In O.A. v D.B., Slip Copy, 2016 WL 3748779 (Table), 2016 N.Y. Slip Op. 51089(U) (Fam. Ct.,2016) Petitioner Father, O.A., a Norwegian citizen, filed a petition in Family Court for the return of his daughters, D.A.P. and D.P. to Norway. The petition was brought pursuant to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (1343 UNTS 89, TIAS No. 11, 670, 1343 ), and its domestic implementing legislation, the International Child Abduction Remedies Act, 42 USC §§ 11601. Respondent mother, D.B., an American citizen, opposed the petition and argued that a return of the family to Norway will subject the subject children to a grave risk of harm because of the repeated domestic violence petitioner inflicted upon respondent. Respondent also alleged that some of the said domestic violence incidents occurred in the presence of the eldest subject child. The Court held a hearing and found that the petitioner had established, by a preponderance of the evidence, each required element under the Hague Convention. It also found that respondent failed to establish that the subject children would be subjected to a grave risk of harm, psychologically or physically, if they return to Norway and granted the petition.
It appears to us that the Family Court, a court of limited jurisdiction, lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the petition.
A petition for the return of a child commencing a civil action for the return of a child must be filed "in any court which has jurisdiction of such action." 22 U.S.C. § 9003 (b), formerly cited as 42 USC § 11603 (b). The New York State Supreme Court has jurisdiction to hear these proceedings. N.Y. Const, art VI, § 7[a]. On the other hand, the Family Court is a court of limited jurisdiction, whose jurisdiction is proscribed by Article VI, § 13 of the New York State Constitution. It has not been conferred with jurisdiction under Article VI, § 13 of the New York state constitution to determine such cases.
A court hearing a Hague Convention proceeding must have jurisdiction of the action and must be authorized to exercise its jurisdiction in the place where the child is located at the time the petition is filed. 22 U.S.C. § 9003 (b), formerly cited as 42 USC § 11603 (b). Family Court is not authorized to exercise such jurisdiction. While 22 U.S.C. § 9003, formerly cited as 42 USC § 11603, grants original jurisdiction of these proceedings to State and federal district courts, it does not grant jurisdiction to state courts of limited jurisdiction, such as the family court and surrogates court, nor does it purport to do so. Domestic Relations Law §77-a, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, which provides that a “court of this state may enforce an order for the return of the child made under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction as if it were a child custody determination”, does not authorize the commencement of a civil action for the return of a child.
It appears that the Family Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear Hague Convention cases. This has been confirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which has held that " [t]he phrase “in any court which has jurisdiction of such action,” 42 U.S.C. § 11603(b), underscores that while § 11603(a) confers jurisdiction in a particular federal forum (i.e., in United States district courts), it does not confer jurisdiction in particular state courts (e.g., a family-law court; a juvenile court; or a court of general jurisdiction); the appropriate state forum for an action under the Hague Convention is an issue of state law. The court in which the petition is filed must also be “authorized to exercise its jurisdiction in the place where the child is located at the time the petition is filed.” Ozaltin v. Ozaltin, 708 F.3d 355, 360 (2d Cir. 2013). See footnote 25