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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Hernandez v Cardoso, 2016 WL 3742858 (N.D. Ill, 2016) [Mexico] [Grave Risk of Harm] [Petition denied]

In Hernandez v Cardoso, 2016 WL 3742858 (N.D. Ill, 2016) Petitioner John Hernandez petitioned for the return of his son, AE, to Mexico. It was undisputed that Petitioner established a prima facie case. The petition was denied because there was a grave risk that return of AE to Mexico would expose him to physical or psychological harm. During the hearing, both Hernandez and Cardoso testified that they both used physical discipline on the children, but the parties dispute whose discipline was more forceful. Cardoso testified that Hernandez would hit her in front of the children “a lot” and that he wanted the children to watch him hit her. She would ask him to let the children leave the room when he was hitting her, and he would say “I want the children here. I don’t want them to go.” Cardoso testified to an incident where Hernandez slapped, kicked, and hit her with a wooden board in front of their daughter. When she tried to get away, Hernandez broke through a window, dragged her by her hair, and then raped her.  She testified that he would “always do that [rape her] when he would hit” her because “[t]o him it was like to make me happy.” The Court observed that under the law of this circuit, credible testimony of spousal abuse, carried out in the presence of the child at issue, supports a finding that return of the child to the abuser poses a grave risk of at least psychological harm. Khan v. Fatima, 680 F.3d 781, 786 (7th Cir. 2012). Although AE’s verbal expression about the effect of witnessing Hernandez hit Cardoso was limited (he felt “sad”), the Court observed a significant change in demeanor when AE discussed Hernandez, the domestic violence, and the possibility of returning to Hernandez’s custody. The Seventh Circuit has rejected the notion that courts should consider whether the petitioner’s country of residence can adequately protect the child. Khan, 680 F.3d at 788. “If handing over custody of a child to an abusive parent creates a grave risk of harm to the child, in the sense that the parent may with some nonnegligible probability injure the child, the child should not be handed over, however severely the law of the parent’s country might punish such behavior.” Van De Sande v. Van De Sande, 431 F.3d 567, 571 (7th Cir. 2005). Even where the petitioning parent has not seriously physically injured the child in the past, a “propensity for violence,” coupled with “the grotesque disregard” for child welfare demonstrated by committing spousal battery in the presence of children, indicates a risk that the petitioning parent will one day “lose control and inflict actual physical injury” upon the child. Van De Sande, 431 F.3d at 570.

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