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Monday, May 23, 2016

Tann v Bennett, --- Fed. Appx. ----, 2016 WL 2753994 (2d Cir .,2016)[United Kingdom][Petition denied] [Age & Maturity]

In Tann v Bennett, --- Fed. Appx. ----, 2016 WL 2753994 (2d Cir .,2016) the Second Circuit, in a summary order, affirmed a judgment which denied the petition of Lisa Tann, a citizen of the United Kingdom who resided in Northern Ireland and was the mother of now 14–year–old J.D., dismissing her petition for J.D.’s repatriation and allowing J.D. to remain in the United States with respondents George Alan Bennett and Miranda Bennett, J.D.’s father and stepmother, pending a custody determination by New York State. It rejected Tann argument that the district court erred in relying on J.D.’s objection to returning to Northern Ireland in denying her petition. It observed that Article 13 of the Hague Convention “permits a court to refuse to order the return of [a wrongfully retained] child if it finds that the child objects to being returned and has attained an age and degree of maturity at which it is appropriate to take account of its views.” Blondin v. Dubois, 238 F.3d at 166. Whether a child is “old enough and mature enough” for his “views to be considered” is a question of fact, as is the determination that a child actually objects to returning to his country of habitual residece. It pointed out that it reviews de novo the district courts interpretation of the Hague Convention and its application to the facts it has found, and the courts underlying factual determination only for clear error. 
The Court found no clear error in the district court’s conclusion that J.D. had “attained an age and degree of maturity at which it [wa]s appropriate to take account of [his] views.” Hague Convention, art. 13. After observing then nearly thirteen-year old J.D.’s responses and demeanor during an in camera interview, the district court found the child “to be a very intelligent and decent young man,” and concluded that “J.D.’s desire to remain in New York should be respected” pending resolution of the state custody proceedings. In so ruling, the court implicitly found J.D. sufficiently mature for the exception to apply. “This finding, relying as it (in part) did on the Court’s personal observations of [J.D.], is of the sort peculiarly within the province of the trier of fact and is entitled to considerable deference.” Nothing in the transcript of J.D.’s in camera interview suggested that the court’s maturity finding was clearly erroneous. Because the Magistrate Judge was in the best position to gauge J.D.’s maturity level, it did not disturb his finding.
The Second Circuit rejected the argument that J.D. expressed only a “preference” to stay in the United States, as opposed to a specific objection to returning to Northern Ireland, the record shows otherwise. J.D. testified that (1) he did not always feel safe in Northern Ireland, (2) he “would really feel bad” if he were returned, and (3) he might hurt himself or others if he was forced to return. Nor did it find error in the district court’s refusal to consider that respondents’ wrongful retention of J.D. contributed to J.D.’s preference for living in the United States. Nothing in its precedent required such consideration. Rather, its precedent instructs, without qualification, that “a court may refuse repatriation solely on the basis of a considered objection to returning by a sufficiently mature child.” Blondin v. Dubois, 238 F.3d at 166.

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