, while Respondent was determined to relocate the Children, with or without Petitioner, permanently to another country, Petitioner never shared that firm, unconditional intention.
       Respondent argued that the parties intended their trip to the United States in October 2017 to be a permanent relocation. Petitioner, on the other hand, testified credibly that they had only considered, and had not yet decided on, permanent relocation by that time. Petitioner had also explicitly placed certain preconditions on any potential relocation: she “told [Respondent] that if [they] were going to move as a family and secure immigration visas to allow [them] to move, [they] would have to get married first. It was also understood that [Petitioner] would have to stop having relationships outside of [their] relationship.” Evidence proffered by both Petitioner and Respondent supported this testimony. Nothing in the record indicated that any of Petitioner’s conditions were met.

          The court found that Respondent failed to rebut Petitioner’s credible testimony that the parties intended the October 2017 trip to be a temporary stay for the limited purpose of giving birth, just as they had done on two prior occasions. The credible evidence demonstrated that the parties did not jointly decide to move permanently to the United States in October 2017, were not prepared or able to stay in the United States permanently when they arrived in October 2017 and that, at best, they were considering whether to move to the United States as a family at some time in the future. The evidence also demonstrated that Petitioner and Respondent never shared an intent to permanently move the Children to the United States outside the confines of an intact family unit. Respondent, alone, moved the Children. Therefore, the Court concluded that Petitioner met her burden of proving that Ukraine Remains the Children’s habitual residence. See Hofmann, 716 F.3d at 292.

          The court noted that Article 13 provides that the Court is not bound to order the return of children if the respondent establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that the petitioner “consented to or subsequently acquiesced in the removal or retention.” Respondent asserted that Petitioner consented to his taking the Children to the United States to establish permanent residence here. The court found that  Respondent failed to prove by a preponderance of the credible evidence that Petitioner consented to his removing the Children from Ukraine for the purpose of permanent relocation.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Monzon v De La Roca, 2018 WL 6424956 (3d Cir, 2018)[Guatemala] [Federal & State Judicial Remedies] [Commencement of proceeding] [Defenses]

          In Monzon v De La Roca, 2018 WL 6424956 (3d Cir, 2018) the third Circuit the District Court’s denial of the Petition seeking the return of his minor child, H.C.

          Castellanos married De La Roca in 2004. Their son, H.C., was born in 2010. The couple separated in November 2011, and divorced by mutual consent in January 2014. De La Roca claimed that violence was a factor, although she did not raise that issue in the divorce proceedings. Castellanos categorically denied all of De La Roca’s allegations of abuse. In the summer of 2013, after her separation from Castellanos, but before they divorced, De La Roca began a long-distance relationship with her childhood acquaintance, “Deleon,” who resided in New Jersey. De La Roca obtained a visa for H.C. to travel to the United States with Castellanos’s consent, though she did not immediately bring H.C. to the U.S. She married him in March of 2014. She did not tell Castellanos about the marriage. Shortly after marrying Deleon, De La Roca told Castellanos that she intended to bring H.C. to the United States to live; Castellanos refused to consent. In or around March of 2014, De La Roca filed a domestic violence complaint against Castellanos in Guatemala and obtained a temporary restraining order. However, she failed to appear at the hearing to make the TRO permanent because she had already moved to New Jersey before the final hearing. In July of 2014, De La Roca took H.C. to the United States. A month after taking H.C. to New Jersey, she sent Castellanos a text message informing him she was there with H.C. She did not disclose their exact address “[o]ut of fear that he would come [to New Jersey] to do the same thing as in Guatemala.” On August 23, 2014, Castellanos filed an Application for Return of the Child under the Convention with the Central Authority in Guatemala.

          On January 5, 2016, having discovered that the Convention required him to file where H.C. lived, Castellanos filed the Petition for Return of the Child (the “Petition”) in the District Court of New Jersey. The District Court entered judgment in favor of De La Roca, thereby refusing to return H.C. to Castellanos. However, the Court expressly declined to address De La Roca’s affirmative defense under Article 13b (H.C.’s return to Guatemala constitutes a “grave risk”). Instead, the Court concluded that De La Roca had successfully demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence, that H.C. was well settled in the United States pursuant to ICARA, and therefore decided not to exercise its independent authority to order H.C.’s return to Guatemala.

          Castellanos argued that the District Court erred in not finding that the notice he filed with the Guatemalan Central Authority and the U.S. Department of State constituted a “proceeding” for purposes of Article 12 of the Convention, thereby entitling him to have H.C. returned pending resolution of the custody dispute. The Third Circuit pointed out that ICARA defines “commencement of proceedings” as used in Article 12 of the Convention as “the filing of a petition in accordance with [§ 9003(b) ].”Section 9003(b) provides, in turn, that “[a]ny person seeking to initiate judicial proceedings under the Convention for the return of a child ... may do so by commencing a civil action by filing a petition for the relief sought in any court which has jurisdiction of such action and which is authorized to exercise its jurisdiction in the place where the child is located at the time the petition is filed.” Therefore, it could not conclude that mere notice of one’s intent to have a child returned to the parent in a signatory state constitutes “commencement of proceedings” under Article 12. In recognizing that the ‘now settled’ exception applies where the child has been in the destination state for more than one year from the date of the wrongful removal or retention it noted that the delay in filing the Petition for H.C.’s return did not eliminate Castellanos’s remedies under the Convention,42 nor did it ensure De La Roca’s success in resisting the Petition for H.C.’s return. Here, the District Court correctly recognized its continuing independent authority to order H.C.’s return; however, it declined to exercise this authority.
          De La Roca did not dispute the District Court’s conclusion that Castellanos established each of the conditions for H.C.’s return under the Convention. Accordingly, De La Roca had to produce sufficient evidence to establish an affirmative defense to Castellanos’s Petition pursuant to subsection (e)(2) of ICARA. § 9003(e)(2) of ICARA provides as follows: (e) Burdens of proof ... (2) In ... an action for the return of a child, a respondent who opposes the return of the child has the burden of establishing--(A) by clear and convincing evidence that one of the exceptions set forth in article 13b or 20 of the Convention applies; and (B) by a preponderance of the evidence that any other exception set forth in article 12 or 13 of the Convention applies.

          The Court rejected Castellanos argument that the use of the conjunctive “and” means that De La Roca must establish both prongs of § 9003(e)(2) by the specified burden of proof before his Petition for H.C. could be denied. De La Roca asserted two affirmative defenses to the Petition—that H.C. is well settled in the United States, and that returning him to Guatemala would present a grave risk. Under (e)(2)(A), a respondent must prove by clear and convincing evidence that (1) there is a grave risk that the child’s return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm; or (2) the return should not be permitted by the fundamental principles of the requested State relating to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. ICARA requires that a respondent only establish by a preponderance of the evidence that (1) the child is now settled in its new environment; or (2) the petitioner was not exercising custody rights at the time of removal. (citing as precedent Rydder v. Rydder, 49 F.3d 369, 372 (8th Cir. 1995) (noting that a respondent who opposes a child’s return “may advance any of the affirmative defenses to return listed in Articles 12, 13, or 20 of the Hague Convention.”); Miller v. Miller, 240 F.3d 392, 402 (4th Cir. 2001) (“In fact, the courts retain the discretion to order return even if one of the exceptions is proven.”); Ohlander v. Larson, 114 F.3d 1531, 1534 (10th Cir. 1997) (the Hague Convention “provides for several exceptions to return if the person opposing return can show any” of the listed exceptions); Friedrich v. Friedrich, 78 F.3d 1060, 1067 (6th Cir. 1996) (“Once a plaintiff establishes that removal was wrongful, the child must be returned unless the defendant can establish one of four defenses.”);Blondin v. Dubois, 189 F.3d 240, 245 (2d Cir. 1999); In re Lozano, 809 F.Supp.2d 197, 235 (S.D.N.Y. 2011); Lozano v. Alvarez, 697 F.3d 41, 59 (2d Cir. 2012); Lozano, 572 U.S. at 8, 18; see also id. at 19 (Alito, J., concurring) (“This is why Article 12 requires return ‘forthwith’ if the petition for return is brought within a year of abduction, unless one of the narrow exceptions set forth in Article 13 or 20 applies.”)

           Castellanos also complained that De La Roca did not actually offer sufficient evidence to prove that H.C. was well settled in the United States. Reviewing the district court’s factual findings for clear error it found that the record supported the District Court’s finding that H.C. was well settled in his new environment. There was no error in reaching that conclusion, let alone any clear error in doing so.