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Saturday, December 24, 2016

Pennacchia v Hayes, --- Fed.Appx. ----, 2016 WL 7367848 (9th Cir.,2016)[Italy] Habitual Residence] [Petition denied]

          In Pennacchia v Hayes, --- Fed.Appx. ----, 2016 WL 7367848 (9th Cir., 2016) the Ninth Circuit affirmed a judgment which denied Danilo Pennacchia’s petition for return of his minor child to Italy. In observing that the dispute centered around the habitual residence of the child the court pointed out that to determine a child’s habitual residence, they first look for the last shared, settled intent of the parents.  It explained that the district court concluded SAPH’s habitual residence was the United States, and that in doing so, the court applied the correct legal standard by focusing on the shared, settled intent of the parents. The district court acknowledged that the parents’ testimony differed concerning their intentions at the time they left the United States, but found Pennacchia’s “testimony lacked credibility and evidence to support his position.” The Ninth Circuit indicated that it gives heavy deference to factual determinations such as which witnesses to believe and which documents corroborate the most credible version of disputed testimony. The district court found Pennacchia agreed to and signed several documents, that supported the mother’s testimony and evidenced the parties’ initial agreement that “their living arrangement in Italy was conditional and ‘a trial period.’ It held that the district court did not err when it concluded that, for both parents, “the settled intention was for SAPH’s habitual residence to be the United States.

The Ninth Circuit indicated that for SAPH’s habitual residence to change, “the agreement between the parents and the circumstances surrounding it must enable the court to infer a shared intent to abandon the previous habitual residence.” Mozes, 239 F.3d at 1081. Although it is possible for a child’s contacts standing alone to be sufficient for a change of habitual residence, in view of ‘the absence of settled parental intent, [we] should be slow to infer from such contacts that an earlier habitual residence has been abandoned.’ To infer abandonment of a habitual residence by acclimatization, the ‘objective facts [must] point unequivocally to [the child’s] ordinary or habitual residence being in [the new country].’  It indicated that SAPH had significant contacts in Italy, but the district court did not find a shared parental intent to abandon her habitual residence in the United States or that the objective facts pointed unequivocally to a change in SAPH’s habitual residence. Pennacchia did not meet his burden on acclimatization, and therefore, the district court did not err by concluding SAPH’s habitual residence under the 1980 Hague Convention remains the United States.

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