New York Matrimonial Trial Handbook
The New York Matrimonial Trial Handbook by Joel R. Brandes is available online in the print edition at the Bookbaby Bookstore and other bookstores. It is now available in Kindle ebook editions and epub ebook editions in our website bookstore. It is also available at Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble and Goodreads.
The New York Matrimonial Trial Handbook was written for both the attorney who has never tried a matrimonial action and for the experienced litigator. It is a “how to” book for lawyers. This 836 page handbook focuses on the procedural and substantive law, as well as the law of evidence, that an attorney must have at his or her fingertips when trying a matrimonial action. It is intended to be an aid for preparing for a trial and as a reference for the procedure in offering and objecting to evidence during a trial. The handbook deals extensively with the testimonial and documentary evidence necessary to meet the burden of proof. There are thousands of suggested questions for the examination of witnesses at trial to establish each cause of action and requests for ancillary relief, as well as for the cross-examination of difficult witnesses. Table of Contents
Thursday, December 14, 2017
Morgan v Morgan, 2017 WL 4512487 (N.D. Texas, 2017) [Australia][Habitual residence][Petition denied]
In Morgan v Morgan, 2017 WL 4512487 (N.D. Texas, 2017) the petition seeking the return of the minor child T.P.M. to Australia was denied. Petitioner, Edward Tyler Morgan (Tyler), and Respondent, Lesli Kay Morgan (Lesli), were both citizens of the United States. The district court found that Lesli and Tyler were married in Texas, in 2012 and resided their entire lives in the United States prior to 2013. In 2013 Lesli and Tyler, along with A.K.S., Lesli’s minor daughter from a previous relationship, moved from the United States to Australia after Tyler received a job offer in that country. Tyler signed an employment contract with Stryker Australia for a 3-year commitment, and Australia issued a 4-year visa to Tyler, Lesli, and A.K.S. Lesli and Tyler informed their family and friends that they were temporarily moving to Australia for a 3-year period due to Tyler’s employment opportunity. While living in Australia, Lesli and Tyler voted in at least one United States election and certified to the government of the United States that they were residents of this country. .P.M. was born in July of 2015 in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. T.P.M. was not an Australian citizen. T.P.M. was a United States citizen. T.P.M. did not have his own visa. Lesli and Tyler never took any steps to apply for citizenship for T.P.M. or to otherwise make T.P.M. a lawful resident of Australia. During the majority of their time in Australia Lesli was increasingly anxious to return to the United States as she and Tyler had agreed at the inception of their move. Lesli was scheduled to return to the United States with A.K.S. and T.P.M. for a wedding in March of 2017. Tyler purchased airline tickets for their travel. On or about February 26, 2017, Lesli and Tyler fought about Lesli’s intention to remain in the United States permanently following the wedding. On February 28, 2017, Lesli packed bags for herself and the children while Tyler was at work and drove to stay at a hotel. Lesli sent Tyler a video informing him that she and the children were safe but that she intended to return to the United States. Lesli and the children went to the airport on March 1, 2017, and were temporarily detained by Australian immigration authorities while attempting to leave the country. Immigration authorities informed Lesli that T.P.M. did not have a valid visa and was in the country illegally. They informed Lesli that T.P.M. would not be allowed to return to Australia without a visa. Lesli, A.K.S., and T.P.M. returned to the United States at the beginning of March 2017.
The district court observed that the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has said that “[t]he inquiry into a child’s habitual residence is not formulaic; rather it is a fact-intensive determination that necessarily varies with the circumstances of each case.” Delgado, 837 F.3d at 578. The Fifth Circuit has adopted an approach to determine a child’s habitual residence “that begins with the parents’ shared intent or settled purpose regarding their child’s residence.” (quoting Larbie v. Larbie, 690 F.3d 295, 310 (5th Cir. 2012)). The shared intentions of the parents are dispositive when the child is so young that he cannot decide the issue of residency for himself. In this case, T.P.M. was 23 months old and incapable of deciding the issue of residency for himself. The intention of his parents regarding his habitual residence was therefore dispositive. Delgado, 837 F.3d at 578. The court found that Lesli and Tyler intended to move to Australia for a 3-year period and intended to return to the United States upon the expiration of Tyler’s employment contract. This was supported by (1) the testimony of people they told this to; the conduct of Lesli and Tyler in not obtaining lawful residency status for T.P.M. in Australia after his birth; Lesli’s and Tyler’s assertions to the United States government regarding their residency when voting in a United States election. Lesli and Tyler never reached a definitive agreement to extend their stay in Australia and had not demonstrated a fixed intention to remain there beyond the expiration of their current visa. Lesli and Tyler never reached any agreement to make Australia the habitual residence of T.P.M. and did not take any actions consistent with an intent to make Australia the habitual residence of T.P.M. T.P.M. was not legally residing in Australia prior to his removal to the United States and was not legal to return to Australia as of June 12, 2017. The Court held that Australia was not T.P.M.’s habitual residence and dismissed the petition.
Friday, December 8, 2017
Orellana v Cartagena, 2017 WL 5586374 (E.D. Tennessee, 2017) [Honduras][Grave risk of harm] [Fundamental Principals][Petition granted]
In Orellana v Cartagena, 2017 WL 5586374 (E.D. Tennessee, 2017) the district court granted the father’s petition for return of his child to Honduras.
The Petitioner was the father of the Child, Respondent was the mother of the Child. The Child was born in Honduras on November 14, 2013, and that the Child resided solely in Honduras prior to her removal on or about September 11, 2015. The parties agreed that Respondent did not discuss the Child’s removal from Honduras with Petitioner before the Child was removed, nor did Respondent receive a custody order from any Honduras court granting Respondent full custody of the Child. Respondent alleged, however, that returning the Child to Honduras would pose a grave risk and that doing so would expose the Child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the Child in an intolerable situation. In addition, Respondent argues that returning the Child would not be permitted by the fundamental principles relating to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedom.
Based upon the parties’ stipulations the evidence the Court found that petitioner established a prima facie case for return.
The district court noted that the grave risk defense provides that Respondent must demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that returning the Child “would expose the child to physical or physiological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation.” Hague Convention, art. 13(b). The Sixth Circuit has elaborated as follows: First, there is a grave risk of harm when return of the child puts the child in imminent danger prior to the resolution of the custody dispute—e.g., returning the child to a zone of war, famine, or disease. Second, there is a grave risk of harm in cases of serious abuse or neglect, or extraordinary emotional dependence, when the court in the country of habitual residence, for whatever reason, may be incapable or unwilling to give the child adequate protection. Friedrich, 78 F.3d at 1069.
The Court found that Respondent had not shown by clear and convincing evidence that there was a grave risk of harm in returning the Child to Honduras. It observed that in cases of domestic assault, the Sixth Circuit has delineated three broad categories of abuse situations: “First, there are cases in which the abuse is relatively minor. In such cases, it is unlikely that the risk of harm caused by return of the child will rise to the level of a ‘grave risk’ or otherwise place the child in an ‘intolerable situation’ under Article 13b.” Simcox, 511 F.3d at 608. The second type of cases are those at the other end of the spectrum, “in which the risk of harm is clearly grave, such as where there is credible evidence of sexual abuse, other similarly grave physical or psychological abuse, death threats, or serious neglect.” Id. at 607-08. The third type of cases “fall somewhere in the middle, where the abuse is substantially more than minor, but is less obviously intolerable.” Id. at 608. The Sixth Circuit continued, “Whether, in these cases, the return of the child would subject it to a ‘grave risk’ of harm or otherwise place it in an ‘intolerable situation’ is a fact-intensive inquiry that depends on careful consideration of several factors, including the nature and frequency of the abuse, the likelihood of its recurrence, and whether there are any enforceable undertakings that would sufficiently ameliorate the risk of harm to the child caused by its return.” In reviewing the evidence, the Court found that the alleged abuse in this case insufficient to establish that there was a grave risk that returning the Child would expose her to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place her in an intolerable situation. While the testimony differed regarding Petitioner’s abuse toward Respondent, what was consistent throughout the testimonies was that Petitioner did not physically abuse the Child. Nor was there any evidence that Petitioner verbally abused the Child. While the parties’ arguments occurred in front of the Child, the Court found that Respondent failed to demonstrate by the clear and convincing standard that the Child would be subjected to a grave risk of physical or psychological harm if she returned to Honduras.
The court indicated that pursuant to Article 20 of the Hague Convention, the return of a child may be refused if it would not be permitted by fundamental principles of the requested State relating to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Respondent stated that it would violate the Due Process of Equal Protection Clauses of the United States Constitution to require the return of the Child where the mother faces legally sanctioned discrimination upon return and that it would cause the Child to be placed in an intolerable situation since custody would be determined based on discrimination. In support of her argument, Respondent stated that Honduran law provides that children will generally be left in the custody of the father. The Court found that Petitioner has not shown by clear and convincing evidence that the return of the Child violates the fundamental principles of the United States. The Honduran law does not shock the conscience and that “merely offending principles espoused” in the United States is insufficient to invoke the Article 20 exception.” Habrzyk v. Habrzyk, 759 F. Supp. 2d 1014, 1027 (N.D. Ill. 2011) (stating that the “Convention requires that the fundamental principles of the State not permit the return of the child; merely offending principles espoused in Illinois laws is insufficient”); see also March v. Levine, 136 F. Supp. 2d 831, 855 (M.D. Tenn. 2000), aff’d, 249 F.3d 462 (6th Cir. 2001) (explaining that “it should be emphasized that this exception, like the others, was intended to be restrictively interpreted and applied, and is not to be used, for example, as a vehicle for litigating custody on the merits or for passing judgment on the political system of the country from which the child was removed”) (quoting 51 Fed. Reg. at 10510); Walker v. Kitt, 900 F. Supp. 2d 849, 864 (N.D. Ill. 2012) (“To invoke Article 20 to refuse to return a child for anything less than gross violations of human rights would seriously cripple the purpose and effectivity of the Convention.”). Here, there was simply no evidence that the Child’s human rights and fundamental freedoms would be in jeopardy if returned to Honduras.
In Velarde v Gurgan, 2017 WL 4570304 ( W.D. Texas, 2017), the district court granted the Petition of Leticia Isabel Velarde for the return of her son A.G. to Mexico.
Petitioner Leticia Isabel Velarde was born in Laredo, Texas and was a United States citizen. Petitioner grew up in Mexico and was also a Mexican citizen. Her family resided in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Respondent Johnathan Asher Gurgan was a United States citizen. Petitioner came to the United States in 2002 for employment and stayed until 2013. On November 8, 2012, A.G. was born in New Braunfels, Comal County, Texas. He was a United States citizen. Petitioner testified that she believed he was also a Mexican citizen by virtue of his birth to a Mexican mother. In August 2013, Respondent enrolled in University of Texas San Antonio (“UTSA”). The family lived together in an apartment in New Braunfels from the time of A.G.’s birth in November 2012 until October 2013, when they moved together to Mexico. During this time, they discussed moving to and living in Mexico. Due to financial issues, the cheaper cost of living in Mexico, the desire to be near Petitioner’s family in Mexico while being close to the university in Laredo, Texas, and possibly a desire to remove themselves from issues with Child Protective Services, Petitioner and Respondent jointly agreed to move the family to Mexico in October 2013. Although it was undisputed that the parents jointly agreed to move to Mexico, the duration of the planned move was disputed. Respondent testified that, at the time of the move, he did not have the intent to abandon the United States to take permanent residence in Mexico. Petitioner testified that they were “finally moving to Mexico” as they had talked about ever since they met, and her intention at the time of the move was not to return to the United States. She testified that they had visited often and always talked about living there, and when A.G. was born it seemed like the perfect opportunity for her to go back to her family and friends there with her son and husband. In mid-2016, Petitioner started discussing the possibility of divorce with Respondent. Respondent was upset and was opposed to getting a divorce. Petitioner testified that Respondent’s attitude about staying in Mexico changed sometime after June 2016. She testified that her intent to stay in Mexico had not changed. On November 25, 2016, Petitioner filed for divorce in Mexico (3rd Judicial District of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico). On November 30, 2016, Respondent said he was taking A.G. to the park but instead took the child to San Marcos, Hays County to the residence of his mother. A.G. was four years old and had been living in Mexico with his parents continuously since he was 11 months old. Before taking A.G. to San Marcos, Respondent researched the requirements of the Hague Convention, and he left some of his research and notes behind in Mexico. Next to the sentence “Therefore, failing to consider shared parental intent could potentially cause the court to overlook whether a parent is acting unilaterally to alter what had been previously agreed to by both parents,” which Respondent partially underlined, Respondent wrote, “we had agreed to stay in Mexico if possible from an employment perspective but I knew that Letty would not want to return. I didn’t either except for the divorce idea.” Also in the margin he had written “this is our house”; “1 yr lease”; “intention.”
On December 5, 2016, Respondent filed a suit for possession and custody in 22nd District Court, Hays County. He stated that he did not want a divorce. On July 13, 2017, the Mexican court issued a divorce decree. On August 21, 2017, this proceeding was filed. The only real dispute was whether Mexico or the United States was the country of A.G.’s habitual residence immediately prior to the removal in November 2016. Petitioner contended that the parties agreed to move to Mexico permanently, and that Respondent unilaterally changed his mind in 2016 when his behavior and religious views changed and Petitioner began discussing a possible divorce. Respondent contended that he and Petitioner never agreed to move to Mexico permanently, but only for a limited duration while Respondent completed his education, and that A.G.’s country of habitual residence had always remained the United States.
The district court noted that in 2012, the Fifth Circuit “join[ed] the majority of circuits that ‘have adopted an approach that begins with the parents’ shared intent or settled purpose regarding their child’s residence.’ ” “This approach does not ignore the child’s experience, but rather gives greater weight to the parents’ subjective intentions relative to the child’s age” and “parents’ intentions should be dispositive where ... the child is so young that ‘he or she cannot possibly decide the issue of residency.” In such cases, “the threshold test is whether both parents intended for the child to ‘abandon the [habitual residence] left behind.” Absent shared intent, prior habitual residence should be deemed supplanted only where the objective facts point unequivocally to this conclusion. Context, rather than specific periods of time spent in one location or another, is key. Berezowsky v. Ojeda, 765 F.3d 456, 467 (5th Cir. 2014).
The Court did not agree with Respondent’s version of the facts, and a preponderance of the evidence indicated that the family abandoned Texas and intended to and did make A.G.’s home in Mexico indefinitely or permanently. Rather than finding an intent to move for a maximum amount of time, the Court found that the initial move was intended to be permanent, or alternatively for a minimum of two years. The Court further found that, at least by 2015, the parents had mutually agreed to stay in Mexico if possible, and there was no agreement to return to the United States at any specific time. The undisputed evidence is that the family abandoned the only “home” A.G. had had in Texas and there was no indication that anyone viewed him as having his habitual home in Texas from which he was temporarily absent while living in Nuevo Laredo. Rather, the evidence showed that the “two parents reached an agreement to raise [A.G.] in Mexico” permanently or indefinitely. Berezowsky, 765 F.3d at 471. Because A.G.’s home in November 2016 was Mexico, and both parents intended it to be Mexico at that time, the Convention dictated that Mexico was his country of habitual residence and A.G. had to be returned there.
Alemu v Zerihum, 2017 WL 5989213 (D. Colorado, 2017) [Israel][Habitual Residence][Default] [Petition granted
In Alemu v Zerihum, 2017 WL 5989213 (D. Colorado, 2017) the district court granted Seleshi Tegan Alemu’s Petition for the return of YT to Israel. YT was born to petitioner and respondent in 2007 in Israel and was 9 years of age. Petitioner and respondent divorced in 2011. As of late 2015, YT was a resident of Israel, living in a home there with Respondent, a Mr. Berhano Terunech, and a half-sibling. In November 2015, Petitioner signed a letter allowing respondent to take YT to the United States for a three-week visit with family. After three weeks passed, Respondent indicated during phone conversations that she wanted to remain in the United States for an additional three months. Petitioner objected but agreed to allow Respondent to remain in the United States for a total of three months. After three months passed, Respondent informed Petitioner that she was not returning YT to Israel. Petitioner objected and told Respondent “that was not right.” Respondent thereafter sent Petitioner a message indicating that he would not see YT again. Petitioner filed the action on December 9, 2016, within one year of Respondent’s refusal to return YT to Israel. Although Respondent was properly served, she did not appear at the hearing, and failed to participate in the action.
The district court found that YT was a habitual resident of Israel at the time of removal. Petitioner testified that YT was born in Israel in 2007, and remained there until his removal in 2015. The Court had no trouble concluding that YT was a habitual resident of Israel. Israeli law provides that parents of children are vested with custodial rights, including the right to determine a place of residence. Petitioner testified and submitted exhibits indicating that he was vested with court-ordered custodial rights. The Court concluded that Petitioner set forth sufficient facts to make a prima facie showing of an unlawful removal. Because Respondent declined to attend the hearing, or to otherwise participate in this litigation, she failed to meet her burden of establishing a defense.
Monday, December 4, 2017
Marks v. Hochhauser 2017 WL 5760345 (2d Cir., 2017) [Thailand] [Federal & State Judicial Remedies] [Retention] [Accession]
Taglieri v. Monasky ,2017 WL 5895196 (6th Cir., 2017) [Italy] [Habitual Residence][Grave Risk of Harm] [Petition granted]
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
In Salguero v Argueta, 2017 WL 4475995 (E.D. North Carolina, 2017) the matter was before the clerk on petitioner Jose Gustavo Moneterros Salguero’s motion for payment of costs following the court’s order to return his minor child to El Salvador.. Respondent did not file a response, and the deadline for doing so passed. This matter was referred to the clerk for ruling at the direction of the presiding judge.
The clerk’s decision stated that under the plain language of the statute, 22 U.S.C. § 9007(b)(3) the court has the duty to order the payment of necessary expenses and legal fees unless respondent satisfies her burden of showing that such an order would be clearly inappropriate. In this case, respondent failed to offer any response, and therefore the clerk could not find that she met her burden in establishing that an award of expenses to petitioner was clearly inappropriate. Accordingly, the clerk only considered whether the expenses requested by petitioner constituted a “necessary expense” related to the return of the minor child and are reasonable. See Dawson v. McPherson, No. 1:14CV225, 2014 WL 4748512, at *2 (M.D.N.C. Sept. 23, 2014); Trudrung v. Trudrung, No. 1:10CV73, 2010 WL 2867593, at *1 (M.D.N.C. July 21, 2010).
Petitioner sought $2,064.20 for expenses incurred by him personally, and submitted supporting receipts. His expenses included the costs he incurred in purchasing a visa and passport to travel to the United States ($219.00), a round trip flight from El Salvador ($777.60), a one-way flight to El Salvador for the child ($426.60), and his lodging in North Carolina during the custody exchange of the child ($641.00). The clerk found these costs were all necessary expenses related to the return of the child and were reasonable. See Hirst v. Tiberghien, Civil Action No., 6:13-00729-JM, 2012 WL 6827813, at *5 (D.S.C. Dec. 20, 2013) (awarding a petitioner expenses including roundtrip airfare for petitioner, lodging, and return airfare for children); Judge v. Williams, No. 4:11-CV-119-F, 2011 WL 3759476, at *2 (E.D.N.C. August 25, 2011) (awarding expenses for petitioner’s roundtrip airfare, lodging, and return airfare for child).
Petitioner also sought expenses incurred by counsel on his behalf, in the amount of $12,427.36. In declarations, petitioner’s current and prior counsel stated that their retention agreements with petitioner required him to reimburse counsel’s law firms for costs incurred on his behalf during the representation of him in this action. In support of his request for these expenses, petitioner submitted declarations of counsel, and for some expenses, supporting invoices. The expenses for which petitioner submitted supporting receipts or invoices include the costs for court interpreters for the hearing in this matter ($3,682.00), costs for translation of documents offered as exhibits in the case ($2,149.29), fees for the transcripts of the hearing on the petition ($1,695.75), lodging for his counsel and some meals during the hearing on the petition ($873.03), lodging for his counsel during the custody exchange ($208.69), the services of a private investigator to confirm the location of the child within the Eastern District ($731.80), the costs of subpoenaing airline records ($20.00, and the fee for an expert witness ($350.00). The clerk found that these constituted necessary expenses related to the return of the child. See Cuellar v. Joyce, 603 F.3d 1142-43 (9th Cir. 2010) (finding the expenses incurred by attorney for lodging and meals during oral argument and post-argument mediation to be “necessary expenses incurred by or on behalf of petitioner); Dawson, 2014 WL 4748512, at * 8 (awarding petitioner expenses for, inter alia, the cost of a private investigator to locate the abducted children in the United States); Saldivar v. Rodela, 894 F. Supp. 2d 916, 945 (W.D. Tex. 2012) (awarding costs for expert witness fees); Neves v. Neves, 637 F. Supp. 2d 322, 344 (W.D.N.C. 2009) (awarding petitioner translation expenses); Friedrich v. Thompson, No. 1:00-CV-772, 1999 WL 33951234, at *2 (M.D.N.C. Nov. 26, 1999) (awarding petitioner the cost of translating documents from German to English). See also 28 U.S.C. § 1920 (providing for the taxation of costs of fees of court reporters for transcripts necessarily obtained for use in the case, compensation of interpreters, and fees for copies of papers necessarily obtained for use in the case); Saldivar, 894 F. Supp. 2d at 943 (concluding that costs taxable under 28 U.S.C. § 1920 are “per se awardable” under ICARA). The clerk also finds that these requested expenses, supported by invoices, are reasonable.
Petitioner also sought expenses incurred by his counsel on his behalf which were not supported by invoices; his current and prior counsel stated in declarations that invoices are not available. These expenses included costs for counsel’s travel for trial and the custody exchange ($1,034.45); meals during the trial and custody exchange ($243.02);1 postage, telephone, and courier costs ($843.36); color copies, scanning, and printing costs ($31.40); long distance phone charges ($24.26); filing fee ($400.00), and attempted service of process costs ($140.31). With the exception of the filing fee, which was documented in the record = these remaining expenses were not awarded. Without supporting invoices, additional documentation, or some further explanation from counsel, the clerk could not find that the costs for postage, telephone, courier costs, copies, scanning, printing or long distance phone charges were necessary, nor can the clerk find any of the other expenses were reasonable. See Whallon v. Lynn, No. Civ.A.00-11009-RWZ, 2003 WL 1906174, at * (D. Mass. April 18, 2003) (declining to award petitioner “inadequately documented” expenses), aff’d, 356 F.3d 138 (1st Cir. 2004); Dawson, 2014 WL 4748512, at *9 (refusing to award expenses for which a petitioner provided no documentation because “[i]f the Court cannot assess the validity of the expenses, it cannot begin to address whether such expenses were in fact reasonable or necessary”).
Petitioner’s request for expenses incurred on his behalf by counsel was reduced by the amount of $2,316.80., Petitioner was awarded costs in the amount of $12,174.76.
Wednesday, October 4, 2017
In Pliego v Hayes, 2017 WL 4322445 (2017, W.D. Kentucky) Petitioner Pliego Moved for Fees, Costs, and Expenses. At the request of the Court, the parties filed affidavits in support and in opposition to the motion.
The Court observed that there were two prior cases in the district court in which it granted Pliego’s petition and awarded fees. Following Pliego I, the Court awarded fees to Pliego in the amount of $75,091.425, which represented a 50% reduction in the award sought by Pliego. Pliego, 2015 WL 1893426, at *1–3 (W.D. Ky. Apr. 24, 2015). Following Pliego II, the Court awarded Pliego fees in the amount of $100,471.18. Following the Court’s grant of Pliego’s second Petition for Return of Child in Pliego II, Hayes appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed the decision of the Court. Pliego v. Hayes, 843 F.3d 226 (6th Cir. 2016). Pliego now sought the fees, costs, and expenses incurred during the appeal of Pliego II to the Sixth Circuit. Though Pliego requested that the Sixth Circuit award him those fees on appeal, the Sixth Circuit found that the district court was the proper Court to determine any potential award of fees, and it therefore “d [id] not reach the issue of whether the district court that ordered the child’s return in Pliego II may, upon separate motion, award fees incurred on th[e] appeal.” Pliego, 843 F.3d at 238. Pliego requested total attorney and paralegal fees of $56,122.50. Additionally, Pliego requests costs and expenses incurred during the appeal in the amount of $2,477.94.
Hayes argued that the Court should not give an award of fees for several reasons. Among these are the facts that, according to Hayes, she has since been awarded custody by Turkish courts, Pliego has refused to comply with Turkish custody orders, Pliego has continued to assert his immunity to avoid paying any child support or legal fees to Hayes, that Pliego was incurring about $750 a month for supervised visits with her son, and that an award of fees would render Hayes unable to care for her son. Moreover, Hayes contended that $58,600.44 was excessive. Hayes stated that she had incurred additional costs and attorney fees resulting from the wrongful acts of the Petitioner, including: (a) refusing to comply with custody and visitation orders of the Ankara 11th Family Court; (b) directly interfering in timely execution of all custody and visitation orders by reasserting diplomatic immunity rights; (c) refusing to disclose the whereabouts of the child; and (d) filing three separate additional suits, all dismissed by the courts.
The district court held that many of the issues detailed in Hayes’ supporting Affidavits, such as Pliego’s alleged “wrongful” actions in the Turkish courts, were irrelevant to the Court’s determination. However, certain matters, such as Hayes’ custody of her son, ability to obtain child support, and her ability to pay an award of costs and fees were relevant to this determination. The effect of Pliego’s requested costs and fees on Hayes’ ability to care for her child was a concern for the Court. Hayes argued that, should her award of sole custody be affirmed, she will be solely “financially responsible for the child, since the Petitioner specifically excluded any action for child support from his immunity waiver.” Second, the Court was also concerned with Hayes’ ability to pay such a high amount of fees and costs, having already been ordered to pay more than $175,000 in costs and fees following prior proceedings in this matter. Hayes further states in her response that “[s]he is not a diplomat, she does not have her living expenses paid by the US Government, [and that] she has been self supporting at a far lower salary than Petitioner’s, with far greater living expenses.” The Court found these arguments to be meritorious.
Based on a review of the information and supporting documents, the Court found that an award of $58,600.44 would be clearly inappropriate, and reduced the overall legal fees by 75%. Petitioner was awarded $14,650.11 for necessary attorney’s fees and costs.