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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Matute-Castro, v. Jimenez-Ortiz, 2016 WL 8711076 (E.D. N.Y., 2016) [Ecuador][Now settled][Petition denied]

In Matute-Castro, v. Jimenez-Ortiz, 2016 WL 8711076 (E.D. N.Y., 2016) Santos Hernan Matute-Castro (“Petitioner”), petitioned for an order directing Josselinne Pamela Jimenez-Ortiz (“Respondent”) to return their minor son, M.M.J. to Ecuador.Petitioner alleged that Respondent wrongfully retained their child in New York at the end of a family vacation on August 19, 2013. Respondents motion for summary judgment dismissing the petition was granted.

 The parties agreed that the child was wrongfully retained in New York at the end of the family vacation on August 19, 2013.The district court found that since arriving in New York in 2013, Respondent and the child  resided with Respondent’s mother, father, younger sister A.J., and a great-uncle named Sergio in a house in Queens, New York. Respondents’ parents owned the house since at least 2013. Respondent’s parents were employed full time and supported Respondent and the child. Respondent’s mother  indicated that she and Respondent’s father were willing to support Respondent and the child for as long as necessary.  Respondent’s mother stated that Respondent and the child were welcome to live with the family for as long as they would like. The child was covered by health insurance. Both parties agreed that Respondent was a good mother. The child’s regular interactions with about thirty (30) extended family members in New York City and the surrounding region included playing with and being around other children in the family. Aside from spending time with family, the child interacted  with other children from the neighborhood. The children attend each other’s birthday parties and some of the children participated in a Tae Kwon Do after school program with the child. The child and Respondent also attend church services. During the 2013-2014 school year, Petitioner enrolled the child in a nursery school program at the YMCA two days per week. Recently, the child completed kindergarten at Achievement First Apollo Elementary School. The child’s primary language was now English. The child received special education services because he was diagnosed with a learning disability and speech and language impairment by healthcare professionals associated with the school’s Committee on Preschool Special Education. In a report of a psychiatric evaluation of the child, dated February 15, 2016, Dr. Stephanie Brandt concluded that, “It is entirely obvious that this rather fragile little boy is in fact happy and thriving in every way.” (Dr. Brandt also noted that, the child “is in fact quite disabled” and further concluded that, “it is my unequivocal professional opinion that the Child is a ‘settled’ child in his current New York home environment.”  Since the child arrived to New York, Respondent had not concealed the child’s whereabouts from Petitioner. Respondent facilitated telephone and “Face time” calls between Petitioner and the child and sent Petitioner photos of the child. Respondent believed the child should have a relationship with his father and has made efforts to maintain contact between the child and Petitioner. Respondent and his parents had the resources and ability to visit the child in New York.

The district court stated that to establish the now settled defense, the respondent must demonstrate, “(1) that the return proceeding was commenced more than one year after the wrongful removal or retention, and (2) that the child ‘is now settled in its new environment. See Lozano v. Alvarez, 697 F.3d 41, 51 (2d Cir. 2012) The parties agreed that the wrongful retention of the child occurred on August 19, 2013, and that the petition was filed in this district, where the child was found, on August 5, 2015, almost two years later. Accordingly, the petition was untimely. Thus, the issue remaining before the court was whether the child was “now settled in its new environment.”
The Second Circuit has held that the word “settled,”  “should be viewed to mean that the child has significant emotional and physical connections demonstrating security, stability, and permanence in its new environment.” Lozano, 697 F.3d at 56. When determining if a child is “now settled,” the court may consider “any factor relevant to a child’s connection to his living arrangement.”. Among the factors the court should consider are: (1) the age of the child; (2) the stability of the child’s residence in the new environment; (3) whether the child attends school or day care consistently; (4) whether the child attends church [or participates in other community or extracurricular school activities] regularly; (5) the respondent’s employment and financial stability; (6) whether the child has friends and relatives in the new area; and (7) the immigration status of the child and the respondent. A court should examine the child’s present circumstances and assess whether a child is “now settled” as of the date of either an evidentiary hearing or when a motion for summary judgment is filed. See Gwiazdowski v. Gwiazdowska, 2015 WL 1514436, at *4 (E.D.N.Y. Apr. 3, 2015) (evaluating factors at time of evidentiary hearing); In re D.T.J., 956 F. Supp. 2d 523, 534 (S.D.N.Y. 2013). Balancing the forgoing factors, the Court concluded that the child was now settled in New York for purposes of Article 12.

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