New York Matrimonial Trial Handbook
The by Joel R. Brandes is available in Bookstores and online in the print edition , . It is also available and for all ebook readers in our 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 and
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.
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
The District Court observed that ICARA provides: Any court ordering the return of a child pursuant to an action brought under section 11603 of this title shall order the respondent to pay necessary expenses incurred by or on behalf of the petitioner, including court costs, legal fees, foster home or other care during the course of the proceedings in the action, and transportation costs related to the return of the child, unless the respondent establishes that such order would be clearly inappropriate. 42 U.S.C. 11067(b)(3). It concluded that under the plain language of the statute, the court had the duty to order the payment of necessary expenses and legal fees unless Respondent satisfied her burden of showing that such an order would be clearly inappropriate. In this case, Respondent, who appeared at the hearing without counsel, failed to offer any response, and therefore the court could not find that she had met her burden in establishing that an award of expenses to Petitioner was clearly inappropriate. Petitioner sought $3,974.86 for expenses incurred by him personally, and submitted an affidavit supported by receipts. His expenses included the costs Petitioner incurred flying to North Carolina and back to the Republic of Ireland along with the costs of his lodging in North Carolina ($2,648.63), the costs Petitioner incurred flying E.L.W.J. from North Carolina to the Republic of Ireland ($844.30), and the cost of Petitioner's rental car in North Carolina ($481.93). The court found all these expenses to be reasonable and necessarily related to Petitioner's efforts to have E.L.W.J. returned to the Republic of Ireland. Petitioner also sought $673.84 for expenses incurred on his behalf by the law firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, PLLC . Petitioner's counsel represented Petitioner pro bono in this proceeding, and accordingly, Petitioner was not seeking attorney's fees. He was seeking the expenses WCSR incurred on his behalf, including the filing fee for this action ($350.00), the cost of photocopies ($64.10), and his counsel's travel expenses to attend the hearing ($259.74). Petitioner's counsel submitted an affidavit detailing those expenses. The court found the expenses were reasonable and were related to the return of E.L.W.J. Accordingly, the court found that the total amount of $4,648.70 in expenses incurred by Petitioner or on his behalf to be reasonable and necessary to his efforts to have his child returned to the Republic of Ireland.
In Chavez v Sequera, 2011 WL 3666581 (W.D.Tex.) Plaintiffs filed their "Original Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus and for Return of a Child Victim of International Abduction" in which they contended that on August 13, 2010 a female minor (N.H.S.) was with her parents in Ciudad Juarez when her parents were shot and killed. Juarez police allegedly delivered N.H. S. to Plaintiffs--N.H. S .'s paternal grandparents. The next day, while the minor child was left with her aunts, Defendants--the minor child's maternal grandparents and other relatives-allegedly acted together to physically overpower the aunts, abduct the minor child, and remove her to El Paso, TX. Plaintiffs subsequently initiated custody proceedings in the First Family Court of the Judicial District of Bravos, Chihuahua, Mexico, which they contended was a court of proper venue and represented that the court granted them temporary legal custody of N.H.S. in absentia since Defendants were "avoiding detection" in both Mexico and the United States. On March 4, 2011, Defendants were served with the Petition. Defendants had until March 25, 2011 to file an answer, but failed to do so. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(a)(1)(A)(i). On March 31, 2011 the Clerk of the Court filed an "Entry of Default." As a result, Plaintiffs asked that the Court grant default judgment in their favor. The district court noted that a defendant must serve a responsive pleading within 21 days after being served with a summons and complaint. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(a)(1). When a defendant fails to otherwise defend, and that failure is shown by affidavit or otherwise, the clerk must enter the party's default. Fed. R. Civ. P. 55. If a plaintiff's claim is not for a "sum certain" or for an amount that can be made certain by computation, application for the entry of a judgment by default must be made to the court. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(B)(2). It indicated that on April 18, 2011, with all parties present, the Court held a hearing in order to apprise Defendants of the consequences of failing to answer Plaintiffs' Petition. At that time the Court explained its limited role under the Hague Convention and made it clear to Defendants that it was not the Court's duty to make an independent determination about the best interests of the child nor to opine as to the substantive legal proceedings relating to the issue of custody which were before the Mexican legal system. Further, the Court informed Defendants that they had failed to comply with the law by filing an answer timely.
Defendants did not formally appear either through counsel or pro se and did not file responsive pleadings to the Petition or to the Motion for Default Judgment. Based on the pleadings, the Court found that the allegations in Plaintiffs' Petition were facial sufficient to state their claim and merit the relief they were seeking. As a result, the Court granted the Motion for Default Judgment. It directed that that Defendants contact Plaintiffs' counsel, and arrange for the physical return of N.H. S. to Plaintiffs not more than seven (7) days following the service of its Order. It further ordered, among other things, that should Defendants fail to timely return physical custody of N.H. S. to Plaintiffs, upon notification from Plaintiffs of such deficiency, the Court may enlist the services of the United States Marshal to assist Plaintiffs in carrying out the provisions of its Order.
Monday, August 15, 2011
The cases the Court found suggested that the Federal Rules of Evidence apply in a court's consideration of a petition for return of children. It noted that in Danaipour v. McLarey, 386 F .3d 289 (1st Cir.2004), the mother removed her two daughters from the Kingdom of Sweden to the United States of America in violation of a Swedish Court order, and the father filed suit in the United States seeking to have the children returned pursuant to the "International Child Abduction Remedies Act, and the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit addressed the district court's conclusion, under rule 1101(b) of the Federal Rules of Evidence, that "the summary character of Hague Convention proceedings does not require application of the Federal Rules of Evidence regarding hearsay...." 386 F.3d at 296. The First Circuit stated: "While summary proceedings certainly may occur in cases under the Convention, this was not one. Indeed, this was a full trial." 386 F.3d at 296. The First Circuit stated, however: "Whatever our doubts, nonetheless, Danaipour has not directly raised on appeal the point of the applicability of the Federal Rules of Evidence; at most he argues that the mother's family's recounting of the children's statements to physicians constituted inadmissible double hearsay and was inherently unreliable."
The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has also suggested that the Federal Rules of Evidence apply in adjudications of petitions for return of children under the Hague Convention. See Karkkainen v. Kovalchuk, 455 F.3d 280, 285 (3d Cir.2006)(rejecting Karkkainen's claim that the district court improperly permitted testimony regarding the daughter's best interests, stating that "Karkkainen points to no specific instances in which the District Court permitted such testimony, and we have found none within the record. We also conclude that the District Court admitted hearsay testimony only under the exceptions of the Federal Rules and properly limited its use," and concluding, "[t]hus, we find no abuse of discretion on these points").
The Court thus concluded that the Federal Rules of Evidence apply to its consideration of the Petition.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
address and telephone number in Forest Hills, New York. Petitioner has since had telecommunications with his child via both phone calls and video conference.
On February 25, 2011, petitioner filed a petition in the Bucharest Court seeking a decision that respondent's removal and retention of L.R. outside of Romania was illegal. On May 5, 2011, the Bucharest Court dismissed the action, finding that petitioner did not have standing to bring the suit and was without remedy of law.
The District Court observed that in order to raise a prima facie case, a petitioner had to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that: "(1) the child was habitually resident in one State and has been ... retained in a different State; (2) the ... retention was in breach of the petitioner's custody rights under the law of the State of habitual residence; and (3) the petitioner was exercising those rights [or would have exercised those rights] at the time of the ... retention." Gitter v Gitter, 396 F.3d at 130-131. If a court deems that there has been a wrongful removal or retention of a child under the age of sixteen, and the petition was brought within a year of the wrongful removal or retention, the country in which the child is located must "order the return of the child forthwith," unless the respondent is able to raise an affirmative defense. Hague Convention art. 12.
The District Court found that petitioner failed to establish a prima facie case of wrongful removal and retention by a preponderance of the evidence. The parties did not dispute that L.R. was a habitual resident of Romania at the time of his removal. The pinnacle issue was whether respondent's unilateral decision to change the child's domicile was in breach of petitioner's rights of custody. Both sides cited to Abbott as the seminal case in determining whether petitioner has a ne exeat right-the right of a parent to require his consent before a child is taken out of the country. In Abbott, the Court held that a parent's ne exeat right qualifies as right of a custody under the Hague Convention. See 130 S.Ct. at 1990. Therein, the father and mother separated and a Chilean court awarded visitation rights to the father. Id. at 1988. The Court found that while visitation rights or "rights of access" alone did not amount to a ne exeat right, where the law of the country of residence explicitly requires a parent to give consent before removing the child, a custodial right exists. Thus, absent an explicit award of custody, the Court consulted the law of the country of residence to determine whether a parent had a ne exeat right.
The district court observed that the final and irrevocable Divorce Decree only awarded petitioner visitation rights, not custodial rights. The Court rejected petitioners argument that his visitation rights, in conjunction with four Romanian laws, amounted to a ne exeat right. The first law to which petitioner cited was the Romanian Law on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of the Child, Law 272/2004, which concerns a child's temporary travel abroad. That law provides, in part, that "the child[ ]'s travel in the country or abroad may only be done when both parents have been notified and have agreed; any misunderstanding between the parents concerning the expression of this agreement is ruled upon by the court of law." Here, respondent did not notify petitioner of L.R.'s travel to the United States; however, any disagreement arising from the child's travel outside of Romania had already been ruled upon by "the court of law"--that is, the irrevocable and final decision rendered in the Divorce Decree, which granted sole custody to respondent. Although petitioner argued that his visitation rights alone created a ne exeat right, this argument was misguided. See Abbott, 130 S.Ct. at 1988-89 (finding that "direct and regular visitation rights," are recognized as "rights of access," but that these rights alone do not offer a return remedy under the Convention). Upon reading Law 272/2004 in full, the district court observed that the law clearly anticipated that a final and irrevocable custody determination would modify and limit the very parental rights which Law 272/2004 espoused. Article 16, for example, provides that the "court of law, considering the best interests of the child as a priority, can limit the exercise of the [noncustodial parent's right to maintain direct contact]." The Bucharest court that issued the parties' Divorce Decree did just that, and negated petitioner's custodial rights by awarding respondent sole custody of the child. Thus, petitioner failed to establish that the Divorce Decree and law 272/2004 created a ne exeat right. The second law to which petitioner cited was the Status of the Free Movement of the Romanian Citizens Abroad Law 248/2005, ("248/2005"), which states that a minor Romanian citizen may leave the country when accompanied by one of his parents "without the need for the other parent's affidavit, only if the accompanying parent presents proof that she has custody of the minor based on a final and irrevocable court decree." This law clarified that because respondent has a final and irrevocable Divorce Decree vesting her with sole custody of L.R., she could temporarily remove L.R. from Romania without petitioner's permission. The Court found that the Divorce Decree superseded the prior Romanian law requiring both parents' consent. The Romanian Consulate affirmed this finding in a letter to this Court, noting that "[i]n accordance with the Romanian Law no. 248/2005, as amended, the parent who has the custody of the child is entitled to request the issuance of a Romanian passport/travel document for the said child and to approve any trip abroad, without the other parent's consent." Accordingly, Law 248/2005 failed to confer upon petitioner a ne exeat right.
The Court concluded that petitioner had not established that he had any ne exeat rights as to L.R. under the Divorce Decree or Romanian law. The Romanian court rendered a final and irrevocable custodial determination in favor of respondent, did not award any custodial rights to petitioner, and was silent as to petitioner's ne exeat rights. This Decree, under Romanian law, then superseded any ne exeat right that petitioner may have had. Accordingly, petitioner failed to establish that respondent's retention of L.R. was in violation of his custodial rights.. Because the Divorce Decree did not afford petitioner with custodial rights, and Romanian law does not grant a ne exeat right in the face of the superseding Divorce Decree, petitioner had no custodial rights to exercise at the time of L.R.'s removal. Accordingly, petitioner failed to meet the third element of his prima facie case. The petition was therefore dismissed.
Monday, August 8, 2011
Vasquez v Colores,--- F.3d ----, 2011 WL 3366380 (8th Cir.(Minn.))[Mexico] [Grave Risk of Harm] [Evidence]
In Vasquez v Colores,--- F.3d ----, 2011 WL 3366380 (8th Cir.(Minn.)) Dr. Carlos Colores Vasquez filed a petition to return his twenty-two-month-old daughter, I.R.C., to Mexico. Stephanie Colores, Dr. Colores's estranged wife and mother of I.R.C., opposed the petition. The district court entered an order granting the petition. Ms. Colores appealed, arguing that the district court erred in denying her motion for a continuance and in excluding the testimony of two witnesses. The Eighth Circuit affirmed.
The Court observed that the Article 13(b) exception, on which Ms. Colores relied, applies if the party opposing the petition establishes by clear and convincing evidence that "there is grave risk that his or her return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation." It indicated that it has recognized two types of grave risk that are cognizable under Article 13(b): cases in which a child is sent to a zone of war, famine, or disease and those involving serious abuse or neglect. (Citing Silverman v. Silverman, 338 F.3d 886, 900 (8th Cir.2003).
Ms. Colores, an American citizen, and Dr. Colores married in Minnesota in the summer of 2007 and moved to Mexico. Their daughter, I.R.C., was born in December 2008. In early May 2010, Ms. Colores left Mexico with I.R.C. and traveled to South Carolina, where her mother was vacationing. The three returned to her mother's home in Minnesota in late May. Dr. Colores filed his petition for emergency ex parte relief under the Convention on August 23, 2010. The district court granted that petition two days later. Ms. Colores sought a continuance, claiming that she needed more time to obtain additional information from the United States Embassy in Mexico City and security footage from the gated community in which she and Dr. Colores had lived. Dr. Colores objected to the continuance, arguing that Ms. Colores had failed to demonstrate that the information was material to the petition. The district court denied the motion for a continuance, and the parties commenced the first of three evidentiary hearings on September 1. The parties agreed that I.R.C. was a habitual resident of Mexico and that her removal was wrongful because Dr. Colores did not consent and I.R.C. did not have a valid passport.
Ms. Colores claimed that the Article 13(b) exception applied and thus the district court was not obligated to return I.R.C. to Mexico. Over the course of the hearings, she sought to establish that Dr. Colores's anger problems and history of abuse posed a grave risk of physical or psychological harm that satisfied the Article 13(b) exception. She testified that Dr. Colores had abused I.R.C. by shaking her head forcefully six to ten times a month, head-butting her two to three times a month, or hitting her on the back with his fist. Barbara Jo Gangl, Ms. Colores's mother, testified that she had witnessed Dr. Colores shake I.R.C.'s head forcefully and pull her hair. Following Ms. Colores's testimony, she sought to elicit testimony from John Gangl, her stepfather. She proffered that he would corroborate her account of Dr. Colores's episodes of rage by recounting a telephone conversation in which Dr. Colores allegedly lashed out at Gangl after he complained about Dr. Colores's refusal to pick up Barbara Jo from the airport when she visited. The district court inquired whether Gangl had witnessed Dr. Colores in a rage in the presence of I.R.C. and was told that he had not. The district court concluded that the proffered testimony was not relevant and excluded it. Ms. Colores also sought to elicit expert testimony from Dr. Jeffrey L. Edleson, Professor and Director of Research at the School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota and the Director of the Minnesota Center against Violence and Abuse. On September 7, 2010, when Ms. Colores first broached the topic of calling Dr. Edleson with the district court, he was unavailable to appear because he had been hospitalized. When questioned, counsel for Ms. Colores could not provide the court with more information why Dr. Edleson had been hospitalized or when he might be available. As part of her offer of proof, Ms. Colores recounted Dr. Edleson's expertise in the area of domestic violence and referred to a study, funded by the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, that addressed "the risk of harm to children in the context of domestic violence against parents and children in [Hague Convention cases]." At the time, the study was unpublished and not subject to peer review. Dr. Colores objected to the proposed testimony, noting that the witness had not been disclosed previously and had not examined I.R.C. or interviewed either of her parents. Dr. Colores argued that the proffer consisted of a generalized summary of phenomena associated with domestic abuse and was irrelevant to the specific issues at issue in the proceedings. Dr. Colores also maintained that such testimony would not shed light on the specific claims Ms. Colores made, but would only extend the proceedings and thereby exacerbate his financial hardship. The district court excluded
Dr. Edleson's testimony, concluding that it was unreliable and irrelevant.
On September 14, 2010, the district court entered an order granting Dr. Colores's petition. It did not find credible Ms. Colores's allegations that there was a grave risk that I.R.C. would be exposed to physical or psychological harm or otherwise be placed in an intolerable situation if she were returned to Mexico. It cited findings of a pediatric neurologist who had examined I.R.C. at the district court's request and who opined, based on his examination and on I.R.C.'s normal, age-appropriate neurological development, that there was no evidence of any neurologic injury. The district court also found that Ms. Colores had never reported any injury and had been willing to leave I.R.C. with Dr. Colores for ten days when she returned to the United States to attend a funeral.
The Court of Appeals pointed out that Ms. Colores's motion for a continuance was based on her claim that she needed to gather evidence that was located in Mexico. According to Ms. Colores, the evidence consisted of witness statements and videotapes from surveillance cameras of the gated community in which she and Dr. Colores had lived, as well as a copy of a report she had allegedly filed with the U.S. Embassy documenting Dr. Colores's abuse of herself and of I.R.C. Dr. Colores contended that Ms. Colores failed to establish that the evidence she sought was material and that the district court appropriately denied the motion in light of the prejudice Dr. Colores suffered from continued delay and the primacy placed on expediency in Convention proceedings. Given the underlying circumstances and the professed goal of expediency in Convention proceedings, the Court of Appeals agreed that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion.
The Court also observed that a district court enjoys wide discretion in ruling on the admissibility of proffered evidence, and evidentiary rulings should only be overturned if there was a clear and prejudicial abuse of discretion. To warrant reversal, an error must affect a substantial right of the objecting party, and the burden of showing prejudice rests on that party. Ms. Colores maintained that her stepfather's testimony would have corroborated her account of Dr. Colores's rage and anger. The incident at the heart of the proffer occurred in December 2008, when Gangl and Dr. Colores argued on the telephone after Dr. Colores refused to pick up Barbara Jo from the airport when she came to visit and instead asked that she take a cab to the house. After hearing the details of the phone conversation and determining that Gangl was not physically present with I.R.C. when it occurred, the district court concluded that the proffered testimony was not relevant and excluded it. The Court of Appeals held that at best, the proffered testimony repeated Ms. Colores's account of her husband's behavior on the night of the telephone call. But I .R.C. was not implicated in the particulars of the phone call, and Gangl's proffered testimony would have been cumulative of prior testimony from Ms. Colores and her mother. Accordingly, it could not say that the district court abused its discretion in excluding this testimony.
Ms. Colores argued that the district court abused its discretion in excluding testimony from Dr. Edleson. Federal Rule of Evidence 702 governs the admission of expert testimony and requires that the district court function as a gatekeeper to "ensure that any and all scientific testimony or evidence is not only relevant, but reliable." (Citing Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 589 (1993). "If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue," an expert may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise so long as "(1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case." Fed.R.Evid. 702.
The Court held that it did not have to determine whether Dr. Edleson's testimony was unreliable because the report that would have served as its basis had not yet been published or peer-reviewed, because it concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the testimony as irrelevant after finding that Dr. Edleson had not interviewed either of the parties or I.R.C. The district court concluded that Dr. Edleson's testimony would not have directly aided the fact-finder in sorting out whether abuse had occurred and, if so, what effect it had on I.R.C. It emphasized that there was little physical evidence of abuse or mistreatment and that the veracity of the allegations of abuse turned primarily on the credibility of the parties' testimony. Questions of admissibility "are not to be measured by what we may have done were we the district court," but whether its evidentiary decisions constitute "a clear abuse of discretion." Dunn v. Nexgrill Indus., Inc., 636 F.3d 1049, 1057 (8th Cir.2011). Ms. Colores did not demonstrate that excluding the testimony was so prejudicial as to require reversal. She did not contend that Dr. Edleson had concluded that Ms. Colores or I.R.C. had been abused or that I.R.C. faced a grave risk of harm if she were returned to Mexico. So far as the district court was aware, Ms. Colores did not contend that Dr. Edleson had formed any opinion as to I.R.C. It concluded that the exclusion of Dr. Edleson's testimony did not warrant reversal.
Suarez v Castrillo, 2011 WL 2669198 (D.Colo.) [Venezuela] [Availability of Hague Convention as a Remedy]
In Suarez v Castrillo, 2011 WL 2669198 (D.Colo.) Petitioner and Respondent were the parents of three minor children. On or about June 29, 2011, Ms. Suarez filed a Petition For Enforcement of Child Custody Decree in the Colorado District Court for Arapahoe County. That Petition alleged that the parties were subject to a 2003 divorce and custody decree from a court in Venezuela that gave Ms. Suarez legal custody of the children. The Petition recited that the children resided with Ms. Suarez pursuant to that decree, first in Venezuela and, upon Ms. Suarez's move in September 2007, in Alberta, Canada. Ms. Suarez alleged that she and Mr. Castrillo reached an agreement by which the children would temporarily reside with Mr. Castrillo in Colorado for one school year, and then be returned to Canada. Ms. Suarez alleges that that agreement had now expired, but Mr. Castrillo refused to return the children to Canada.
The District Court observed that Ms. Suarez's proceeding in Arapahoe County invoked C.R.S.14-13-101 et seq., Colorado's implementation of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act. Part 3 of that Act incorporates the principles of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, done at the Hague on October 25, 1980. The statute provides that Colorado courts "shall recognize and enforce a child-custody determination of a court of another state," including foreign nations, and allows those courts to "grant any relief normally available under the law of this state to enforce a registered child-custody determination made by a court of another state." Upon a properly-supported petition by a parent claiming custodial rights over a child, the state court is required to hold an expedited hearing and direct that the petitioning parent "take immediate physical custody of the child" unless the respondent parent demonstrates certain specific facts calling the validity of the custody order into question.
On July 5, 2011, Mr. Castrillo filed a Notice of Removal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. s 1446, removing the action from the Colorado District Court to this Court. Mr. Castrillo contended that this Court had original jurisdiction over the proceeding pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1441, insofar as this action "involves a federal question," although Mr. Castrillo did not specifically identify the source of that question. He noted that Ms. Suarez's petition uses terms that are "used only in matters pursuant to the Hague Convention," that Ms. Suarez had previously filed a request with Canadian authorities under the Hague Convention, and thus, apparently concluded that this action "arises under the Hague Convention."
The District Court held that on its face, Ms. Suarez's petition did not invoke a federal question. Her claims arose exclusively under Colorado statutory law; she did not invoke any provisions of the federal International Child Abduction Remedies Act ("ICARA"), 42 U.S.C. s 11601, either directly or inferentially. The fact that she used terminology consistent with the Hague Convention (and, for that matter, with ICARA) was of no significance, insofar as Colorado's UCCJEA is expressly cognizant of
the Hague Convention, and incorporates by reference certain aspects of that treaty. Ms. Suarez could have asserted a claim under ICARA either in lieu of or in addition to her claims under Colorado's UCCJEA, see 2 U.S.C. s 11603(a) (conferring concurrent jurisdiction on state and federal courts over ICARA claims), but for whatever reason, Ms. Suarez elected to pursue only those remedies that Colorado provides. Accordingly, the face of her pleading did not invoke any federal question. Mr. Castrillo's citation to Matter of Mahmoud, 1997 WL 43542 (E.D.N.Y.1997) (unpublished), was inapposite. There, the petitioning parent had filed an ICARA claim in state court, which the respondent parent sought to remove to federal court. Thus, the Court found that Ms. Suarez's claim arose purely under state law and was not preempted by federal law. Accordingly, Mr. Castrillo failed to carry his burden of demonstrating that the Court possessed subject-matter jurisdiction over the action and it was remanded to the Colorado District Court for Arapahoe County pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1447(c).
The matter came on for hearing on July 21, 2011. Petitioner was present with his attorney, Jennifer Lyday, and E.L.W.J. Respondent was present, without an attorney. The undersigned asked Respondent if she was prepared to go forward without an attorney, and Respondent answered yes. Both Petitioner and Respondent testified, and introduced evidence. Based on the testimony and evidence at the hearing and the Verified Hague Petition and Verified Application, the found that E.L.W.J. was born in the Republic of Ireland on May 4, 2007. Petitioner was E.L .W.J.'s father, and Respondent was E.L.W.J.'s mother. Petitioner and Respondent have never married. On January 26, 2010, Petitioner and Respondent executed a statutory guardianship declaration which granted Petitioner joint guardianship of E.L.W.J. under Irish Law pursuant to Section 4(2) of the Children Act of 1997. From E.L.W.J.'s birth until July 2009, Petitioner lived with the Child and raised the Child with Respondent. Both Petitioner and Respondent lived with the Child again from January 2010 until June 2010. From July 2009 to January 2010 and again from June 2010 until the events giving rise to the filing of the Hague Petition, Petitioner spent time with the Child every Wednesday and Saturday. The Child spent the night with Petitioner every other Saturday. E.L.W.J. lived in Ireland from her birth until March 2011. She was enrolled in a Montessori classes for the school term of September 2010-June 2010. In January 2011, Respondent told Petitioner that she would like to visit the United States to see her sister, and that she would like to take E.L.W.J. with her. Petitioner refused to sign a passport application for E.L.W.J. Petitioner averred that Respondent nevertheless obtained a United States passport for E.L.W.J. without his knowledge or consent. On the passport application, Respondent stated she would be using the passport to travel to the United States for six weeks. The passport was issued on March 3, 2011. On Wednesday, March 16, 2011, Petitioner spent time with E.L.W .J. during his regularly-scheduled access time. Respondent told him at the conclusion of the access time that she was planning on taking a trip over the upcoming weekend so Petitioner would not have his regularly-scheduled Saturday access time. On March 19, 2011, Petitioner sent Respondent a text message asking to speak with E.L.W.J. Respondent replied that Petitioner would be able to speak with E.L.W.J. on Monday. On March 22, 2011, Respondent emailed Petitioner telling him she was "gone for good." She told Petitioner it was in the best interest for her, E.L.W.J., and her older child to be away from Petitioner. She warned Petitioner not to come looking for her because he would never find her. Petitioner reported Respondent's taking of E.L.W.J. to the local police. He filed an application with the Irish Central Authority, the office designated by Ireland to administer its responsibilities under the Hague Convention. Petitioner thereafter filed for sole custody of E.L.W.J. He testified that the Irish District Court for the Dublin Metropolitan District served Respondent in the United States with notice of the hearing on the application. Respondent did not attend the hearing. The Irish District Court granted Petitioner sole interim custody of E.L.W.J. and scheduled another hearing on September 29, 2011. Respondent testified she did not feel E.L.W.J. was safe in Petitioner's custody. She testified that in the past Petitioner allowed E.L.W.J. to insert an object in her nostrils, necessitating a visit to the emergency room, and blamed the incident on E.L.W.J.'s older half-sister. She also testified that Petitioner had, on one occasion, locked E.L.W.J. and her half-sister in a sitting room for hours. In June 2010, he took painkillers that did not belong to him and was impaired. She also testified that E.L.W.J.'s half-sister was a witness to Petitioner physically assaulting Respondent on one occasion, and that Petitioner broke Respondent's arm while on a vacation in Spain. Respondent also testified that Petitioner spoke to E.L.W.J.'s half-sister about topics which were inappropriate. She introduced into evidence email correspondence between herself and Petitioner, wherein each accused the other of drug use and inappropriate behavior. Respondent testified that Petitioner had not, however, ever harmed E.L.W.J. Respondent also testified that separating E.L.W.J. from her half-sister would result in psychological harm to both children.
The District Court granted the petition. It noted that "Habitual residence" is not defined by the Hague Convention. Miller, 240 F.3d at 400. The Fourth Circuit has concluded, however, that "there is no real distinction between ordinary residence and habitual residence." A court must make a fact-specific inquiry on a case-by-case basis to determine a child's customary residence prior to the removal or retention. In undertaking this inquiry, the court uses a two-part framework. Maxwell v. Maxwell, 588 F.3d 245, 251 (4th Cir.2009). The court first examines whether the parents shared a settled intention to abandon the former country of residence. The court then examines the extent of the child's acclimatization to the new country of residence. Under the framework set forth in Maxwell, E.L.W.J.'s habitual residence was the Republic of Ireland. First, there was no shared parental intent to abandon the Republic of Ireland as E.L.W.J .'s habitual residence. Second, there was no indication that the short four months E.L.W.J. has spent in the United States rendered her so acclimatized to her life in this country that the court "can say with confidence that [E.L.W.J.'s] relative attachments to the two countries have changed to the point where requiring return to the original forum would now be tantamount to taking the child out of the family life and social environment in which [her] life has developed." Petitioner had "custody rights" as to E.L.W.J. as they are defined under the Hague Convention and Irish law. The Hague Convention defines "rights of custody" as including "rights relating to the care of the person of the child, and in particular, the right to determine the child's residence." Convention, art. 5. The Eleventh Circuit, in examining Irish law, has observed that "guardianship" under Irish law " 'concerns matters of overriding seminal importance to a child's upbringing' " and " 'the duty to ensure that a child is properly cared for and that decisions relating to the child are made with his or her best interests at heart.' " Hanley v. Roy, 485 F.3d 641, 646 (11th Cir.2007). The Eleventh Circuit concluded that guardianship rights under Irish law "necessarily involve 'the care of the person of the child' within the meaning of the [Hague] Convention." The district court similarly concluded that joint guardianship under Irish law is a right of custody within the meaning of the Hague Convention. Additionally, it was undisputable that Petitioner had "custody rights" as to E.L.W.J. after June 29, 2011, when the Irish District Court awarded him interim sole custody of the child. Respondent's removal of E.L.W.J. from Ireland was in breach of Petitioner's custody rights. Petitioner's custody rights--by virtue of his joint guardianship of E.L.W.J.--included the right to make decisions of overriding seminal importance to E.L.W.J.'s upbringing. The nation where E.L.W.J. is reared is a matter of overriding seminal importance to E.L.W.J.'s upbringing, and Petitioner had the
right to take part in that decision. Moreover, Respondent's retention of E.L.W.J.
in the United States after the Irish District Court awarded Petitioner interim
sole custody of the child was in breach of Petitioner's custody rights. Petitioner was exercising his custody rights at the time of the E.L.W.J.'s removal from Ireland and retention in the United States. Courts "will 'liberally find "exercise" whenever a parent with de jure custody rights keeps, or seeks to keep, any sort of regular contact with his or her child.' " Bader v. Kramer, 484 F.3d 666, 671 (4th Cir.2007)(quoting Friedrich v. Friedrich, 78 F.3d 1060, 1065 (6th Cir.1996) ("Friedrich II "). The Fourth Circuit has explained that under this approach: " 'a person [who] has valid custody rights to a child under the law of the country of the child's habitual residence ... cannot fail to 'exercise those custody rights under the Hague Convention short of acts that constitute clear and
unequivocal abandonment of the child." Here, Petitioner had been active part in E.L.W.J.'s life from her birth until she was removed from Ireland.
The court found that Petitioner established, by preponderance of the evidence, a prima facie case under the Hague Convention. It next found that the Respondent had not met her burden in establishing the "grave risk of harm" affirmative defense. Petitioner had never harmed E.L.W.J. nor was there any suggestion that he would harm her. Nor was there evidence of a sustained pattern of physical abuse and/or propensity for violent abuse. Moreover, there was no evidence that E.L.W J.'s separation from her half-sister would result in the type of severe psychological harm envisioned by the affirmative defense. See Freier v. Freier, 969 F.Supp. 436, 443 (E.D.Mich.1996)(finding that a child's separation from her mother and two half-siblings did not establish the "grave risk" defense because "this sort of adjustment problem common in the relocation of most children is not enough"). Finally, Respondent had not shown, by clear and convincing evidence, that returning E.L.J.W. to Ireland would subject her to an intolerable situation.