In Alemu v Zerihum, 2017 WL 5989213 (D. Colorado, 2017) the district court granted Seleshi Tegan Alemu’s Petition for the return of YT to Israel. YT was born to petitioner and respondent in 2007 in Israel and was 9 years of age. Petitioner and respondent divorced in 2011. As of late 2015, YT was a resident of Israel, living in a home there with Respondent, a Mr. Berhano Terunech, and a half-sibling. In November 2015, Petitioner signed a letter allowing respondent to take YT to the United States for a three-week visit with family. After three weeks passed, Respondent indicated during phone conversations that she wanted to remain in the United States for an additional three months. Petitioner objected but agreed to allow Respondent to remain in the United States for a total of three months. After three months passed, Respondent informed Petitioner that she was not returning YT to Israel. Petitioner objected and told Respondent “that was not right.” Respondent thereafter sent Petitioner a message indicating that he would not see YT again. Petitioner filed the action on December 9, 2016, within one year of Respondent’s refusal to return YT to Israel. Although Respondent was properly served, she did not appear at the hearing, and failed to participate in the action.
The district court found that YT was a habitual resident of Israel at the time of removal. Petitioner testified that YT was born in Israel in 2007, and remained there until his removal in 2015. The Court had no trouble concluding that YT was a habitual resident of Israel. Israeli law provides that parents of children are vested with custodial rights, including the right to determine a place of residence. Petitioner testified and submitted exhibits indicating that he was vested with court-ordered custodial rights. The Court concluded that Petitioner set forth sufficient facts to make a prima facie showing of an unlawful removal. Because Respondent declined to attend the hearing, or to otherwise participate in this litigation, she failed to meet her burden of establishing a defense.