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Friday, January 30, 2015

Baker v. Baker, Not Reported in F.Supp.3d 2015 WL 249009 (2015) [United Kingdom] [Fed & State Jud Remedies]

In Baker v. Baker, Not Reported in F.Supp.3d 2015 WL 249009 (2015) the district court granted respondent David Baker’s (“Father”) Motion to Amend the Voluntary Return Order. On December 19, 2014, petitioner Lisa Jane Baker (“Mother”) filed her complaint. On December 23, 2014, the court issued a Show Cause Order, setting a hearing on January 6, 2015. At the hearing, the Father voluntarily agreed to return the children to the Mother in England. The parties had been working on a proposed voluntary return order and continued working on that order during the hearing. From the bench, the court ruled on the parties’ remaining disagreements, incorporating most of that proposed order in its ruling. On January 14, 2015, the Father filed a motion requesting that the voluntary return order be modified to reflect the following: Father will be accompanying the minor children on the flight to England.• The airport will now be the Manchester, England Airport, which is apparently 140 miles closer to Mother’s home than London’s Heathrow Airport. According to the Father, the Mother did not oppose these arrangements, but the Mother did request any modified order also include language such as “The Father will deliver the minor children to the Mother as soon as the minor children exit the international arrivals hall.” The Father objected to that language because it addressed the custody of the children, which the Father argued was outside this court’s jurisdiction under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspect of International Child Abduction.

         The district court observed that the  cornerstone of the Hague Convention is the mandated return of the child to his or her circumstances prior to the abduction....”In this case, the status quo prior to the Father’s alleged “abduction,” was the return of the children to England because all parties—the Father, the Mother, and minor children—lived in England. Because the Father’s proposed modifications did not alter the return of the children to England, the court modified its previous order. The court’s previous order assumed the children would be flying unaccompanied because Father could not afford to fly the kids and him. Therefore, the court’s order stated that the children “shall be returned to [the Mother].” However, that language merely reflected the only option at the time: The Mother would receive the children because the Father was not accompanying them. In other words, the Mother was the only logical person to receive the children upon their arrival in England. The court stated that it did not intend to make findings concerning the minor children’s custody, whether in the United States or England. Additionally, the court’s previous order, as written, limited the Father’s ability to accompany the children to England. The original order directed the Father to take certain actions when dropping the kids at the airport for their return flight. For instance, the Father is to accompany the children to the gate, deliver the children’s United Kingdom passports to the check-in clerk, and wait until the plane has departed before leaving. The previous order’s language made it impossible for the Father to comply with the court’s order and accompany the children. The court could not enforce the status quo, as mandated by the Hague Convention, by denying the Father’s ability to accompany his children back to England. The status quo involved the entire family unit—the Father, the Mother, and the children—in England. In other words, the status quo was not the Mother and the children in England and the Father in the United States. The court amended its previous order because the status quo remained restored even with the modifications below and directed, inter alia, that the Father would accompany the children on the flights to Manchester, England.

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