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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Perla v Vasquez, 2016 WL 3878495 (D. Maryland, 2016) [El Salvador] [Venue]

In Perla v Vasquez, 2016 WL 3878495 (D. Maryland, 2016) Petitioner Jose Omar Flores Perla (Father) filed a verified petition against Respondent Jacqueline Ivonneth Perla Velasquez (Mother), his former wife, alleging that the child was in Maryland, seeking the return of the parties’ minor child, to El Salvador, from the United States where the Mother allegedly wrongfully removed and retained him on or after April 27, 2014. The Mother filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, to Transfer Venue. The district court granted the motion, transferring the case to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Houston. The court found that the Mother and the Child lived in Houston since moving to the United States, except for a period of time from Spring 2015 until early January, 2016 that they spent in Maryland for Respondent to care for her mother, Sandra Velasquez, who lived in Maryland.  The district court observed that 22 U.S.C. § 9003(a) provides that a person seeking a child’s return “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.” The district court pointed out that section 9003(a) clearly confers jurisdiction; whether § 9003(b) pertains to jurisdiction or venue is less clear. It found after a hearing that the Child was in Texas on January 11, 2016, when Petitioner filed suit; and the parties agreed that “located” refers to where the Child was on January 11, 2016. Located” under ICARA does not require a showing of residency but contemplates the place where the abducted children are discovered. Regardless whether 22 U.S.C. § 9003(b) pertains to jurisdiction or venue, the proper place for this proceeding to have been filed was Texas, not Maryland. See 22 U.S.C. § 9003(b). The district court exercised its jurisdiction to transfer a civil action to another district or division pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), for the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice.

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