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International child abduction and the Hague Abduction Convention

David Michael BreonDavid Michael Breon
David Michael Breon is a lawyer, mediator, and educator. He is the owner and lead attorney of Semita Legalis, LLC, which focuses exclusively on family, immigration, education law, and mediation cases. He is licensed to practice law in Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois, as well as in the U.S. District Court of Missouri-Western District and the U.S. Immigration Court. He is fluent in English and Spanish, and he lived in Spain for two years and in Ecuador for five years. He is the husband of an Ecuadorian wife (who, at the time of writing, is expected to soon become a naturalized U.S. citizen) and the father of a child of dual United States and Ecuadorian citizenship.

Breon would like to thank the following people who contributed to this article’s successful publication: Leonard K. Breon, who provided substantive and stylistic feedback and suggested revisions in the article’s earliest stages; Timothy E. Lynch, who contributed feedback regarding the article’s alignment with his extensive knowledge of the general principles of international law, suggested modifications regarding a few datapoints, and opined upon the impact of different draft versions; Mary K. Kisthardt, who provided stylistic feedback and provided her first impression regarding the article’s significance regarding family law in Missouri; the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues, whose top representatives met with the author and clarified its role regarding incoming and outgoing child abduction cases, reviewed the article, and provided substantive feedback; and his wife, Evelyng Katherine Astudillo Sánchez, who provided emotional support, encouragement, and caregiving of their son and Breon’s aging parents during the article’s composition.
 

 
Scenario 1:   A prospective client alleges that his or her child’s biological father or mother has, without the other’s consent, wrongfully removed the child from the child’s country of habitual residence or has wrongfully retained the child in a foreign country.
Scenario 2:   A prospective client has received a summons to appear before a Missouri county circuit court or Missouri U.S. district court to answer the other biological parent’s allegations of having wrongfully removed or retained their child in Missouri.

Journal - International Child Abduction
The Hague Abduction Convention – formally known as the Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction – is an international treaty between sovereign nations. Specifically, it is “an international agreement concluded between States in written form and governed by international law, whether embodied in a single instrument or in two or more related instruments . . . .”[2] An “instrument” is a “written legal document” that “defines [the] rights, duties, entitlements, or liabilities” between parties to the agreement.[3]

The Hague Abduction Convention seeks “to protect children internationally from the harmful effects of their wrongful removal or retention [across international boundaries by providing a procedure to bring about] their prompt return [and ensuring] protection for rights of access.”[4] It aspires to deter wrongful removal or retentions by “depriv[ing] [the abductor’s] actions of any practical or juridical consequences.”[5] Recognizing the convention’s guiding principle that “the child’s place of ‘habitual residence’ is ‘best [suited] to decide upon questions of custody and access,”[6] the convention does not constitute substantive law regarding custody. It does, however, function as a forum-selection device by restoring the pre-abduction “status quo and [deterring] parents from crossing [international] borders in search of a more sympathetic court.”[7]

Despite the profusion of international child abduction cases, few lawyers and state judges have likely heard of the Hague Abduction Convention, much less one dealing with international child abduction.

Every year between 2010 and 2020, at least 487 children were abducted to or retained in the United States.[8] Before the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, the peak of incoming abductions and retentions occurred in 2019, with 623 cases reported.[9] From 2010 to 2020, 28.5% on average of children abducted to or retained in the United States came back – either voluntarily, by court order, or otherwise – to their country of alleged habitual residency. In 2016, only 15% of children were returned.[10]

Since 1998, there have been 15 Hague Abduction Convention cases reported in the U.S. District Court of Missouri-Western District[11] and 13 cases for the Eastern District.[12] Despite the frequency of international child abductions, neither the Office of State Courts Administrator nor any of Missouri’s 46 judicial circuit courts track the number of Hague Abduction Convention cases that are and have been filed in their courts.

Although there are various factors for the low return rates, one substantial cause is that too few legal professionals are familiar with the civil remedies available for victims of international abduction cases. While there might, and frequently are, alternative criminal[13] and civil[14] remedies for Scenario 1, the most effective and expeditious method,[15] and maybe sole method,[16] to achieve a child’s prompt return shall be pursuant to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which is likely the same procedure under which relief would be solicited under Scenario 2. For those lawyers who anticipate one day being confronted with an analogous scenario to those above, this article is for you.

Background: The Hague Abduction Convention and ICARA

The convention is the product of the inter-governmental organization of the Hague Conference on Private International Law[17] in the Hague, Netherlands. The conference consists of 89 member states, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Japan, China, India, and a significant majority of the countries of Europe and South America.[18] The conference first met in 1893,[19] and, since 1955, its members have assembled every four years in “Ordinary Sessions.”[20]

On Oct. 24, 1980, during the 14th session of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, the member states present – including the United States – voted unanimously to adopt the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.[21] The following day, the delegates signed the Final Act of the Fourteenth Session, which contained the text of the convention and the model form that is routinely used in convention applications for wrongfully abducted or retained children.[22]

The “Supremacy Clause” of the U.S. Constitution mandates that “all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby … .”[23] On Dec. 23, 1981, the United States signed the convention[24] and, seven years later (April 29, 1988), recorded its ratification in the Hague.[25]

Because treaties are “compact[s] between independent nations,” any court with jurisdiction to hear a Hague Abduction Convention case must first “ascertain the intent of the parties” by the convention’s “text and context,”[26] and “to read the [Convention] in a manner ‘consistent with the shared expectations of the contracting parties [i.e., nations]’”[27] — not pursuant to regional laws, principles, or Missouri court precedence in domestic cases.[28] Most of the provisions of the treaty are self-executing,[29] meaning they do not require any type of federal implementing legislation to be immediately enforceable in U.S. federal and state courts.[30]

Despite those self-executing provisions, on July 1, 1988, Congress enacted the International Child Abduction Remedies Act (ICARA), which both ratified and implemented the Hague Abduction Convention into federal law and set out the procedure by which an application for return is to be filed and prosecuted or defended.[31] The lawyer must assure that the country from which the child has been removed or retained is a party to the convention. Although there are 101 convention state members, as of October 2021,[32] the United States is partners with only 79 of them.[33] If the state member (viz. country) is not a signatory, then the convention is inapplicable. If the state is a signatory, then the lawyer must determine whether that state member has deposited any reservations contingent upon its adoption of the treaty (and if so, review it); has subsequently ratified, accepted, or approved the Hague Abduction Convention; and has deposited its instruments of the same with the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs.[34] If prosecuting or defending against a Hague Abduction Convention case in a foreign state, ratification is important because any implementing legislation likely contains information on how that member state interprets certain definitions or provisions of the treaty, as well as the procedure for how to petition, or defend against, a convention case in its country. However, under the two above scenarios, the lawyer need only determine whether the other country is a signatory to the convention and a partner member with the United States.

Under ICARA, all courts of the United States have concurrent original jurisdiction of actions arising under the Hague Abduction Convention,[35] such that any court (e.g., federal or Missouri circuit court) in which an applicable action has been brought is empowered to determine the case under the convention’s provisions.[36] Any court with jurisdiction to hear a convention case must “decide the case in accordance with the Convention,”[37] not pursuant to regional laws (e.g., a “best interests” analysis) in which the case is heard. The convention’s goal is limited to restoring the pre-abduction “status quo and to deter parents from crossing international boundaries in search of a more sympathetic court.”[38]

To achieve its objectives, the Hague Abduction Convention mandates that each contracting state must designate a central authority,[39] which is authorized to take a limited set of actions to facilitate the prompt return of a wrongfully removed or retained child back to his or her country of habitual residence.[40] In the United States, the central authority is the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues in the Bureau of Consular Affairs.[41] Although the Office of Children’s Issues will not act “as an agent or attorney or in any fiduciary capacity in legal proceedings,”[42] or pay for the transportation or legal costs or fees, it will, upon application and request, facilitate the applicant in locating, securing access to, or “obtaining the return of [the] child.”[43]

The Office of Children’s Issues can aid a client in a variety of ways for both incoming (i.e., children abducted to or retained in the United States) and outgoing cases (i.e., children abducted out of the United States or retained in another country). If the parent in Scenario 1 above were to apply to the Office of Children’s Issues, then the agency would either “forward the application to the Central Authority of the [signatory] country where the child is believed [to be] located or provide the applicant with the necessary form, instructions, and the name of the address of the appropriate Central Authority” in that country, so that the applicant might thereby personally transmit such application.[44] Moreover, upon request, the Office of Children’s Issues would attempt to obtain from the foreign central authority “information regarding the laws of the child’s state of habitual residence,”[45] a statement regarding the “wrongfulness of the taking of the child under the laws of the child’s state of habitual residence,”[46] or “information relating to the social background of the child.”[47] Also, upon request and pursuant to a voluntary agreement by the accused or by court order, the Office of Children’s Issues will attempt to arrange transportation for the child from the foreign country to the United States.[48] Although not relevant to either scenario, for children abducted to the United States, upon application and request, the Office of Children’s Issues will help the applicant[49] discover the location of the child in the United States.[50] It will then, if with consent by the left-behind parent, attempt the voluntary return of or access to the child by sending a letter to the alleged abducting parent.[51] If not, then the Office of Children’s Issues would help the applicant, if eligible, find affordable legal representation.[52] The Office of Children’s Issues will also provide legal mentors for those lawyers handling Hague Abduction Convention cases for the first time.[53] To prevent a child’s potential abduction from the United States, the Office of Children’s Issues can submit the case for enrollment into the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Prevent Abduction program.[54] Some of these services may also be useful for the respondent in Scenario 2 above, in particular with respect to identifying the relevant and controlling domestic relations laws in the foreign country which the plaintiff (i.e., the other biological parent) alleges is the child’s habitual residence.

To prosecute or defend against a Hague Abduction Convention case, lawyers must become thoroughly familiarized with the convention, its official Explanatory Report,[55] ICARA, the U.S. State Department’s evolving interpretations of the convention,[56] fundamental case law in both the U.S. and signatory states, and relevant case law analogous to the facts of their cases. The convention considers the child’s habitual residence as the proper forum (i.e., place) to determine issues of custody or access (i.e., visitation rights).[57] To achieve its goal, the convention functions solely as a “forum-selection mechanism”[58] and constitutes no authority relating to custody. Therefore, at the convention proceeding, the lawyer must be prepared to thoroughly educate the court on the convention and ICARA, as well as the prohibition upon the court from making any initial custody determination until the court first determines the issue of venue pursuant to the Hague Abduction Convention.[59] The lawyer should caution the court that, when making its determinations, it avoid using approaches (e.g., a “best interests of the child” analysis) inapposite to a convention proceeding.[60] Because the convention presumes the “authorities … of the child’s habitual residence … are … best [suited] to decide upon questions of custody and access,”[61] a “best interest” analysis could not occur until after the court has made all required findings and determinations pursuant to the convention and ICARA.[62]

Unless the respondent(s) can meet one of a few narrow exceptions, the court must order the child be promptly returned to his or her place of habitual residence should less than one year have elapsed since the date of the wrongful removal or retention and the child be adjudicated to have been “wrongfully” removed or retained outside his or her country of habitual residence.[63] Even if the Hague Abduction Convention proceeding commenced one year after the wrongful removal or retention, the court must still order the child be returned unless the respondent demonstrates, by a preponderance of the evidence,[64] “that the child is now settled in its new environment.”[65]

How to file a Hague Abduction Convention petition

Akin to Scenario 2, the routine Hague Abduction Convention case involves a child traveling abroad to visit the noncustodial parent who, at the end such visitation, refuses to return the child.[66] If, either with or without the aid of the apposite central authority, a lawyer cannot achieve the voluntary return of the child, then a lawyer can file the client’s petition for return pursuant to the convention and ICARA in the state or federal district court where the child is located at the time of filing.[67] Conversely, if defending a client against such claim, a lawyer must file the client’s answer to the convention petition, which ordinarily emanates from a federal district court.[68] Upon the filing of the petition, that court is statutorily precluded from making any determination regarding the child’s custody “until it has been determined that the child is not to be returned under the Convention.”[69] Consequently, the court must address the convention petition before any custody hearing can proceed or determination be made.

How to prosecute or defend against a Hague Abduction Convention case

Upon taking up the petition, the court must “decide the case in accordance with the Convention.”[70] The petitioner bears the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the child has been wrongfully removed or retained, within the convention’s meaning.[71] The removal or retention is “wrongful” when it is in breach of the rights of custody attributed to a person under the law of the state in which the child was habitually resident immediately before the removal or retention, provided that, at the time of the removal or retention, those rights would have been exercised, but for the removal or retention.[72]

Consequently, the inquiry requires the court to determine: 1) when the removal or retention took place; 2) where the habitual residence of the child was immediately prior to the removal or retention; 3) whether the removal or retention violated the petitioner’s custody rights under the law of the child’s habitual residence; and 4) if the petitioner would have exercised those custody rights, but for the removal or retention.[73]

The first element, regarding when a removal or retention occurred, requires that the petitioner prove that the removal or retention had occurred. In Barzilay v. Barzilay, the U.S. District Court of Missouri, Eastern District, found that a retention had occurred upon the father’s accusation that the mother had breached their agreement that the mother was to have returned their daughter to Israel.[74] Alternatively, the court might conclude the date of retention occurred at the moment the alleged noncustodial parent filed the petition for custody, when the alleged noncustodial parent breached both parents’ joint agreement to return the child within a specific time-frame,[75] or when the child failed to be placed upon a return bus[76] or flight to his or her state of habitual residence.[77]

As to the second element, a child can have one habitual residence — which is not to be confused with the child’s domicile.[78] Although “habitual residence” is not defined by the Hague Abduction Convention or ICARA, the U.S. Supreme Court begins with a textual analysis and points out that, although “residence” refers only to where one lives, “habitual” connotes that one’s residence is more than “transitory,” but “[c]ustomary, usual, [or] of the nature of a habit,” and where the child acquires “some degree of integration by the child in a social and family environment.”[79] The Hague Abduction Convention’s explanatory report describes “habitual residence” as “the family and social environment in which [the child’s] life has developed”[80] and the Court of Justice of the European Union clarifies how a child’s residence can become “habitual” only after “some degree of integration by the child in a social and family environment”[81] has occurred. Indeed, every U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agrees that a child’s habitual residence is the place that child would have considered his or her “home” at the time of the removal or retention.[82] The child’s perception of the parents’ or legal custodians’ “settled purpose” for the move is “a central element” for the court to consider when determining the place the child would have considered his or her “home” at the time of the removal or retention.[83]

The determination of habitual residency requires the court to consider the totality of the circumstances applicable to each case’s facts and cannot determine the same solely under categorical requirements (e.g., evidence of a parental agreement that specifies where the parents intended to raise their child).[84] When the allegation is wrongful retention, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals directs the courts to focus on the child’s perspective immediately before the removal or retention.[85] Factors that federal and state courts have considered regarding the determination of a child’s habitual residence include: 1) the settled purpose of the move to the new country from the child’s perspective;[86] 2) parental intent regarding the move;[87] 3) change in geography; 4) passage of time;[88] 5) acclimatization of the child to the new move;[89] 6) where the parents have made their home;[90] 7) presence or absence of permanent home(s);[91] 8) length and type of employment of child’s custodians;[92] 9) duration in the community;[93] 10) agreement between the parents to reside in a particular place;[94] 11) strength and duration of other community ties;[95] 12) child’s age;[96] 13) immigration status of child and parent;[97] 14) academic activities, sports, excursions, and social engagements;[98] 15) language proficiency;[99] and 16) location of personal belongings.[100]

A child’s “settled purpose” need not be to stay forever in a new location, but the move must have a “sufficient degree of continuity”[101] there; although, the settled purpose “may be for a limited period.”[102] “The court [should] focus on the child, not the parents, and examine past experience, not future intentions.”[103] The child’s perspective is important to prevent its removal from “the family and social environment in which [the child had] developed.”[104] However, for a child too young or incapable of acclimating to his or her environment, the parental intent and circumstances of the child’s custodians are relevant to the inquiry; although, facts indicating the child’s acclimatization are highly and progressively more relevant as the child ages.[105]

If, after this analysis, the court concludes the child’s habitual residence is another country from where he or she was removed or from a country other than where the child was retained, then the inquiry turns to whether the child’s removal or retention violated the petitioner’s custody rights under the law of the child’s habitual residence at the time of the removal or retention. This analysis can become difficult to prove and often requires foreign counsel or experts to be retained. However, the Hague Abduction Convention facilitates this process by authorizing the court or administrative authority to take judicial notice of the law of the child’s habitual residence.[106] Also, in determining whether the petitioner would have exercised his or her rights of custody, but for the removal or retention, the analysis frequently requires an analysis of foreign law.

If the court ultimately concludes that the respondent wrongfully removed or retained the child, then the court must order that the child be returned to his or her state of habitual residence, unless the respondent asserts and proves one or more narrow exceptions condoned under the convention. The two primary exceptions to an adverse habitual residence determination are when the respondent proves: 1) by the preponderance of the evidence[107] that the petitioner had previously consented or subsequently acquiesced to the removal or retention;[108] or 2) by clear and convincing evidence[109] that the child’s return to his or her habitual residence would expose the child to a grave risk of physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation.[110] Both inquiries are quite narrow.[111] The 8th Circuit Court recognizes only two categories of circumstances under which a child’s return would entail grave risk: 1) to a warzone, famine, or disease; or 2) to serious abuse or neglect.[112] There is another exception — although, it requires a very high level of proof and is almost never granted or upheld on appeal[113] — which requires that the respondent prove by clear and convincing evidence[114] that the child’s return to his or her habitual residence would violate “the fundamental principles of the requested State, relating to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”[115] The human rights exception would apply if the respondent proves that the return would violate the child’s human rights under common international law or treaty,[116] such as when the child’s return would be tantamount to torture (e.g., female genital mutilation).[117]

Then, even if the trial court finds that the child was wrongfully removed or retained and the respondent has not met any of the narrow exceptions to return, the trial court still may “refuse to order the return of the child if it finds that the child objects to being returned and has attained an age and degree of maturity at which it is appropriate to take account of its views.”[118] The 8th  Circuit calls this the “mature child affirmative defense.”[119] The “affirmative defense” requires a case-by-case analysis, but the majority of federal courts concede that children 11-15 years old are of sufficient maturity to take their objections to return into account.[120]

Last, even if the petitioner makes its prima facie case and the respondent proves an affirmative defense, the court may still, upon request or sua sponte, order the child’s return[121] if doing so “would further the aims of the Convention.”[122] The 8th Circuit Court recognizes “[t]he primary purpose of the Convention is ‘to restore the status quo ante and to deter parents from crossing international boundaries in search of a more sympathetic court.’”[123] Therefore, if facts permit, the petitioner’s counsel should buttress their request that the court order the child’s return because doing so would restore the custodial arrangements immediately prior to the child’s removal or retention and have the precedential effect of deterring parents from abducting their children to foreign countries in search of a more advantageous forum in which to seek a custody determination. Inversely, and if facts permit, the respondent’s counsel should counter that returning the child would not restore the status quo ante that existed at the time of removal or retention and that the purpose for the respondent’s removing or retaining the child was not to pursue a more favorable forum in which to seek a custody determination, or both.

Financial relief for fees, costs, and expenses

Should the court order the child be returned to his or her place of habitual residence, then the court must order the respondent pay any “necessary expenses” incurred by or on behalf of the petitioner, including court costs, legal fees, or other costs accrued during the course of the proceedings, as well as “transportation costs related to the return of the child, unless respondent establishes that such order would be clearly inappropriate.”[124]

Duty to inform client of remedies pursuant to Hague Abduction Convention

If one day a lawyer has a client – prospective or retained – with facts analogous to Scenarios 1 and 2, and the client’s goal is either (1) the immediate return of the child back to the child’s “home country,” or (2) to defend against the child’s return, then, presuming that the foreign country is a signatory to the Hague Abduction Convention and the United States has accepted the country as a partner, the lawyer should advise the client of the convention and its remedies.[125] Only then should the lawyer determine whether the client has a prima facie case for filing a petition pursuant to the convention and ICARA. If a prima facie case exists, then filing a Hague Abduction Convention petition in federal or Missouri circuit court with jurisdiction over where the child is located at the time of filing shall likely be the quickest and most efficacious method for achieving the child’s return.

Endnotes 

1 David Michael Breon is a lawyer, mediator, and educator. He is the owner and lead attorney of Semita Legalis, LLC, which focuses exclusively on family, immigration, education law, and mediation cases. He is licensed to practice law in Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois, as well as in the U.S. District Court of Missouri-Western District and the U.S. Immigration Court. He is fluent in English and Spanish, and he lived in Spain for two years and in Ecuador for five years. He is the husband of an Ecuadorian wife (who, at the time of writing, is expected to soon become a naturalized U.S. citizen) and the father of a child of dual United States and Ecuadorian citizenship.

Breon would like to thank the following people who contributed to this article’s successful publication: Leonard K. Breon, who provided substantive and stylistic feedback and suggested revisions in the article’s earliest stages; Timothy E. Lynch, who contributed feedback regarding the article’s alignment with his extensive knowledge of the general principles of international law, suggested modifications regarding a few datapoints, and opined upon the impact of different draft versions; Mary K. Kisthardt, who provided stylistic feedback and provided her first impression regarding the article’s significance regarding family law in Missouri; the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues, whose top representatives met with the author and clarified its role regarding incoming and outgoing child abduction cases, reviewed the article, and provided substantive feedback; and his wife, Evelyng Katherine Astudillo Sánchez, who provided emotional support, encouragement, and caregiving of their son and Breon’s aging parents during the article’s composition.

2 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties art. 2(a), opened for signature May 23, 1969, 1155 U.N.T.S. 331.

Instrument, Black Law’s Dictionary (11th ed. 2019).

4 Hague Convention, at Preamble.

Barzilay v. Barzilay (Barzilay II), 600 F.3d 912, 916 (8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Elisa Pérez–Vera, Explanatory Report, in 3 Hague Conference on Private Int’l Law, Acts and Documents of the Fourteenth Session, Child Abduction 426, 429 (1982)).

6  Id. at 917-18. See also 42 U.S.C. § 9001(b).

Friedrich v. Friedrich (Friedrich I), 983 F.2d 1396, 1400 (6th Cir. 1993); see alsoRydder v. Rydder, 49 F.3d 369, 732 (8th Cir. 1995); and Feder v. Evans-Feder, 63 F.3d 217, 221 (3d Cir. 1995).

Reported Abductions and Returns 2010 – 2020, U.S. Dep’t of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Off. of Child.’s Issues (Jul. 09, 2021), available at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/data.html.

9  Id.

10  Id. (On average, between 2010 to 2020, there were 487 incoming cases reported, with about 139 returns; in 2016, although there were 514 cases reported, and only 79 children were returned).

11  Jordan v. Jordan, No. 4:99-cv-01011-ODS (W.D. Mo. Dec. 28, 1999); Contreras v. Rojas, No. 4:02-cv-00140-GAF (W.D. Mo. Apr. 4, 2002); Geddes-Campbell v. Westfall, No. 4:04-cv-00113-GAF (W.D. Mo. March 31, 2004); McCubbin v. McCubbin, No. 2:06-cv-04110-NKL (W.D. Mo. Aug. 31, 2006); Nunez v. Gonzalez, No. 4:08-cv-00161-DW (W.D. Mo. Sept. 16, 2008); Fern v. Fern, No. 5:08-cv-06044-GAF (W.D. Mo. Sept. 24, 2008); Romanowicz v. Romanowicz, No. 4:15-cv-00022-BCW (W.D. Mo. March 24, 2015); Mullen v. Polson, No. 3:12-cv-05104-MCH (W.D. Mo. Jan. 23, 2019); Perez v. Mejia, No. 6:17-cv-03342-MDH (Feb. 13, 2019); Chumba v. Jeptanui, No. 4:18-cv-00796-BP (W.D. Mo. Feb. 20, 2019); Quinn v. Quinn, No. 3:19-cv-05010 (W.D. Mo. July 15, 2019); Jamael v. Ebel, No. 2:20-cv-04031-NKL (W.D. Mo. May 26, 2020); Akerman v. Carter, No. 6:19-cv-03399-BCW (W.D. Mo. Sept. 30, 2020).

12  Phylaktou v. Phylaktou, No. 4:98-cv-00829-CDP (E.D. Mo. Oct. 28, 1998); Alapizco v. Williams, No. 2:01-cv-00084-DJS (E.D. Mo. May 28, 2002); Meyer v. Gilstrap, No. 4:03-cv-01447-RWS (E.D. Mo. Feb. 25, 2004); Diallo v. Bekemeyer, No. 4:07-cv-01125-SNLJ (E.D. Mo. June 11, 2007); Sita-Mambwene v. Keeton, No. 4:09-cv-00913-ERW (E.D. Mo. March 05, 2010); Barzilay v. Barzilay, No. 4:07-cv-01781-ERW (E.D. Mo. Apr. 23, 2010); Drozdov v. Drozdova, No. 4:10-cv-01002-JCH (E.D. Mo. Sept. 28, 2010); Mitsuing v. Lowry, No. 4:09-cv-02124-ERW (E.D. Mo. Oct. 18, 2010); Fernandez v. Bailey, No. 1:10-cv-00084-SNLJ (March 25, 2011);; Jose Martin Ortega Pacheco v. Arely Gutierrez Bautista, No. 4:14-cv-01822-AGF (E.D. Mo. Dec. 24, 2014); Portilla v. Lennartz, No. 4:16-cv-01225-ERW (E.D. Mo. Nov. 01, 2016); Custodio v. Samillan, No. 4:15-cv-01162-JAR (E.D. Mo. Dec. 23, 2016); Cohen v. Cohen, No. 4:15-cv-01756-JAR (E.D. Mo. Sept. 29, 2017); Ocana Duran v. Perez Delgado, No. 4:16-cv-01733-HEA (E.D. Mo. Aug. 26, 2019); O’Neill v. Sezgin, No. 4:19-cv-02686-DDN (E.D. Mo. Nov. 26, 2019).

13  18 U.S.C. § 1204(a) (“Whoever removes a child from the United States, or attempts to do so, or retains a child (who has been in the United States) outside the United States with intent to obstruct the lawful exercise of parental rights shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 3 years, or both.”); RSMo § 565.153(1) (“In the absence of a court order determining rights of custody or visitation to a child, a person having a right of custody of the child commits the offense of parental kidnapping if he or she removes, takes, detains, conceals, or entices away that child within or without the state, without good cause, and with the intent to deprive the custody right of another person . . . .”); Section 476.110(3), RSMo (“Every court of record shall have power to punish as for criminal contempt persons guilty of … [w]illful disobedience of any [e.g., child custody or visitation] order lawfully issued or made by it.”).

14  Section 452.400(3), RSMo (“The court shall mandate compliance with its [custody or visitation] order by all parties to the action, including parents, children and third parties. In the event of noncompliance, the aggrieved person may file a verified motion for contempt. If custody, visitation or third-party custody is denied or interfered with by a parent or third party without good cause, the aggrieved person may file a family access motion with the court stating the specific facts which constitute a violation of the judgment of dissolution, legal separation or judgment of paternity.”); Section 452.425, RSMo (sheriff or law enforcement to enforce custody or visitation order); Section 452.870, RSMo (expedited enforcement of child custody determination); Section 452.885(1), RSMo (Warrant to take physical custody of child: “Upon the filing of a petition seeking enforcement of a child custody determination, the petitioner may file a verified application for the issuance of a warrant to take physical custody of the child if the child is likely to suffer serious imminent physical harm or [be imminently] remov[ed] from this state.”).

15 Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Law, art. 11, Oct. 25, 1980, T.I.A.S. No. 11670, S. Treaty Doc. No. 99-11, 1343 U.N.T.S. 98 [hereinafter, “Hague Convention”], available at https://www.hcch.net/en/home (requiring all Hague Convention proceedings to be resolved “expeditiously” and the Court to make every effort to resolve the issue of return within six weeks after commencement of proceedings); cfMonasky v. Taglieri, 140 S. Ct. 719, 726 (2020) (refusing to remand the case, but ordering the immediate return of child back to Italy based on sufficient evidence in the record and because remand would unnecessarily protract final resolution, in contravention of Hague Convention’s objective “for resolving a return-order petition” within six weeks).

16 Leonard v. Lentz, 288 F. Supp. 3d 945, 956 (N.D. Iowa 2018) (finding that a Hague Convention petition offered sole legal remedy for left-behind parent to achieve children’s return from United States to Turkey).

17 Elisa Perez-Vera, Explanatory Report ¶ 1.

18 Hague Conference on Private International Law, HCCH Members, https://www.hcch.net/en/states/hcch-members (last visited, June 27, 2021).

19 Hague Conference on Private International Law, Information on the Hague Conference on Private International Law, https://www.hcch.net/en/about/more-about-hcch (last visited, June 27, 2021).

20 Statute of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, art. 4(6) (entered into force Jul. 15, 1955), available at https://www.hcch.net/en/home.

21 Elisa Perez-Vera, Explanatory Report ¶ 1.

22 Id.

23 U.S. Const. art. 6, cl. 2.

24 Exec. Order No. 12648, 53 Fed. Reg. 30637 (Aug. 11, 1988).

25 Id.

26 Lozano v. Montoya Alvarez, 572 U.S. 1, 11 (2014) (citing United States v. Choctaw Nation, 179 U.S. 494, 535 (1900)); cfAbbott v. Abbott, 560 U.S. 1, 12 (2010) (“The interpretation of a treaty, like the interpretation of a statute, begins with its text.”) (citing Medellin v. Texas, 552 U.S. 491, 506 (2008));Vienna Convention, at art. 31 (“A treaty shall be interpreted in good faith in accordance with the ordinary meaning to be given to the terms of the treaty in their context and in the light of its object and purpose.” Frequently, a treaty’s object and purpose can be found in its preamble and annexes.); Hague Convention, at art. 1 (“The objects of the present Convention are … to secure the prompt return of children wrongfully removed to or retained in any Contracting State and … to ensure that rights of custody and of access under the law of one Contracting State are effectively respected in the other Contracting States.”).

27 Lozano, 572 U.S. at 12 (citing Olympic Airways v. Husain, 540 U.S. 644, 650 (2004)) (quoting Air France v. Saks, 470 U.S. 392, 399 (1985); 22 U.S.C. § 9001(b)(3) (“In enacting [the Convention,] Congress recognize[d] … the international character of the Convention” and “the need for uniform international interpretation.”).

28 Abbott, 560 U.S. at 12 (“This uniform, text-based approach ensures international consistency in interpreting the Convention. It forecloses courts from relying on definitions of custody confined by local law usage, definitions that may undermine recognition of custodial arrangements in other countries or in different legal traditions, including the civil-law tradition.” ); id. at 15-18  (In the Abbott case, “[t]he Court’s view [was] substantially informed by the views of other contracting states on the issue” of whether a ne exeat right is a right of access or of custody under the Hague Convention.).

29 Elisa Perez-Vera, Explanatory Report ¶ 62.

30 Self-executing, Black Law’s Dictionary (11th ed. 2019).

31 See 22 U.S.C. §§ 9001-9011.

32 28: Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, Status table, https://www.hcch.net/en/instruments/conventions/status-table/?cid=24 (last visited June 27, 2021) (signatories include: Albania; Andorra, Argentina; Armenia; Australia; Austria; Bahamas; Barbados; Belarus; Belgium; Belize; Bolivia; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Brazil; Bulgaria; Burkina Faso; Canada; Chile; China; Colombia; Costa Rica; Croatia; Cuba; Cyprus; Czech Republic; Denmark; Dominican Republic; Ecuador; El Salvador; Estonia; Fiji; Finland; France; Gabon; Georgia; Germany; Greece; Guatemala; Guinea; Guyana; Honduras; Hungary; Iceland; Iraq; Ireland; Israel; Italy; Jamaica; Japan; Kazakhstan; South Korea; Latvia; Lesotho; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Malta; Mauritius; Mexico; Monaco; Montenegro; Morocco; Netherlands; New Zealand; Nicaragua; Norway; Pakistan; Panama; Paraguay; Peru; Philippines; Poland; Portugal; Republic of Moldova; Republic of North Macedonia; Romania; Russia; Saint Kitts and Nevis; San Marino; Serbia; Seychelles; Singapore; Slovakia; Slovenia; South Africa; Spain; Sri Lanka; Sweden; Switzerland; Thailand; Trinidad and Tobago; Tunisia; Turkey; Turkmenistan; Ukraine, Great Britain; United States; Uruguay; Uzbekistan; Venezuela; Zambia; and Zimbabwe).

33 Interview by David M. Breon with Office of Children’s Issues, Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Dept. of State, by email (Jul. 23, 2021).

34 Hague Convention, at art. 37.

35 22 U.S.C. § 9003(a).

36 Id. at (d).

37 Id.

38 Friedrich 1, 983 F.2d at 1400.

39 Hague Convention, at art 6.

40 Id. at art. 7.

41 22 C.F.R. § 94.1.

42 22 C.F.R. § 94.4(a).

43 22 C.F.R. § 94.5.

44 22 C.F.R. § 94.7(a).

45 Id. at (c).

46 Id. at (d).

47 Id. at (e).

48 Id. at (f).

49 The U.S. Central Authority will also assist the applicant, upon request, in obtaining a “voluntary agreement for suitable visitation rights by the applicant or for return of the child,” “receiving from the foreign Central Authority information relating to the social background of the child or the laws of the country of the child’s habitual residence,” or a statement regarding “the wrongfulness of the taking of the child under the laws of the country of the child’s habitual residence[.]”See 22 C.F.R. § 94.6. CfParoginog v. Paroginog, 2017 WL 630575 (D. Minn. Feb. 15, 2017) (parents entered into a voluntary agreement and the district court issued an order directing the mother to return the minor children back to their habitual residence in Canada).

50 22 C.F.R. § 94.6(b).

51 Interview by David M. Breon with Office of Children’s Issues, Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Dept. of State, by email (Jul. 23, 2021).

52 22 C.F.R. § 94.6(e).

53 Interview by David M. Breon with Office of Children’s Issues, Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Dept. of State, by email (Jul. 23, 2021).

54 Preventing International Child Abduction, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security (Jul. 26, 2021), available at https://www.cbp.gov/travel/international-child-abduction-prevention-and-return-act.

55 The United States Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit recognizes the official Hague Conference Explanatory Report “as the official history and commentary on the Convention and is a source of background on the meaning of the provisions of the Convention.” Custodio v. Samillan, 842 F.3d 1084, 1088 (8th Cir. 2016) (corroborating the Court’s holding that any authority of the Hague Convention’s provisions becomes moot and without force at the instant the child turns 16 years of age) (quoting Barzilay II, 600 F.3d at 916 n.6); Elisa Perez-Vera, Explanatory Report ¶ 77 (“[N]o action or decision based upon the Convention’s provision can be taken with regard to a child after its sixteenth birthday.”).

56 Abbott, 560 U.S. at 15 (“It is well settled that the Executive Branch’s interpretation of a treaty ‘is entitled to great weight.’”) (quoting Sumitomo Shoji Am., Inc. v. Avagliano, 457 U.S. 176, 185 (1982)) (deferring to the State Department’s interpretation of a provision of the Hague Convention).

57 22 U.S.C. § 9002(7).

58 Villegas Duran v. Arribada Beaumont, 534 F.3d 142, 146 (2d Cir. 2008).

59 22 U.S.C. § 9001(b)(4); Cohen v. Cohen, 858 F.3d 1150 (8th Cir. 2017) (declaring how the “[C]ourt may not address the merits of an underlying child custody dispute,” until it first makes all the necessary findings in the Hague Convention proceeding).

60 Elisa Perez-Vera, Explanatory Report ¶ 22.

61 Id. at ¶ 34.

62 Hague Convention, at art. 16.

63 Id. at art. 12.

64 22 U.S.C. § 9003(e)(2)(B).

65 Hague Convention, at art. 12; cfSorenson v. Sorenson, 559 F.3d 871, 874 (8th Cir. 2009) (declaring respondent’s and her child’s stay in Australia for three years prior to the alleged retention a “substantial amount of time” and sufficient for the child to have become settled in its new environment); Amdamaskal v. Amdamaskal, 2018 WL 3360767 1, 5 (D. Minn. July 10, 2018) (finding both children, age 6 and 11, settled in the United States after father waited over 20 months to commence Hague Convention proceeding, despite knowing of the children’s location; children have frequent contact with extended family; live in the same household since their arrival; are “fully integrated into and thriving in their classrooms”; speak fluent English; engage in extracurricular and religious activities; oldest child is a U.S. citizen; and mother can provide the children adequate care because of her asylum claim, which has allowed her and the youngest child to legally reside in the United States, and for her to obtain full-time employment); Monzon v. De La Roca, 910 F.3d 92, 105-06 n.88 (3d Cir. 2018) (provides 10-factor test for determining whether child settled in its new environment).

66 Seee.g.Mozes v. Mozes, 239 F.3d 1067 (9th Cir. 2001) (finding children were “wrongfully retained” when they had traveled from Israel to the United States to visit their father in Los Angeles for exactly 15 months, during which he filed for dissolution of marriage and custody about three months before their scheduled return to their mother in Israel); Fabri v. Pritikin-Fabri, 221 F. Supp. 2d 859, 871-72 (N.D. Ill. 2001) (“Many cases begin with a parent’s taking the child away from home for a vacation or visit with the consent of the other parent . . . .”).

67 22 U.S.C. § 9003(b).

68 Nigel Howe and Victoria Stephens, Part III—A statistical analysis of applications made in 2015 under the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction—National Reports, HCCH and International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, July 2018, p. 142.

69 Hague Convention, at art.16.

70 22 U.S.C. § 9003(d).

71 Id. at (e).

72 Hague Convention, at art.3.

73 Barzilay II, 600 F.3d at 918 (citing Mozes, 239 F.3d at 1070).

74 Barzilay I, 609 F. Supp. 2d 867, 878 (E.D. Mo. 2009).

75 Elisa Perez-Vera, Explanatory Report ¶ 108; Cohen, 858 F.3d at 1154 (8th Cir. 2017) (holding that the record from the U.S. Dist. Ct. of the E.D. of Missouri “support[ed] [the trial court’s finding] that the alleged wrongful retention occurred either in July 2014, when [the mother] filed for divorce, or in October 2014, when the six-month period under the travel agreement expired”); Beard v. Beard, 2020 WL 4548253 (S.D. Iowa June 19, 2020) (retention occurred when father, despite being in contravention to their Canadian custody agreement, sent mother an email stating his intention to keep child in Iowa).

76 Babcock v. Babcock, 2020 WL 7020293 1, 8 (S.D. Iowa Nov. 30, 2020) (finding date of retention was when father failed to place child on bus back to Canada because it represented his unequivocal intention to retain the child in Iowa and because mother had unequivocally revoked “‘[her] prior consent[, of child’s return 10 days after that date] and reassert [her] custody rights’ when she contacted local law enforcement in [Iowa] for assistance in returning the [C]hild to Canada.”).

77 Quinn v. Quinn, 2019 WL 2518147 1, 3 (W.D. Mo. June 18, 2019) (finding that despite parental agreement that child would only temporarily stay in the United States and would be sent back to its mother in Japan on a particular date, the retention occurred when father failed to return child on that date).

78 Silverman v. Silverman, 338 F.3d 886, 898 (8th Cir. 2003).

79 Monasky, 140 S. Ct. at 726.

80 Elisa Perez-Vera, Explanatory Report, ¶ 11.

81 OL v. PQ, 2017 E. C. R. No. C–111/17, ¶ 42 (Judgt. of June 8).

82 Monasky, 140 S. Ct.  at 726-27; Karkkainen v. Kovalchuk, 445 F.3d 280 (3d Cir. 2006).

83 Barzilay II, 600 F.3d at 918 (citing Silverman, 338 F.3d. at 898).

84 Id.

85 Barzilay I, 609 F. Supp. 2d at 897-898.

86 Cohen, 858 F.3d at 1154 (finding that when the child moved with its mother from Israel to St. Louis, MO, from the child’s “perspective, [its] family had moved to the United States indefinitely and established a home there . . . .”).

87 Mozes, 239 F.3d at 1079-1080 (declaring it important to “regard the intentions of the parents … because the child’s knowledge of these intentions [e.g., to move abroad] is likely to color its attitude toward the contacts it is making”).

88 Doudle v. Gause, 282 F. Supp. 2d 922, 929 (N.D. Ind. 2003) (finding that “even if [the mother] intended only to remove the children for a maximum of one year, her actions since [that time] have exceeded the scope of [father’s] consent and she is wrongfully retaining the children in the U.S.”).

89 Barzilay II, 600 F.3d at 918. CfCohen, 858 F.3d at 1154 (holding that trial court had committed no clear error in finding that the child had “experienced ‘a clear change in geography’ and had acclimated to life in the United States,” based on facts in the trial court’s record showing how: 1) its mother had established a home in St. Louis, Missouri; 2) the child had “maintained considerable connections to [its] environment” by “attend[ing] school and speech-therapy classes, had a pediatrician, socialized with friends, … had extended family in the area, … primarily spoke in English, … participated in [martial arts and swimming]  at [its] local Jewish Community Center, …”, and had few connections with Israel; and 3) the mother “[had] obtained employment [and] purchased a vehicle”).

90 Babcock, 2020 WL 7020293 at 8 (finding mother and father’s “clear intent to abandon the United States as the [C]hild’s country of habitual residence after mother had acquired home in Canada where both parents “intended . . . the whole family to [live] indefinitely[, … had] moved all of the children’s personal belongings,” and where child, for the past two years before visiting father for the summer in Iowa, had “attended school, made friends, participated in sports, and had his medical needs met”); Sorenson, 559 F.3d at 873-74 (finding child’s habitual residence as Australia where parents had moved all their possessions and lived there for three years).

91 Silverman v. Silverman, 2002 WL 971808, 1, 2 (D. Minn. May 9, 2002) (focusing on parental intent whereby the renting instead of purchasing a home suggested their stay in Israel as temporary); Sorenson v. Sorenson, 563 F. Supp. 2d 961 (D. Minn. 2008) (qualifying its finding of habitual residence of children as Australia by highlighting evidence that parents had not purchased a home there).

92 Dubikovskyy v. Goun, 2021 WL 456634 1, 2, 8 (W.D. Mo. Jan. 7, 2021) (finding any undertaking uncredible because father’s work in Geneva, Switzerland, “required a long commute and long hours, causing him to be frequently absent from home,” and, based on father’s past behavior, child would likely “spend substantial periods” of time alone without supervision. In contrast, mother worked at the University of Missouri-Columbia as a Chemistry professor, owned and lived in her home in Columbia, Missouri, and child attended school in Columbia); Sorenson, 563 F. Supp. 2d at  963 (dismissing father’s Hague Convention petition because child not wrongfully retained by mother in its habitual residence of Australia where father had previously accepted a sales engineering position in Australia and had received a three-year work visa and subsequently moved there with mother and child whose visas were dependent on his).

93Cohen, 858 F.3d. at 1154 (finding child’s stay of two years in the United States sufficient for him to have acquired significant attachments to his community where he “attended school and speech-therapy classes, had a pediatrician, socialized with friends, and had extended family in the area”).

94 Sorenson, 559 F.3d at 871-874 (affirming trial court’s determination that child’s habitual residence was Australia where mother and father agreed to move to Australia with their son for at least three years; however, the marriage subsequently deteriorated, father moved back to U.S. and then alleged that the move had been only temporary); Cohen, 858 F.3d at 1150 (affirming trial court’s determination that child’s habitual residence was St. Louis, Missouri, where both child’s mother and father agreed for mother and child to move from Israel to the United States; however, after the mother and child had been living in the United States for three years, the marriage deteriorated and the father then alleged that the move had been only temporary).

95 Monasky, 140 S. Ct. at 729.

96 Amdamaskal, 2018 WL 3360767 at 5 (finding children as young as six years of age “old enough to form relationships and emotional ties to the[ir] community”).

97 Leonard v. Lentz, 297 F. Supp. 3d 874, 895 (N.D. Iowa 2017) (buttressing the court’s finding that child’s return to Turkey would expose it to grave risk because only viable and available kidney donor, the mother, a U.S. citizen, could not return to Turkey for the procedure because she was not a Turkish citizen and was unable to receive a visa to enter Turkey when both the United States and Turkey had indefinitely suspended visa services to the other country’s citizens); Bejarno v. Jimenez, 837 Fed. App’x 936, 937-38 (3d Cir. 2021) (concluding no clear error in finding that child was settled in its environment in New Jersey despite the uncertainty of abducting father’s asylum claim and tenuous employment prospects); cf. Lozano v. Alvarez, 697 F.3d 41, 57 (2d Cir. 2012) (declaring “no court has held [immigration status] to be singularly dispositive”), aff’d sub nomLozano v. Alvarez, 572 U.S. 1, 134 (2014); Alcala v. Hernandez, 826 F3d 161, 174 (4th Cir. 2016) (same).

98 Cohen v. Cohen, 2016 WL 4546980 (E.D. Mo. 2016) (finding that child had become settled and acclimated to its new environment in St. Louis, Missouri, in the prevailing three years there based in part on facts showing how the child was enrolled and attended elementary school, received speech therapy services, socialized with friends, and was involved in activities such as martial arts and swimming); In re Hague Application, 2007 WL 4593502, 1, 9  (E.D. Mo. 2007) (finding New Zealand was “clearly” the children’s habitual residence partly based on their having “engag[ed] in the full spectrum of normal childhood activities: attending school, participating in extracurricular activities, hanging out with friends, engaging in sports activities, and generally enjoying the social and cultural environment of New Zealand”).

99 Sorenson, 559 F.3d at 874 (after three years abroad, U.S.-borne child spoke with Australian accent); Cohen, 858 F.3d. at 1154 (after three years in St. Louis, Missouri, Israeli-born child spoke primarily in English).

100 Monasky, 140 S. Ct. at 735 n.3; Sorenson, 559 F.3d at 872 (after the father accepted a job in Australia under a three-year work visa, he and his wife sold their U.S. residence and vehicles, “shipped most of their personal belongings to Australia,” and moved with their minor child to Australia).

101 Sorenson, 559 F.3d at 874.

102 Stern v. Stern, 639 F.3d 449, 452 (8th Cir. 2011).

103 Friedrich I, 983 F.2d at 1401. (emphasis added)

104 Elisa Perez-Vera, Explanatory Report, ¶ 12.

105 Monasky, 140 S. Ct. at 727. CfWhiting v. Krassner, 391 F.3d 540, 550-51 (3d Cir. 2004) (affirming as self-evident that a four-year old was “not only aware of those around him but [was] able to form meaningful connections with the people and places [it] encounter[ed] each day[,]” but that a child of one-year of age lacked “such capability”).

106 Mozes, 239 F.3d at 1084.

107 22 U.S.C. § 9003(e)(2)(B).

108 Hague Convention, at art.13(a); Baxter v. Baxter, 423 F.3d 363 (3d Cir. 2005) (consent “involves the petitioner’s conduct prior to the contested removal or retention,” and “acquiescence addresses whether the petitioner subsequently agreed to or accepted the removal or retention”); id. (Acquiescence “require[s] an act or statement with the requisite formality, such as testimony in a judicial proceeding[,] a convincing written renunciation of rights[,] or a consistent attitude of acquiescence over a significant period of time.”) (citing Friedrich v. Friedrich (Friedrich II), 78 F.3d 1060, 1070 (6th Cir. 1996); id. (The analysis of whether or not Petitioner had acquiesced “turns on [Petitioner’s] subjective intent”) (citing Friedrich II, 78 F.3d at 1060); Baxter, 423 F.3d at 368-69 (3d Cir. 2005) (setting aside district court’s finding that father had consented for mother and child to “leave Australia definitively” as clearly erroneous where record showed parents “undecided about their next residence” and father’s consent for mother and child to travel to Delaware was merely to buy the parents time and in a safe and stable environment to regroup and consider how to proceed); cfGonzalez-Caballero v. Mena, 251 F.3d 789, 794 (9th Cir. 2001) (concluding no clear error in district court’s finding that mother, a Panamanian citizen, consented to child’s removal from Panama to United States to live with father, a U.S. citizen, after both parents determined that Child “would have a better life in the United States” and child’s removal being conditional on father’s subsequently assisting mother to immigrate to the United States, which he later reneged).

109 22 U.S.C. § 9003(e)(2)(A).

110 Hague Convention, at art. 13(b); Hague International Child Abduction Convention; Text and Legal Analysis, 51  Fed. Reg. 10494-01 (grave risk of harm does not include situations where the child’s return home would be where “money is in short supply, or where educational or other opportunities are more limited than in the requested State”; however, it would include “one in which a custodial parent sexually abuses the child”); Silverman, 338 F.3d at 901 (Israel does not fall within the “zone of war” grave risk category because the violence in Israel, such as suicide bomb attacks, occur everywhere and are experienced by all; thus, the Court delimits the attacks as “general regional violence”); Vasquez v. Colores, 2010 WL 3717298 (D. Minn. Sept. 14, 2010) (U.S. citizen mother returned to the United States with infant daughter without the Mexican citizen father’s consent. Court found child’s habitual residence as Mexico, and mother failed, for lack of evidence, to substantiate her grave-risk-of-harm defense that infant child would face physical and psychological harm by father if returned to Mexico).

111 Vasquez v. Colores, 648 F.3d 648, 650 (8th Cir. 2011).

112 IdCf. Leonard, 288 F. Supp. 3d at 960-61 (confirming its decision that returning child back to Turkey would place it at grave risk to its health and survival where Respondent offered no evidence of available kidney donor and suitable post-op treatment in Turkey, and Petitioner proved, by clear and convincing evidence, that both the availability, operation and post-op treatment was immediately available in the United States).

113 Aly v. Aden, 2013 WL 593420, at 9 (D. Minn. Feb. 14, 2013).

114 22 U.S.C. § 9003(e)(2)(A).

115 Hague Convention, at art. 20.

116 International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, 660 UNTS 195 (entered into force January 4, 1969) [ICERD]; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 999 UNTS 171 (entered into force March 23, 1976) [ICCPR]; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 993 UNTS 3 (entered into force January 3, 1976) [ICESCR]; Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1249 UNTS 13 (entered into force September 3, 1981) [CEDAW]; Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 1465 UNTS 85 (entered into force June 26, 1987) [CAT]; Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1577 UNTS 3 (entered into force September 2, 1990) [CRC]; and International Convention on Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, 2220 UNTS 93 (adopted December 18, 1990) [ICMRW].

117 Aly, 2013 WL 593420 at 9.

118 Hague Convention, at art. 13.

119 Custodio, 842 F.3d at 1087.

120 Elisa Perez-Vera, Explanatory Report, ¶ 30 (suggesting that children nearing age of 16 should usually have their desires to remain or objections to return to the place of their habitual residence respected); Custodio, 842 F.3d at 1088 (holding no abuse of discretion district court’s respecting 15-year-old child’s “opposition to returning to Peru and desire to remain in the United States”); Kofler v. Kofler, 2007 WL 2081712 (W.D. Ark. July 18, 2007) (finding children aged 11, 13 and 15 sufficiently mature to have their objections to return to be considered); Diaz Arboleda v. Arenas, 311 F. Supp. 2d 336, 343 (E.D.N.Y. 2004) (finding children of 12 and 14 years of age sufficiently mature to have their objections to return to be considered); and Antunez-Fernandes v. Connors-Fernandes, 259 F. Supp. 2d 800 (N.D. Iowa 2003) (finding that two children of age 4 and 7 had “not attained an age or degree of maturity to make it appropriate to take their views into account”); Avendano v. Balza, 985 F.3d 8, 13-14 (1st Cir. 2021) (concluding no clear error in district court’s determination that 11-year-old child was sufficiently mature to consider its objections to return to Venezuela where those objections were based on the “ongoing political and societal tumult” in Venezuela, and child’s decision appeared to have been “reached independently” and “free of undue influence by” father); cf. Forcelli v. Smith, 2020 WL 5015838  1, 10-11 (D. Minn. 2020) (finding despite 12-year-old child preferring not to return to mother in Germany, child’s preference might have been unduly influenced by father and others, child’s objections are not particularized, child previously preferred to stay with mother when living with her in Germany, and any other consideration on the issue would essentially be a “best interests” analysis as to whom is the better parent, which the Hague Convention prohibits);  Babcock, 2020 WL 7020293 at 11-12 (finding that, despite being 12 years of age, child’s reasons for wanting to stay with father in Iowa were too generalized, which included activities and situations already present in Canada, and child’s views were likely the product of undue influence by father and others because child’s idiomatic expressions that he used in Court mirrored his father’s).

121 Hague Convention, at art. 18.

122 Friedrich II, 78 F.3d at 1067 (citing Feder, 63 F.3d at 226).

123 Silverman v. Silverman, 267 F.3d 788, 791 (8th Cir. 2001); cfLeonard, 297 F. Supp. 3d at 900-901 (finding the use of court’s discretion to return child inapposite where father’s exercise of custody rights unaltered no matter if the children stayed in the United States or returned to Turkey, and that mother had not taken the children to the United States to seek a more sympathetic court in which to receive a more favorable custody determination).

124 22 U.S.C. § 9007(b). CfSilverman v. Silverman, 2004 WL 2066778 (D. Minn. 2004) (finding awarding any fees would be clearly inappropriate because it “would impair significantly [respondent’s] ability to care for [the] children” where respondent was then unemployed, had to support two households, had already paid extensive legal fees partially based on unnecessary litigation spurred by petitioner, and petitioner “ha[d] failed to provide timely and adequate financial support for the children;” also, the court factored petitioner’s physical and psychological abuse towards respondent); Vasquez, 2010 WL 3717298 (finding awarding any fees to be clearly inappropriate because of respondent’s “small salary”).

125 Mo. R. Prof’l Conduct 4-1.4.