Monday, March 12, 2012

Giles v Bravo, 2012 WL 704745 (D. Nev.) [Mexico] [Well Settled in New Environment] [Acquiescence]

In Giles v Bravo, 2012 WL 704745 (D. Nev.) the district court denied review and affirmed the finding of the Magistrate Judge, that the Child in question should not be returned to Mexico pursuant to the Hague Convention.
Plaintiff served her Petition on October 18, 2011. The Court held a status conference on December 9, 2011.Respondents admitted evidence of a letter issued by the Consul of the United States of America at Mexico, Federal District ("D.F."). wherein Petitioner granted Respondents permission to travel with the child from July, 2010 until the year 2015. Further, Respondents submitted an Order Granting Guardianship of the child to them in the Eighth Judicial District of Nevada dated February 10, 2011.
Petitioner was born in Mexico City. Her parents, Rogelio Sanvicente Bravo and Eva Rodriguez Giles (Respondents), illegally transported her to the United States at the age of three. Petitioner became pregnant with the child at the age of 15 while living with Respondents. Petitioner lived in Respondents' home with her child after the birth. Petitioner testified that her father took care of the baby during the night. After several months, Petitioner agreed to leave the child with Respondents while she cohabited with her boyfriend. She testified that she routinely visited the child. Petitioner's paternal grandmother advised her at this time that Respondents wished to obtain custody over the child.
Petitioner then attempted to remove the child from Respondents' home. Petitioner testified that she did take the child without her belongings, but then stated
that she could not keep the child because her parents threatened to notify Social
Services that Petitioner was unemployed. Petitioner further testified that around this
time, Respondent Rogelio Bravo told her he would "follow up" with her immigration
case, which would allow her to legally remain in the United States, in exchange for
custody of the child.
The child remained with Respondents. At some point during the next two years,
Petitioner became pregnant with her second child, and married a man named
Vladimir. Petitioner and Vladimir moved back into Respondents' home. Petitioner
testified that in 2007 Vladimir witnessed Respondent Eva Rodriguez Giles refer to the
Petitioner as "Tania" instead of "your mom" when speaking to the child. This comment
upset Vladimir, causing him and Petitioner to decide to take the child and relocate.
Petitioner and her family relocated to another home in Las Vegas and in 2008, Petitioner decided to move with her family to Mexico where her husband had obtained employment. Petitioner testified that the child thrived in Mexico and enjoyed her life.
In May 2010, Petitioner notified her mother that Vladimir had abused her, threatened to take the children, and kicked her out on the street. Respondents gave Petitioner money in order to travel to the D.F. in Mexico. While there, Petitioner stayed with her maternal grandmother. Respondents traveled to Mexico to meet with Petitioner and the child. The following month, Petitioner began the process to obtain a passport for the child. In addition, Petitioner signed a travel authorization that gave her consent for the child to travel between Mexico and the United States with Respondents over a period of five years. Respondent Eva Rodriguez Giles testified that Petitioner told her that she wanted the child to have more opportunity and to study in the United States and learn English, as had Petitioner. Petitioner maintained that she believed the sole reason for the child's visit to the United States was for medical treatment.
Sometime after Petitioner initiated the travel process to allow the child to travel to the United States with Respondents, Vladimir traveled to the D.F. and attempted to thwart the child's international trip with Respondents. Petitioner testified that
Vladimir warned her that Respondents were tricking her in order to obtain custody of
the child, but Petitioner stated that she trusted her parents and still planned on the child
traveling to the United States with Respondents. Vladimir presumably voiced his concerns to Respondents, as Petitioner testified that Respondent Eva Rodriguez Giles stated "if anyone tries to stop me from taking the girl I will shoot them."Petitioner left her grandmother's home for a few days, but the child remained. On July 20, 2010 Petitioner received a phone call from Respondent Eva Rodriguez Giles, who informed Petitioner that the child was in Las Vegas, Nevada with her. Petitioner reacted angrily at the fact that she was unable to bid farewell to the child. Petitioner then talked with her child, but when Vladimir began talking with the child, Respondent Giles retrieved the telephone and ended the call. On September 9, 2010 Petitioner filed a petition with the Mexican Central Authority under the Hague Convention, reporting that the child had been wrongfully removed from Mexico. Sometime in December 2010, Petitioner obtained Respondents' telephone number from a cousin in Las Vegas. Petitioner contacted Respondents who informed her that they would not be bringing the child back to Mexico. On February 8, 2011 the District Court for the Eighth Judicial District, located in Clark County, Nevada, granted Respondents petition for guardianship of the
Petitioner initiated the instant action on October 5, 2011. The child was seven years old. Petitioner testified that she had no knowledge of the state court guardianship proceedings. The application reflected that it was mailed to the address of Petitioner's maternal grandmother, where Petitioner was living at the time Respondents left Mexico in the summer of 2010. However, there was no proof of service and therefore the Court could not impute knowledge to Petitioner regarding the proceeding.
The parties did not dispute that the child was habitually residing in Mexico until her removal to the United States. Thus, Mexican federal law governed with respect to the scope of Petitioner's custody rights. See A.A.M. v.. J.L.R. C., No. 11-CV-5732, 2012 WL 75049, at *9 (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 9, 2012). Under Mexican law, "[t]he exercise of parental authority ... gives rise to a duty of custody and care." The child lived with Petitioner for around two years in Mexico prior to the removal. Petitioner presented a receipt of student enrollment showing that in February 2010 she had registered the child in preschool in Mexico for the 2010-2011 school year. A few months prior to removal, in May 2010, Petitioner relocated the child from Sonara to the D.F. in Mexico. The child was in Petitioner's custody and she was caring for the child. After Respondents arrived in Mexico, Petitioner signed a travel document, applied for the child's passport, and made copies of the child's birth certificate available to Respondents. The travel authorization signed by Petitioner gave the Respondents permission to travel between Mexico and the United States with the child. Although the authorization was effective for five years, Petitioner testified that she gave permission only for Respondents to take the child to the United States in order to seek medical treatment, not to remain with the child in the United States forever. Petitioner stated that she was not distressed by the fact that the child was taken, but rather that she did not have a chance to say good-bye. Based on these facts, the Court found that the travel authorization did not relinquish Petitioner's custody rights. See Muhlenkamp v. Blizzard, 521 F.Supp.2d 1140, 1150 (E.D.Wash.2007). The Court found that Petitioner was exercising her custody rights in Mexico, where the child habitually resided, at the time of the child's removal to the United States on about July 20, 2010. Although the removal in July 2010 appeared to have been with the consent of Petitioner, the subsequent retention of the child was wrongful, and breached the rights of custody attributed to Petitioner under Mexican law.
The Court observed that if the petition was filed one year from the time of the alleged wrongful retention and the child has since settled into the new environment, then the Court must not order the return of the child. Hague Conv. art. 12. The petition was filed on October 5, 2011. The one year limit ran when the petitioner should have known of the wrongful removal or retention. Petitioner initiated a Hague Convention proceeding with the Mexican Central Authority on September 9, 2010 by filing a detailed claim that the child had been wrongfully removed from Mexico. Petitioner's September 9, 2010 filing, however, states the following: "I have been threatened more than once by my parents saying they would take my daughter [Child's Name Stated] away from me. I was threatened by my parents that if I or anyone tryed (sic) to stop them frome (sic) taking [Child's Name Stated] to Las Vegas N .V. they would get a gun and shoot them."These statements support a finding that in July, 2010, Petitioner believed, and was on notice, that Respondents intended to take the child and would likely not return her unless required by force. By September 2010, when Petitioner filed her complaint with the Authority, and Petitioner had had no contact with Respondents, it seems clear that Petitioner was on notice that her child was being retained by Respondents. Regardless of any misunderstanding there may have been between Petitioner and Respondent regarding the original removal of the child from Mexico by July 20, 2010, the court found that the wrongful retention of the child began no later than September 9, Under Article 12 of the Convention, the term "commencement of proceedings" means the filing of a petition in any court which has jurisdiction of the action and which is authorized to exercise its jurisdiction in the place where the child is located at the time the petition is filed. Thus, Petitioner commenced the proceeding on October 5, 2011 by filing a petition with the Court.
The child currently lived in their Las Vegas home with the Respondents. Respondents lived in the same location for several years until recently moving to a smaller home to downsize financially. Respondents cared for the child for extended periods of time throughout her life. Petitioner lived with Respondents after the child's birth, and testified that Respondents took care of the child. Petitioner further testified that when she lived in Las Vegas, she moved in with her boyfriend and left the child with Respondents at their home. Petitioner agreed the child was safer with Respondents than with Petitioner and her then-boyfriend when she lived in Las Vegas. The child had a close relationship with her grandparents, having lived in their home for a majority of her life. No other family members resided in the area. Respondents represented to the Court that the child attended kindergarten last year and that she was currently in the first grade and attended school regularly. While the child initially struggled with the English language, Respondents stated that she now understood English well and spoke some English. The child testified that she enjoyed school. The majority of the child's testimony before the Court was spoken in English with out the assistance of a translator. By obtaining legal guardianship over the child, Respondents were able to make decisions regarding the child's education and welfare, and have apparently done so by ensuring the child was enrolled in, and attending school. Through the child's testimony and the Court's observations of the child, it appeared, and the court found, that the child was stable in her current environment, and it was reasonable to infer that given the passage of time and events, and a return to Petitioner would be disruptive to the child.
The Court found that Petitioner consented to the removal of the child from Mexico to the United States. Even if Petitioner had not consented to removal, she subsequently acquiesced to retention of the child in the United States. Acquiescence under the Convention has been interpreted to require either: "an act or statement with the requisite formality, such as testimony in a judicial proceeding; a convincing written renunciation of rights; or a consistent attitude of acquiescence over a significant period of time." Friedrich, 78 F.3d at 1070 . Despite the fact that Petitioner filed a petition for the child's return with Mexican authorities, Petitioner made no effort to locate the child. Petitioner even claimed that she filed the petition in retaliation of Respondents taking the child without allowing Petitioner to say goodbye, not to reclaim custody of the child. It took Petitioner over one year to take proper legal action in the country where she knew the child was located. The Court found that Petitioner exhibited a consistent attitude of acquiescence over a significant period of time. The Court determined that two of the affirmative defenses had been established and that the child should not be returned to Mexico pursuant to the Hague Convention.