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Monday, January 5, 2015

Velasquez v Velasquez, 2014 WL 7272934 (E.D.Va.) [El Salvador] [Provisional Remedies] [Temporary Restraining order]

In Velasquez v Velasquez, 2014 WL 7272934 (E.D.Va.) on December 11, 2014, the Father filed a Verified Complaint and Petition fo a final judgment returning Father's children to El Salvador.  On December 15, 2014, the Court held an expedited ex parte hearing. After the hearing the District Court found that on March 3, 2006, Father and Respondent Maria Teresa Funes De Velasquez were married in El Salvador. Two daughters were the product of this marital union: seven-year-old  M.D.F. born in 2007, and five-year-old M.A.F. born in 2009. The family resided in El Salvador, where the daughters attended school.  On November 18, 2013, Father, Mother, and the daughters traveled from El Salvador to Maryland with a scheduled return date of January 25, 2014.  On February 27, 2014, Mother advised she was not returning to El Salvador but instead remaining in the United States with the two daughters. In response, Father eventually left the scene and returned to El Salvador without Mother and his two daughters. Father left to avoid further altercation but he did not give his consent for the daughters to stay with Mother in the United States.   Since then, Father attempted to persuade Mother to return the daughters to El Salvador, but learned that Mother wanted to stay in the United States because of a new boyfriend and had no intent to return the daughters to El Salvador. Father later traveled to the United States on three separate occasions to persuade Mother to allow the daughters to return with him to El Salvador, but Mother refused, and remained, with no legal status, in the United States with the daughters and her boyfriend in Manassas, Virginia.

The district court observed that "provisional measures" under 22 U.S.C. 9004 are analogous to a temporary restraining order. Rule 65(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs temporary restraining orders. A plaintiff seeking a preliminary injunction must establish that he is likely to succeed on the merits, that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, that the balance of equities tips in his favor, and that an injunction is in the public interest. Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Counsel, 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008).  After analyzing the four factors the court found that provisional measures were  necessary and would therefore enter a Temporary Restraining Order prohibiting the removal of the children from Virginia. The Court also granted Father's request for a Preliminary Injunction hearing to determine  whether the TRO should remain in effect until final disposition, and the Court set this hearing for a date certain. However, the Court would not consolidate the preliminary injunction hearing with the final trial on the merits, absent consent from Mother. See Alcala, 2014 WL  5506739, at *3 ("The Court anticipated that the Mother will require a reasonable amount of time to prepare for the hearing and retain counsel if desired.").  The court denied the Father’s request to issue "a warrant seeking immediate physical custody of the Children, directing any United States Marshal[ ] or other law enforcement officer to bring the Children before this Court." It pointed out that  "No court exercising jurisdiction of an action brought under ... this title may, under subsection (a) of this section, order a child removed from a person having physical control of  the child unless the applicable requirements of State law are satisfied."22 U.S.C. §9004(b). Under Va.Code § 20-146.32(A), Father may request that the Court "issue an ex parte order that the child be taken into immediate physical custody if the child is imminently likely to suffer serious physical harm or be removed from this Commonwealth."  This extraordinary request is typically only granted by federal courts when a custody determination  has already been made, or when a custody order was already in effect. See  Alcala, 2014 WL 5506739, at *8.  As was the case in Alcala, here, there was no prior custody determination and no custody order was in effect; Father implicitly acknowledged, based on his argument under El Salvadorian law, that both  parents shared joint custody of the daughters. Moreover, there was no specific allegation in the Verified Complaint and Petition, or Petitioner's Brief, that the daughters were "imminently likely to suffer serious physical harm or be removed from this Commonwealth." Mere speculation is an insufficient basis for this Court to order the physical seizure of two minor children. Therefore, the Court denied Father's request to issue a warrant for physical custody of the daughters.

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