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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Alanis v Reyes, 2017 WL 416306 (N.D. Miss., 2017)[Mexico] [Habitual Residence] [Petition granted]

        In Alanis v Reyes, 2017 WL 416306 (N.D. Miss., 2017) the Court granted the petition of  Lourdes Guadalupe Lored Alanis and found that her daughter, DFB, was wrongfully retained from her habitual residence of Mexico by Respondent Jose Carmen Badillo Reyes.

Both Petitioner and Respondent were citizens of Mexico.  They began a relationship in in Mexico. Respondent later moved to the United States. Petitioner later moved to the United States, and both of them resumed their relationship. Both Petitioner and Respondent also testified that they were in the United States illegally. DFB was born on September 9, 2007 in Southaven, Mississippi. DFB was a citizen of the United States. Both Petitioner and Respondent were acknowledged as DFB’s biological parents on her birth certificate. Respondent has since questioned whether he was the father of DFB. Respondent testified that he ordered a paternity test kit on the internet and, according to the instructions, sent to the testing company samples of DFB’s saliva and his own, as well as photographs. Respondent testified that the result of that paternity test was that he was not the father of DFB. From September 2007 to December 2009, Petitioner, Respondent, and DFB lived together in Mississippi. Neither Petitioner nor Respondent had any “immigration status that allow[ed] them to permanently reside in the United States”. On December 3, 2009, Respondent executed a notarized travel permit for DFB to travel with Petitioner. It was  undisputed that both parties intended that DFB would move to Mexico with Petitioner. Petitioner and DFB moved to Petitioner’s family home in Mexico in December 2009 or early 2010. Petitioner and Respondent apparently ended their relationship. For at least two years, Respondent remained in communication with Petitioner and DFB and sent money to cover their basic needs. Petitioner began living with a man, Ruben Gonzalez Espinoza. Petitioner and Espinoza had two children. Petitioner, Espinoza, DFB, and the other two children lived together until August of 2016. On August 14, 2016, Petitioner granted temporary authorization for DFB to travel with Epinoza’s sister, Anel G. Valdivia, from Mexico to Valdivia’s home in Irving, Texas. Petitioner also granted temporary custody of DFB to Valdivia for the time that DFB was in the United States. Respondent subsequently discovered that DFB was in Irving, Texas. Respondent testified that he traveled to Irving to DFB’s school and requested to take her with him. However, the school principal and administrators denied his request, purportedly because Respondent did not have paperwork demonstrating that he was the child’s father. Respondent took DFB for one weekend with Valdivia’s consent, but not Petitioner’s, and when Petitioner learned that DFB had visited with Respondent, she was not pleased. Respondent then retrieved paperwork demonstrating that he was the father of DFB. On August 31, 2016, Respondent traveled to Irving, Texas; showed up at Valdivia’s residence with a police officer from the Irving Police Department; and demanded custody of DFB as her father. Petitioner maintained that during this event, Valdivia called Petitioner and had her talk to the police officer and that Petitioner “asked him not to allow [Respondent] to take [DFB] with him” and explained their situation to him. The police officer nonetheless allowed Respondent to take DFB with him, stating that Respondent’s paperwork demonstrated that he was the father of the child and had the right to take the child. Respondent subsequently took DFB to Horn Lake, Mississippi, against Petitioner’s wishes. Petitioner maintained that more than ten times she requested that Respondent return DFB to Petitioner in Mexico, but that Respondent refused to respond to her requests and stopped answering Petitioner’s phone calls. 

The Court held that in cases such as this one, where the child is so young that she cannot possibly decide the issue of residency, see England v. England, 234 F.3d 268, 273 (5th Cir. 2000), “the threshold test is whether both parents intended for the child to abandon the [habitual residence] left behind,” see Delgado, 837 F.3d at 578 (citing Larbie, 690 F.3d at 310–11). The Fifth Circuit indicates that “context, rather than specific periods of time spent in one location or another, is key to the concept” and that the “primary consideration in the habitual residence determination [is] shared parental intent.” Berezowsky, 765 F.3d at at 467–69. The Court found that  Petitioner  demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that DFB’s habitual residence was Mexico. Neither Petitioner nor Respondent was in the United States legally. Their illegal immigration status and the unsteady and temporary nature of their living arrangements in the United States indicated that the United States was not DFB’s habitual residence. Both parties agreed that Petitioner and DFB would move to Mexico. Because Petitioner had no legal basis for entering the United States, Respondent could not reasonably have expected her to return to the United States with DFB. Furthermore, Respondent’s doubts as to whether he was the father of the child raised a question as to whether he even had parental rights. Regardless, both parties  agreed that DFB lived continuously in Mexico from 2010 to 2016, where she attended school. Petitioner began living with a man, Espinoza, and  Petitioner and Espinoza had two children together. Respondent sent Petitioner money to cover basic needs for at least two years after Petitioner and DFB moved to Mexico. The Court concluded that Petitioner demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that DFB’s habitual residence was Mexico.

The Court also found that Petitioner had rights of custody with respect to DFB at the time of the wrongful retention. According to the Family Code of the State of San Luis Potosi, she had parental rights with respect to DFB for the approximate six years the two lived in Mexico, enrolling her in school and extracurricular activities, maintaining a household wherein DFB resided, and otherwise engaging in parental responsibilities, The Court also found that Petitioner demonstrated exercise of the rights of custody at the time of the wrongful retention of DFB. Although Petitioner temporarily agreed to allow DFB to attend school in the United States with Valdivia, by definition, that was a temporary arrangement. Further, the Court found a crucial factor in the determination was the arrangement for Valdivia to transport DFB to her mother’s home in Mexico on weekends and holidays. At the hearing, Petitioner argued that it was akin to a boarding school situation. The Court found  this analogy to be well taken. Given all the facts and testimony before the Court, Petitioner  demonstrated that Respondent wrongfully retained DFB in the United States away from her habitual residence in Mexico.  
Finally, the Court found that Respondent failed to demonstrate any applicable affirmative defenses. Respondent did not plead any defenses, as he filed no responsive pleading to the verified petition

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