Thursday, December 29, 2016
In Cisneros v Lopez, 2016 WL 7428197 (D. Nev., 2016) Petitioner, Respondent, and their daughters, AVES who was nine years old and AIES who was two years old were all Mexican citizens. Respondent and the children left Mexico for the United States on March 17, 2015. Petitioner initiated the case in the district court on January 12, 2016. The Magistrate Judge found that Petitioner met his burden of establishing his case-in-chief for the return but given the clear and convincing evidence of physical and psychological abuse, that returning the children to Mexico would pose a grave risk to their physical and psychological well-being, and recommend that the petition for return be denied. Respondent testified regarding domestic violence. AVES also testified that she saw Petitioner hit Respondent, causing her nose to bleed on two occasions; that when they were on a family camping trip, Petitioner threatened to kill her, AIES, and Respondent; that she was afraid of her father; that she was afraid of the dark and that she had nightmares “[a]bout my dad killing my mom.” When asked whether she feels safe living in Mexico, AVES testified that “I’m scared that my dad [sic] kill my mom.” AVES objected to being returned to Mexico and wanted to stay in the United States. Respondent’s witness Dr. Norman Roitman, an expert in psychiatry testified that AVES maturity level was advanced beyond her chronological age by one or two years, to age ten or eleven. Based on his evaluation, Dr. Roitman diagnosed AVES with post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) and adjustment disorder with anxiety and depression. Dr. Roitman stated that AVES “has a close anxious bond with her mother, has separation anxiety that’s separate and apart from the PTSD, and separation from her mother could constitute the beginning of a significant psychiatric injury.” He further testified that separating AVES from her mother could result in “posttraumatic reinjury.” Dr. Roitman’s opinions were uncontroverted and were the only evidence before the court on whether returning AVES to Mexico would cause her PTSD to worsen. The Magistrate judge found that Respondent presented evidence of domestic violence directed at her by Petitioner over the course of their nine-year relationship, including physical and emotional abuse. There was some evidence of physical abuse against AVES. Respondent presented uncontroverted evidence that Petitioner caused significant psychological harm to AVES, as well as specific evidence of potential harm that AVES would suffer if she returned to Mexico. Dr. Roitman concluded AVES should not be returned to her father. Based on Dr. Roitman’s uncontroverted expert opinion testimony, the court found there was a grave risk that return would subject AVES to psychological harm. In addition, there was evidence that returning her to Mexico would expose her to grave risk of physical harm due to escalating domestic abuse. There was evidence that the day before Respondent left home with the children, Petitioner hit AVES in the face, causing her lip to split, and that Petitioner threatened to kill both of the children. The court found that in addition to the risk of psychological harm, there was a grave risk that return would expose AVES to physical harm. Given that Respondent has established the grave-risk defense as to AVES, the court recommended that the petition be denied as to AIES as well, citing Miltiadous v. Tetervak, 686 F. Supp. 2d 544, 556 (E.D. Pa. 2010) (declining to separate siblings and finding that the younger sibling who was not suffering from PTSD would be exposed to the same grave risk of harm as the older sibling suffering from PTSD).