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Saturday, December 24, 2016

Anderung v Anderung, 2013 WL 12142385 (S.D. Iowa)[Sweden] [Habitual Residence] [[Grave risk of harm] Petition granted]

In Anderung v Anderung, 2013 WL 12142385 (S.D. Iowa, 2013) the district court granted the Petition of  Magnus Anderung (Magnus), to have the couple’s minor child, L.A, returned to Sweden.  Magnus was a citizen of Sweden. Raina was a citizen of the United States. They were married in Iowa, in June 2007. After the wedding, the couple traveled to Magnus’ hometown of Gavle, Sweden, where they lived with Magnus’ mother while Magnus took a summer job. The couple returned to New York City at the end of August 2007. Late in September 2007, Magnus and Raina returned to Gavle and moved into an apartment. The couple stayed in Gavle until March 2008. In March 2008, the couple moved to Surrey, England, and lived in an apartment. In October 2008, the couple was residing in London and got into an argument.The police arrested Magnus and charged him with second-degree assault. Once the trial began, Magnus decided to plead guilty. After Magnus was released from the London jail, the couple reconciled, and in January 2009, Raina became pregnant with L.A. In May 2009, the couple moved back to Sweden. L.A. was born in Sweden on September 27, 2009.Magnus testified, that by May 2011, at least twice a month Raina was assaulting him and threatening to call and tell the police that he had hit her. On October 18, 2011, Magnus filed for divorce in the District Court of Gavle and sought sole custody of L.A.  Magnus gave his his express consent for L.A. to travel from Sweden on May 27, 2012, for a visit to the U.S. Reina testified that, it was by mutual agreement that Raina and L.A. would come to the U.S. and stay indefinitely and that Magnus would join them at a later date Magnus disputed Raina’s contention and argues Raina wrongfully retained L.A. in the U.S. after August 25, 2012. 

The district court found that the child’s habitual residence was Sweden. On May 27, 2012, when L.A. and Raina left Sweden, L.A. was two years and eight months old. L.A. was born in Sweden, lived her entire life in Gavle, Magnus’ mother and three of his siblings lived in Gavle, and L.A. attended preschool classes with other children in Gavle. Raina testified that she took mostly summer clothing and a few of L.A.’s toys and only brought to the U.S. what she could fit into four suitcases. The court observed that from a child’s perspective, to be taken away from the only place known to her as home without saying goodbye to immediate family or friends and to have most of her belongings left behind is inconsistent with a settled purpose to abandon that country as the child’s habitual residence. The court found that the parents’ conduct leading up to Raina and L.A.’s departure belies the assertion that when Raina left on May 27, 2012, the couple had a “settled purpose” to abandon Sweden. Raina did not move out of her apartment in Gavle and continued to pay rent even though she had a month-to-month lease and could have discontinued the lease at any time; Raina informed L.A.’s preschool that L.A. was taking summer vacation and would return in August; Raina took only summer clothing and a few of L.A.’s toys and keepsakes, leaving most of their belongings in Sweden; Raina obtained round-trip rather than one-way tickets from Sweden to the U.S.; Raina did not notify the Swedish Social Insurance Agency that she was permanently leaving Sweden and instead continued to receive benefits for at least three months after she left; and neither Magnus nor Raina withdrew their divorce and custody proceedings that were pending in the District Court of Gavle. The record evidence simply does not support Raina’s contention that the couple had a settled purpose to abandon the country of mutual residence, Sweden, to take up residence in the U.S. Approximately eight weeks passed between August 25, 2012, the onset of L.A.’s wrongful retention in the U.S., and October 31, 2013, when Magnus filed an application for assistance under the Convention with the Swedish Foreign Ministry. Magnus filed the Verified Complaint in this case on February 14, 2013. The Court held that to find Raina’s assertions that L.A. had become acclimatized in the U.S. support a finding that the U.S. has become L.A.’s habitual residence would run contrary to the purposes of the Convention. An abducting parent who retains a child in a foreign country and argues against the child’s return because a change in residence would be demonstrated traumatic for the child runs contrary to the purposes of the Convention. 

The evidence in this record that Magnus gave his consent for L.A. to come to the U.S. for a visit from May 27, 2012, until August 25, 2012. Raina’s assertions failed to demonstrate acquiescence. The Court rejected Raina’s argument that L.A. would be at grave risk of harm and should not be returned to Sweden due to Magnus’ history of violence and because of the failure of the Swedish judicial system to provide protection. Magnus and Raina had a history of volatile arguments but there were no major incidents from the time Raina became pregnant in 2009 until September 2011. There was no evidence that Magnus ever harmed L.A. Raina’s criticism of inaction by the Swedish authorities was also contrary to the record. The Court was confident that, contrary to Raina’s assertions, Sweden had a competent child welfare system in place. The court found that Raina utterly failed to present any evidence, that L.A. would be at grave risk of harm if she is returned Sweden and that Raina had not met her burden of proving an affirmative defense preventing L.A.’s return to Sweden.

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