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Monday, February 27, 2012

Radu v Toder, 2012 WL 556174 (C.A.2 (N.Y.))(Romania) (Rights of Custody)

In Radu v Toder, 2012 WL 556174 (C.A.2 (N.Y.))(Not Selected for publication in the Federal Reporter) Petitioner Iulian Cristian Radu appealed from an August 3, 2011 order of the District Court denying his petition to compel the return of his son, L.R., to Romania pursuant to the Hague Convention. Radu argued that his ex-wife, respondent Petruta Toader, wrongfully moved L.R. from Romania to the United States in violation of Radu's "rights of custody" under the Hague Convention. The Court of Appeals affirmed. It reviewed a district court's factual determinations in cases arising under the Hague Convention for clear error and its legal conclusions de novo. (Citing Blondin v. Dubois, 238 F.3d 153, 158 (2d Cir.2001). It observed that the Convention defines "rights of custody" to 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."Hague Convention, art. 5. The Convention distinguishes between rights of custody and rights of access. The latter is also a defined term under the Convention and means "the right to take a child for a limited period of time to a place other than the child's habitual residence." ICARA similarly defines "rights of access" to mean "visitation rights." 42 U.S.C. 11602(7). A parent has a "right of custody" if his or her consent is legally required before the other parent may move the child to another country (a "ne exeat " right), and a breach of such right gives rise to a return remedy under the Convention. (Citing Abbott v. Abbott, 130 S.Ct. 1983, 1992 (2010). By contrast, "[t]he Convention provides no return remedy when a parent removes a child in violation of a right of access." Radu has no ne exeat right. Under Romanian law, a child's domicile is established as the domicile of the parent to whom the child was entrusted by a final and irrevocable court decision. Decision No. 922/2009. If parents do not share the same domicile, then the child's domicile is established by common agreement of the parents, or, absent such agreement, by a court. But that provision does not govern a situation in which sole custody of the child has been granted to one parent. Because the divorce decree entrusted sole custody of L.R. to Toader, giving Radu only a right of visitation, Toader did not need Radu's consent to change L.R.'s domicile. While L.R.'s removal may have violated Radu's rights of access, it did not violate any rights of custody for purposes of the Convention. This interpretation of Romanian law was reinforced by an April 2011decision of a Romanian court, which denied Radu's efforts to compel the return of L.R. and noted that Radu could not seek L.R.'s return because custody of the child had been entrusted to Toader. (Citing Diorinou v. Mezitis, 237 F.3d 133, 142 (2d Cir.2001) ("American courts will normally accord considerable deference to foreign adjudications as a matter of comity. In particular, we have observed that comityis at the heart of the Hague Convention.")