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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Haruno v Haruno, 2013 WL 5663070 (D.Nev.) [New Zealand] [Habitual Residence] [Consent]

In Haruno v Haruno, 2013 WL 5663070 (D.Nev.) Petitioner Toby Makoto Haruno ("Toby") sought to have his minor child, Jordan Haruno, returned to New Zealand from Las Vegas, Nevada. Toby and Jennifer were United States citizens and were married in the United States. They moved from Los Angeles, California to Wellington, New Zealand on approximately June 30, 2008. Although they had one-year visas, they renewed those visas each successive year. Toby was employed in New Zealand in the animation industry. Although over the years they discussed ultimately returning to the United States, they never took concrete steps to leave New Zealand. Jordan was born in Wellington, New Zealand on January 11, 2011. He was a United States citizen. Jordan lived his entire life in New Zealand, until December 8, 2012. On that date, Toby, Jennifer and Jordan took a long vacation trip to North America, having purchased round-trip tickets with a return flight to New Zealand from Vancouver on February 2, 2013. On February 1, 2013, Jennifer changed her flight arrangements so that, instead of returning to New Zealand, she and Jordan flew from Vancouver to Las Vegas, Nevada, where her parents lived. There was conflicting testimony about whether and to what extent Toby protested this change, but he did not prevent them from going to Las Vegas, and he helped them check in their luggage for the flight. Toby returned to New Zealand alone. After returning to New Zealand, Toby made repeated efforts to convince Jennifer to return to New Zealand. He continued to financially support Jennifer and Jordan in Las Vegas, and kept in regular contact with them via video and telephone connections. A few months later, Toby visited them in Las Vegas and discovered that Jennifer had contacted a lawyer in Las Vegas to obtain a divorce. Toby returned to New Zealand, contacted legal counsel, and initiated this proceeding. In the meantime, Jennifer filed a divorce proceeding in Las Vegas.

The district court granted the petition. It observed that a court determining whether a child was wrongfully removed must] answer a series of four questions: (1) When did the removal or retention at issue take place? (2) Immediately prior to the removal or retention, in which state was the child habitually resident? (3) Did the removal or retention breach the rights of custody attributed to the
petitioner under the law of the habitual residence? (4) Was the petitioner exercising those rights at the time of the removal or retention? Mozes v. Mazes, 239 F.3d 1067, 1070 (9th Cir.2001). It appeared that the removal evolved over the period February through June of 2013. The parties left New Zealand on December 8, 2012, with return tickets for February 2, 2013. On February 1, 2013, Jennifer changed her and Jordan's tickets and instead flew to Las Vegas, where they have remained. The evidence was overwhelming that New Zealand was the child's habitual residence before he was retained in the United States. Under New Zealand law, as a married father living with the child's mother, Toby had joint guardianship and custody of the child prior to Jennifer's retaining him in the United States. Jennifer's retention of the child in the United States interfered with Toby's custodial rights. Jennifer claimed that Toby worked excessive hours at his job, did not regularly participate in activities with the child, and thus was not exercising his rights. The evidence presented at the hearing proved that Toby was exercising his parental rights. Even though Toby may have worked long hours, he still interacted with the child, went to play groups with him, was involved in his life, and contributed to his care and upbringing until Jennifer retained him in the United States. Based on the foregoing, Toby had proven a cause of action for the return of the child to New Zealand.

Jennifer attempted to defend against the child's return to New Zealand by alleging that (a) Toby consented to or acquiesced in the child's remaining in the United States, and (b) returning the child presents a grave risk to his physical and emotional health.

Jennifer contended that Toby consented to allowing her to take the child to the United States. She claimed he did not protest when she changed their flight from Vancouver to Las Vegas, and that he helped them check in their bags at the airport. Even if true, such actions did not constitute consent to allow the child to permanently remain in the United States. Toby's actions thereafter proved that he did not consent to the permanent relocation of the child. Toby remained in regular contact with Jennifer and the child (through both video and telephone), and continually tried to convince them to return to New Zealand. He purchased return flight tickets for them (which Jennifer  ultimately canceled after coincidentally becoming injured the day before the flight). He traveled to Las Vegas to convince them to return.

Jennifer contended that the child would face grave risk of physical and emotional injury if he is returned to New Zealand. In support of that allegation, she pointed out that Toby was arrested and charged with domestic violence against Jennifer over two years before the child was born. Those charges were later dropped after Jennifer hired a lawyer to help her recant her allegations. Even if the allegations were true, they did not constitute a grave threat to the child. The injury occurred to Jennifer, and there were no reports of violence in the years thereafter. While Jennifer accused Toby of having a bad temper and being prone to angry outbursts, the evidence indicated that at most only once was it directed towards the child. The only episode involving the child occurred when Toby allegedly shook him once after becoming frustrated at having difficulty putting on his diaper. While this is not to be condoned, it apparently was not a "grave" event, as a few hours later Jennifer left the child in Toby's care so she could go out and party with her friends. Moreover, a single episode such as this does not constitute a grave threat of future violence to the child.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Avila v. Morales, 2013 WL 5499806 (D.Colo.) [Mexico] [Habitual Residence] [Telephone appearance]

In Avila v. Morales, 2013 WL 5499806 (D.Colo.) the district court adopted the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge and granted the petition for return. Petitioner sought an order returning her children to their place of habitual residence in Mexico. The Court held a hearing on June 19, 2013, at which the Petitioner appeared telephonically. Her attorney appeared in person. Respondent appeared in person and was also represented by counsel. Petitioner was a Mexican citizen residing in Durango, Mexico. Respondent was a Mexican citizen residing in Aurora, Colorado. The parties never married but had two children subject to this petition: A.G.E.M, an 11-year-old boy, and A.E.M., a 9-year-old boy. Both boys were born in Colorado and had Colorado birth certificates. Petitioner, Respondent and their two sons resided together from August 2000 until December 2004, when Petitioner and the boys moved out and lived with other family members from that point until April 2010. From December 2004 to April 2010, the children resided with Petitioner, and she parented them nearly exclusively.

In April 2010 Petitioner decided, upon the sudden death of her father in Durango, Mexico, to move to Mexico with the boys to take care of her mother. She called Respondent the night before she left to tell him she was leaving with the children the next day, on April 27, 2010. Respondent did not think this was a permanent move because on two prior occasions Petitioner had traveled to Mexico with their sons, returning both times. Respondent asked Petitioner not to take the children with her in 2010. Petitioner took them anyway, packing their belongings and moving to El Pueblito, Durango, Mexico, to live with Petitioner's mother. The children went to school in El Pueblito for two years. They were enrolled to start a third year there in the fall of 2012. They had integrated into the family, community, and church in Durango. The children had been baptized in Colorado but completed their communions and confirmations in Mexico. While the boys lived in Mexico during a period of two years and four months, Respondent communicated by phone with the children periodically and his family visited the children in Mexico six (6) times. Respondent also sent at least some money to Mexico to support the children. Respondent did not take any action through the courts to seek return of his children, nor did he seek their return in any manner in the two years and four months they were living in Mexico.

  Petitioner made plans for the children to visit Colorado for two weeks in the summer of 2012 before they were to return to Mexico for the school year. Before the boys traveled to the United States, Petitioner procured Mexican birth certificates from the Mexican government. Petitioner was able to do so because both of the children's parents are Mexican citizens. Petitioner intended her children to travel to the United States using their American birth certificates and return to Mexico using their Mexican birth certificates. Petitioner's mother, nephew, and three children traveled to the United States as planned in early August 2012. Just a few days into the visit, however, Petitioner decided that her mother and nephew should end the trip and return the children to Mexico. As the children and Petitioner's mother and nephew headed south from Denver through Colorado on a commercial bus on August 8, 2012, Respondent and his sister contacted the bus company to request the bus to be stopped, claiming people were taking Respondent's children illegally. The bus driver pulled the bus over and Respondent, his sister, and his girlfriend, all of whom had been following the bus, pulled behind it and waited a few minutes until the City of Pueblo police officer arrived, took the children off the bus, and gave them to Respondent. Respondent assured the children that he just wanted to continue their visit but would return them home to their mother in Mexico after the two-week visit. The day after taking the children off the bus, Respondent filed a petition for custody in Adams County District Court. The Adams County magistrate dismissed the case on September 13, 2012, for lack of jurisdiction. Respondent decided he would not allow the children to return to Mexico.

Petitioner filed on October 8, 2012, an application with the Mexican Central Authority seeking return of the boys from the United States. Petitioner on March 27, 2013, filed the now-pending Petition with the district Court. For its analysis, the Court applied the Tenth Circuit's procedural directives on handling Convention petitions. It observed that Courts have also made it clear that a parent cannot create a new settled purpose and therefore a new habitual residence simply by fleeing a country with a child in tow or retaining a child in his former habitual residence. Ohlander v. Larson, 114 F.3d 1531, 1537 (10th Cir.1997) "In an attempt to untangle the Gordian knot the parents, together, have seen fit to tie," the court indicated, in discussing the parents' repeated efforts to help themselves outside legitimate legal channels through "grab-and-run" law, that it would "refuse to condone such conduct." Id. The Tenth Circuit in Ohlander addressed parents who had both filed petitions under the Hague Convention; thus, the court also provided specific details of the "proper interpretation of the Hague Convention's procedures." The court criticized and ultimately reversed the district court for "misconstru(ing) the Convention's contemplated procedures." "According to the Convention, once a petition is filed, a court should consider only whether respondent's removals of a child are wrongful." A court is to examine whether a respondent parent took the child wrongfully-not whether the petitioning parent did. Similarly, exceptions to return run only one way-a respondent asserts them, not a petitioner. Only when a cross petition is filed would bilateral analysis be appropriate. Petitioner asserted that the habitual residence was Mexico, where the children lived for two years and four months with the Respondent's eventual acquiescence. Respondent's primary theory of habitual residence relied on the children's birth and residence in the United States and Petitioner's removal of the children to Mexico without his permission or consent.

The Court found that the parents shared an intent that the children's habitual residence would be Mexico. This shared intent was sufficient for the Court to find that the parents had a "settled purpose" that the children's habitual residence would be Mexico. While the Court believed it likely that Respondent did not initially agree to such a move nor did he immediately know that Petitioner planned a permanent move, even his own testimony indicated he knew within weeks of Petitioner's intent to stay there. The Court found Respondent's testimony credible that he continued his involvement with the children once they moved to Mexico, that he called them regularly, and that he sent them money. However, these facts merely validated the argument that he knew where they were, knew they were integrating in school and the community, and yet still did not seek their return in any way. As in Mozes, the Court also considered the significant passage of time. Respondent allowed the children to stay in Mexico for two years and four months, which is long enough to create a "settled purpose" that this was the children's new habitual residence-if not by clear consent, then at least by clear acquiescence. Mozes, 239 F.3d at 1081. Similarly, Respondent's own testimony indicated that he knew the children were only coming to visit the United States for two weeks and that they would return home to Mexico to start the school year. Regardless of his reasons, the Court found that not unlike the grab-and-run parents in Feder and Ohlander, the Respondent utilized his own illegal version of grab-and-run law, taking matters into his own hands and running down a bus to wrongfully retain his children. He testified that he stopped the bus because he wanted his full two weeks of visitation, not to keep them permanently. Respondent's attempt to reestablish their U.S. habitual residence failed, because wrongfully retaining children for two months before their mother filed her Petition did not create a new "settled purpose" and change the habitual residence from Mexico. Respondent continued to assert that Petitioner was the initial abductor back in April 2010 when she left for Mexico. Even assuming the truth of this assertion, the Court found that the Respondent within the first year of their wrongful taking could have sought a legal remedy for their return. Importantly, he did not. He sought no legal remedy for their return, including failing to file his own Convention petition. As the Tenth Circuit clearly directed in Ohlander, this Court is to evaluate the current petition in only one direction: "whether the respondent's removals of a child are wrongful." Ohlander, 114 F.3d at 1540. The Court's consideration of "whether the petitioner's removals of the child were wrongful" would be "antithetic[al] to the Convention's intent as a whole." Therefore, Respondent's arguments concerning his efforts to regain his children, made years too late after the children had become well established in a new habitual residence to which he consented by his actions, and made without the required framework of a Convention petition, fell short. Thus, the court found that the habitual residence was Mexico.

The Court found that Mexican law, as outlined in the Civil Code for the State of Durango, Mexico, uses a concept called "patria potestas " ("parental authority/responsibility") to determine rights of custody. United States courts have determined that patria potestas creates rights of custody, not rights of access, and begins from birth. Whallon v. Lynn, 230 F.3d 450 (1st Cir.2000). The Court found that Petitioner had rights of custody under Mexican law as described in Whallon that far exceeded mere rights of access as described in Abbott, and that Respondent breached those rights by retaining the children in the United States. Petitioner enrolled the children in school, met their physical and religious needs, participated in their day-to-day lives, made decisions about their care, and lived with them as their primary caretaker until the August 2012 retention. The Court found that under the Convention, Petitioner's care of the children until their removal demonstrated her exercise of those rights of custody at the time of their retention in the United States. The Court determined that Petitioner met her burden, and that Respondent did not establish any exceptions. It granted her petition.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Haylock v. Ebanks, 2013 WL 5410463 (E.D.La.) [Honduras] Necessary Costs and Expenses]

In Haylock v. Ebanks, 2013 WL 5410463 (E.D.La.) the district judge made an order granting an award of reasonable attorney's fees to Plaintiff, Krisna Juliek Haycock, against Defendant, Carlos Rafael Ebanks, Jr., and referred the matter to a Magistrate Judge to determine the reasonableness of Plaintiff's fee application.

The Magistrate observed that the Supreme Court indicated that the "lodestar" calculation is the "most useful starting point" for determining the award of attorney's fees. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). After determining the lodestar, the court must then consider the applicability and weight of the twelve factors set forth in Johnson v. Ga. Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717-19 (5th Cir.1974). The court can make upward or downward adjustments to the lodestar figure if the Johnson factors warrant such modifications. See Watkins v. Fordice, 7 F.3d 453, 457 (5th Cir.1993). However, the lodestar should be modified only in exceptional cases. Id. (citing City of Burlington v. Dague, 505 U.S. 557, 562 (1992)). The fee application submitted by Haycock sought to recover fees from two attorneys who it claimed works on the case, Michael D. Conroy, who practiced in Covington, Louisiana, and Cesar Gonzalez Icaza, who practiced in Roatan Bay, Honduras. Stephen Conroy, Christie Marks, and Haycock submitted affidavits in support of this motion. The Court observed that attorney's fees must be calculated at the "prevailing market rates in the relevant community for similar services by attorneys of reasonably comparable skills, experience, and reputation." Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 895 (1984). Such a request is reasonable if it falls within the "range" of reasonable fees awarded. See Louisiana Power & Light Co. v. Kellstrom, 50 F.3d 319, 328 (5th Cir.1995). The applicant bears the burden of producing satisfactory evidence that the requested rate is aligned with prevailing market rates. See NAACP v. City of Evergreen, 812 F.2d 1332, 1338 (11th Cir.1987). Satisfactory evidence of the reasonableness of the rate necessarily includes an affidavit of the attorney performing the work and information of rates actually billed and paid in similar lawsuits. Blum, 465 U.S. at 896 n. 11. However, mere testimony that a given fee is reasonable is not satisfactory evidence of a market rate. See Hensley, 461 U.S. at 439, n. 15.

No affidavit of a disinterested attorney in this matter who could have attested to Gonzalez's position or his prestige at his law firm was attached. Because the mere testimony that a given fee is reasonable is not satisfactory evidence of a market rate, the Court found Gonzalez's fee unreasonable, and unrecoverable. Ebanks did not oppose Conroy's proposed hourly rate of $250.00 per hour. Where an "attorney's rate ... is not contested, it is prima facie reasonable." La. Power & Light, 50 F.3d at 328. Conroy's verified report of attorney's fees also requested fees for Amanda D. Hogue, an attorney at "Conroy Law Firm, PLC" who was not enrolled in this matter. None of the affidavits provided that Ms. Hogue was an attorney in this case, or provided any other specific indication of the qualifications, experience, or any special skills Ms. Hogue had to determine whether or not her proposed rate of $125.00-$150.00 per hour was reasonable. Therefore, the reasonableness of the rates listed for Ms. Hogue were disallowed for failing to present evidence substantiating her background, education and experience. The Court found that the five hours Ms. Hogue billed was unrecoverable

Given the fact that Haycock submitted an itemized list of billable entries, as well as the fact that these entries were reasonably delineated, the Court conducted a line-by-line analysis of the bill in question to determine whether it is reasonable. It sorted Haycock's entries into the following categories: (a) vague entries, (b) irrelevant entries and (c) block billed entries. The Court awarded Conroy 50% of the total time requested in connection with the vague entries. The fee application submitted by Haycock contained a number of entries which were viewed as "block billing." This term can be defined as the time-keeping method by which an attorney lumps together the total daily time spent working on a case, rather than itemizing the time expended on specific tasks."This practice makes it impossible for the Court to determine the reasonableness of the hours spent on each task." While block billing creates impediments to the analysis of the attorney's fee bill, the Supreme Court has indicated that it is not a basis for refusing to award attorney's fees. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 437, n. 12. The method most often used to compensate for block billing is a flat reduction of a specific percentage from the award. The Court reduced the value of all block billed entries for block billed entries for Conroy by 30%.

Haycock requested reimbursement for the transportation costs, including airfare, hotel costs and travel expenses of Haycock and S.C.E Federal courts typically award successful ICARA petitioners "airfare incurred in traveling to and from the United States to appear in court."Paulus, at *4.See, e.g., Freier v. Freier, 985 F.Supp. 710, 714 (E.D.Mich.1997) (awarding $2,422.00 for Petitioner's round trip and minor child's one-way airfare); Guaragno v. Guaragno, No. 09-CV-187, 2010 WL 5564628, at *5 (N.D .Tex. Oct. 19, 2010), aff d, 2011 WL 108946 (N.D.Tex. Jan. 18, 2011). Furthermore, federal courts have also awarded expenses that were "reasonable and necessary" for a petitioner to participate in the ICARA proceeding and "pick up" the child. See e.g., id. See also 42 U.S.C. 11607(b)(3) (including "transportation costs related to the return of the child" among "necessary expenses incurred by or on behalf of the petitioner"); see Guaragno, 2010 WL 5564628, at *5 (N.D.Tex. Oct. 19, 2010), aff'd, 2011 WL 108946 (N.D.Tex. Jan. 18, 2011) (finding that the costs for two flights-one for trial and one for pickup of child-were "reasonable and necessarily incurred"); Salinier v. Moore, 2010 WL 3515699, at *4 (D.Colo. Sept., 1, 2010) (finding that travel and lodging expenses for petitioner's parents is clearly inappropriate, but that costs associated with Petitioner's wife's travel, including travel and lodging expenses, who also testified at the hearing, was appropriate). The Court found the appropriate award for transportation costs as it pertains to Haycock and S.C.E., totaled $4,079.32. Haycock sought reimbursement for Tammy Haycock Moore's flight from New Orleans Louisiana, to Orlando, Florida, to accompany S.C.E., as Haycock herself was unable to travel to obtain the child. Ebanks argued that this expense was unnecessary, as the child was being "released to her local attorney, Mr. Conroy, from the child's school," and Tammy was not required to facilitate the transportation. A petitioner may be awarded reasonable expenses that are necessary to facilitate the return of the child after an ICARA proceeding, unless the opposing party can establish that such award would be "clearly inappropriate." 42 U.S.C. s 11607(b)(3); Guaragno, at *5; Freier, 985 F.Supp. at 714. Although Ebanks argued that reimbursing Tammy's transportation costs were unreasonable and unnecessary, Courts have awarded expenses to the parent or relative facilitating the transportation or return of the child. Paulus, at *4;see, e.g., Freier, 985 F.Supp. at 714;Guaragno, at *5. 42 U.S.C. s 11607(b)(3) (including "transportation costs related to the return of the child" among "necessary expenses incurred by or on behalf of the petitioner"); see Aldinger, 157 Fed. App'x 317, 2005 WL 3116540; Neves v. Neves, 637 F.Supp.2d 322 (W.D.N.C.2009); Guaragno, 2010 WL 5564628, at *5 (N.D.Tex. Oct. 19, 2010), aff'd, 2011 WL 108946 (N.D.Tex. Jan. 18, 2011) (finding that the costs for two flights-one for trial and one for pickup of child-were "reasonable and necessarily incurred"). Ebanks failed to establish that this expense is clearly inappropriate. The Court found that reimbursement for Tammy's travel expenses of $557.80, as documented, was granted.

Haycock sought to recover approximately $787.41 in airfare costs, $1,121.54 for hotel, food and other travel expenses associated with the trip Cesar Gonzalez made to New Orleans for the ICARA bench trial. Haycock also sought to recover approximately $1,343.00 in fees associated with the "Hague Trip to Guanaya, Bay Islands" for interviews associated with Gonzalez and "Nilla Ramos" a Hague Attorney, "Geraldina" a psychologist and "Silvia" a social worker. Ebanks opposed reimbursement of the Hague Trip Interviews, and for Gonzalez's expenses related to food, gas and hotel stay during his stay in New Orleans for the failure to provide adequate documentation. The Court found that the airfare of Gonzalez, as evidenced by the receipt attached to the motion for $739.70 was recoverable. Similar to Distler v. Distler, attorneys fees and costs were recoverable to foreign counsel who was not Plaintiff's trial attorney in the United States because the foreign counsel had helped to facilitate the return of the child under the ICARA and similar to Gonzalez, had provided legal advice and attested to Petitioner's rights under the Hague Convention. See Distler, 26 F.Supp.2d 723, 728 (D.C.N.J.1998); see also Grimer v. Grimer, No. 93-4086-DES, 1993 WL 545261 (D.Kan. Dec. 8, 1998).

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Skolnick v. Wainer, (Cite as: 2013 WL 5329112 (E.D.N.Y.)) [Singapore] [Federal & State Judicial Remedies] [Jurisdiction][Venue]

In Skolnick v. Wainer, (Cite as: 2013 WL 5329112 (E.D.N.Y.)) Fred Jay Skolnick commenced an action on August 21, 2013, for the return of his five children from Singapore by respondent, Andrea Wainer, his wife, claiming that the removal violated the Hague Convention. Petitioner asserted that the Court had jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 11603(a) and (b), since "Petitioner and Respondent jointly own residential property in this judicial district and ... the children that are the subject of this action were transported into the United States through airports located in ... Queens, New York." At a conference on September 3, 2013, the Court reiterated concern that the action was not properly brought in this district in light of evidence that the children had been residing in Connecticut since before the commencement of the action. Respondent moved for a change of venue. Petitioner filed a letter motion to change venue. It appeared that both sides agreed to transfer the action.

The court observed that Congress enacted ICARA to establish procedures for implementation of the Convention in the United States. ICARA provides that a "person seeking to initiate judicial proceedings under the Convention for the return of a child... may ... commenc [e] a civil action by filing a petition for the relief sought in any court which has jurisdiction of such action and which is authorized to exercise its jurisdiction in the place where the child is located at the time the petition is filed." 42 U.S.C. § 11603(b). "Located" under ICARA does not require a showing of residency but contemplates the place where the abducted children are discovered. See Lops v. Lops, 140 F.3d 927, 937 (11th Cir.1998) (interpreting 42 U.S.C. s 11603(b)). In applying this clause federal courts have dismissed ICARA petitions where children were not located in the jurisdiction of the court at the time the petition was filed. See, e.g., Olangues v. Kousharian, 177 Fed. App'x 537, 538 (9th Cir.2006) (determining that the district properly dismissed an ICARA claim for lack of jurisdiction because the children were not within that district at the time the petition was filed); Diorinou v. Mezitis, 132 F.Supp.2d 139, 145-46 (S.D.N.Y.2000) (confirming its prior conclusion that the district court had no jurisdiction over the ICARA petition because the child was not in the jurisdiction at the time the petition was filed); see also Espinoza v. Mattoon, 2009 WL 1919297 (W.D. Wash. June 30, 2009) (sua sponte dismissing, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, an ICARA petition brought in a jurisdiction where the child was not located). Although these courts treated the dismissal under 42 USC § 11603(b) to be "jurisdictional" in nature, some have referred to the provision as concerning venue. See, e.g., Saldivar v. Rodela, 879 F.Supp.2d 601, 613 (W.D.Tex.2012) (interpreting § 11603(b) to be a venue provision, and finding that venue was proper where the child was located in the district when the petition was filed"); East Sussex Children Servs. v. Morris, No. 12-cv-141, 2013 WL 704660, at *1 (N.D.W.Va. Feb. 27, 2013) ("Venue is appropriate because ICARA provides that a Hague Convention petitioner can bring [such an] action only in the place where the child is located.").

The Court observed that the Second Circuit has not addressed the issue of whether the requirements in §11603(b) implicates jurisdictional or venue concerns. It held that it did not have to resolve this issue in light of the general agreement of both parties to continue the litigation in Connecticut. District courts may, in cases where they lack subject matter or personal jurisdiction, or proper venue, transfer a case "in the interest of justice." (See 28 U.S.C. ss 1404, 1406, 1631). Both parties consented to transferring the action to the District of Connecticut, and no evidence had been presented demonstrating that the children were in the Eastern District of New York when the petition was filed. Given the importance of speedy adjudication of the claim in this action and the consent of both parties to the transfer to a court authorized to hear the case, the Court found that transfer to the District of Connecticut was in the interests of justice, without deciding whether § 11603(b) refers to jurisdiction or venue, and ordered that the action was transferred to the District of Connecticut.

Gee v Hendroffe, 2013 WL 5375294 (D.Nev.) [South Africa] [Federal & State Judicial Remedies] [Jurisdiction] [Venue]

In Gee v Hendroffe, 2013 WL 5375294 (D.Nev.) Petitioner filed his Petition for return of Children and Motion Warrant in Lieu of Habeas Corpus in the United States District Court for the District of Nevada on August 30, 2013. The court scheduled a hearing for September 4, 2013. At the hearing on September 4, 2013, the Court raised the issue of whether it had subject matter jurisdiction over this litigation. The Court ordered Petitioner to meet his burden of establishing jurisdiction and ordered Respondent to provide her airline ticket or other evidence to her Nevada attorney, which indicated when she left Las Vegas, Nevada, for Malaysia.

Respondent filed a Motion for Dismissal in which she stated that she was not served with the Petition until September 4, 2013, and that she and the children left the state of Nevada on August 27, 2013, and left the United States on August 31, 2013. Respondent attached an email from Petitioner's counsel's office which informed her of the September 4, 2013, hearing and provided her with a copy of the Petition as well as this Court's order setting the hearing. Respondent also attached a debit card statement for a card which was used in California as early as August 27, 2013, and copies of the airline tickets she and the two children used to fly from Los Angeles, California to Malaysia on August 31, 2013.

Shortly after Respondent filed her motion on September 5, 2013, Petitioner filed a Motion Under Hague Convention for Entry of a Temporary Restraining Order and a  UCCJEA Warrant. Attached to his motion was an Affidavit signed by Respondent and notarized in Las Vegas, Nevada at 10:30 a.m. on August 30, 2013. On September 6, 2013, prior to the hearing, Respondent filed a Declaration of Yasmin Acevedo, a friend of Respondent since 2011, who lived in Las Vegas. According to the Declaration, Ms. Acevedo accompanied Respondent and the two children to California on August 27, 2013, where they visited some family friends and local attractions. Thereafter, Ms. Acevedo represented, on August 30, 2013, Respondent returned to Las Vegas to attend to some legal matters while she and the children stayed in California. Ms. Acevedo concluded that she accompanied Respondent and the Children to the airport for their departure to Malaysia.

The Court set an evidentiary hearing concerning jurisdiction for October 8, 2013, and ordered all parties, including the children, present in person at the hearing.

The district court pointed out that any person seeking to initiate judicial proceedings under the Convention for the return of a child or for arrangements for organizing or securing the effective exercise of rights of access to a child may do so by commencing a civil action by filing a petition for the relief sought in any court which has jurisdiction of such action and which is authorized to exercise its jurisdiction in the place where the child is located at the time the petition is filed. 42 U.S.C.A. § 11603.

The Ninth Circuit has recognized, "located" has a particular meaning in the context of ICARA, distinct from "a traditional residency test." Holder v. Holder,305 F.3d 854, 869 (9th Cir.2002) n. 5; citing Lops v. Lops, 140 F.3d 927, 937 (11th Cir.1998). It means "the place where the abducted children are discovered," and is more equivalent to the concept of physical presence. Here, the evidence showed that once Petitioner discovered that the Children were in Las Vegas, and that Respondent likely did not intend to return to South Africa with the children, he promptly filed his petition for return of the children. Under the Holder/Lops common sense definition of "located" and in light of the Convention's purpose of providing an "expeditious avenue" for seeking return of
children, this was sufficient to establish jurisdiction. Respondent's contention that the children were in California with Ms. Acevedo on or around August 27, 2013, was irrelevant because Petitioner had no knowledge of that alleged trip, the children were discovered in Las Vegas, and by Respondents own admission, the children had been located in Las Vegas from July 11 until at least August 27. Further, the Court found that Respondent's argument that the children were in California was not credible. The debit card statements provided by Respondent had no name attached to the card and the affidavit of Ms. Acevedo did not come until after Petitioner provided proof that Respondent was in Nevada on August 30, 2013. Additionally, the legal documents that Respondent signed and notarized in Law Vegas on August 30, 2013, were documents for an Australian legal action, and could have been signed and notarized in California as well. The Court found that the evidence showed that the children were located in Nevada at the time the Petition was filed. Accordingly, the Court found that it had jurisdiction over this matter.

Caro v Sanchez, 2013 WL 5300671 (D.N.J.) [Spain] [Consent] [Petition Denied]

[Spain] [Consent] [Petition Denied]

In Caro v Sanchez, 2013 WL 5300671 (D.N.J.) [Not for Publication] Petitioner Antonio Osuna Caro and Respondent Beruzka Mesa Sanchez were married in 2007 in Sevilla, Spain. Their daughter was born in 2008. Both parents were still married and shared custody of the Child under Spanish law. The family lived together in Sevilla until the fall of 2011. On September 30, 2011, Ms. Sanchez and the Child traveled to New Jersey and resided there since that date.

Caro alleged in his Petition that the purpose of the trip was to allow Sanchez a short-term visit with her seriously ill mother. Caro states that he believed Sanchez and the Child would return to Spain in October 2011, but that the return date was extended

by his wife because her mother was still ill. On September 17, 2012, Caro filed an Application for Return of the Child with the Ministry of Justice in Spain, which triggered the U.S. State Department to send a Voluntary Return Letter dated November 29, 2012 to Sanchez, asking her to "consider voluntarily agreeing to return the child to Spain in order to avoid the applicant's initiation of legal proceedings in the United States under the Hague Convention."Sanchez allegedly did not respond. This Petition for Return of the Child to Spain was filed on May 31, 2013.

Sanchez's submitted undisputedly authentic documents to support her factual averrals. She averred that she and her husband jointly decided to move to the United States with the Child. Acting on that plan, in May 2011, Mr. Caro filed an application seeking authorization to travel to the United States under the Visa Extension Program, which would enable him to stay for an extended duration in this country. In September 2011, Sanchez and the Child traveled to New Jersey as "the initial step
of relocation for the family." The family began investigating the possibility of purchasing a house in New Jersey. This fact was supported by a letter from the Realtor with whom they both met to search for a home to buy, as well as financial documents submitted by Caro to be used to qualify for a mortgage to buy real estate in New Jersey. When Caro visited New Jersey in December 2011, he brought along the family dog to live here. Ms. Sanchez averred that while her husband was in the United States on that trip, they jointly continued their search for a house. In mid-2012, Sanchez became employed in New Jersey, rented an apartment with her mother, and enrolled the Child in a Head Start Program. In December 2012, Sanchez received the Voluntary Return Letter from the U.S. State Department. When Sanchez asked Caro about the letter, he said he had requested the letter so as not to lose custody of the Child. In January 2013, Caro again visited Sanchez and the Child in New Jersey.

Sanchez filed a complaint for custody and child support in New Jersey Superior Court on February 1, 2013. On April 27, 2013, Caro sent Sanchez a letter describing his frustration in his job search for a foreign position (he was a Spanish attorney) saying: ... I don't have good news. I've finally been able to speak to someone in charge of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They are not going to give me, not even one of the posts/jobs I've applied for at the Embassies and Consulates. The reason is a technical problem that makes no sense explaining it now. There are still other possibilities; but they are more remote. I have to make some contacts with other organizations. I am not going to give up. I will find some alternative. But it is true that the plan for us to go live in another country seems that it will not be possible at this time. One month later, Caro filed the Petition, claiming that his Child had been abducted. Sanchez states that Caro filed the Petition because he realized he would not be able to easily find employment and join the family in the United States. He did, however, in the letter a mere month before claiming child abduction, state that he was continuing to persevere in that job search. 

Caro filed the Petition for Return of the Child on May 31, 2013. He disclosed almost none of the above facts. He initially sought, and was granted temporary restraints based upon his ex parte submissions. However, those were vacated after Caro failed to effect timely service of the Petition in accordance with the Court's Order.  The Petition by Mr. Caro alleged that Ms. Sanchez wrongfully retained the Child in New Jersey. Sanchez did not contest that Caro had custody rights over the child, and that he continued to exercise those rights. Caro claimed that the child was wrongfully retained in New Jersey after a trip from Spain to New Jersey to visit her mother which Caro claimed was intended to be of short duration, while Sanchez has submitted contemporaneous unrefuted documentation showing that the shared intention of the parties when she and the Child left Spain was to establish a new family residence in the United States. Even the family dog relocated here. In light of the documentary evidence presented by Sanchez, Caro's sworn statement that he did not intend for the Child to move to the United States was not credible. The Court found that at the time the Child traveled to the United States in the fall of 2011, both of her parents intended that she move to the United States. Caro and Sanchez jointly searched for a house and relocated the family dog to New Jersey. Caro's affidavit to the contrary was belied by his own heartsick letter, in which he acknowledged the family's plan to relocate away from Spain. There had been no wrongful retention. As of September 30, 2011, the Child's habitual residence had been in the United States. Caro could not unilaterally change the agreement for the Child to move to this country because he was unsatisfied with his job search and wished to alter the joint plan to relocate here.

Once the Court reviewed the papers, in light of Caro's inability to proffer any genuine evidence to meet his burden to prove wrongful retention, it became clear that there was no need for an oral evidentiary hearing to supplement the documentary evidentiary hearing that the Court conducted. The Petition For Return of the Child to Spain was denied.