Big International Custody Case

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Child Custody on Friday, November 2, 2012.

In a big international child child custody case, a court ruled that a child taken by her mother to New York from London may stay in New York, over the objections of the father, and despite the mother and child’s lack of legal immigration status.

In 2009 Ms. Montoya Alvarez and her daughter left London to come to live in New York. On November 10, 2010, the father filed a Petition for Return of Child under Article 2 of the Hague Convention and the International Child Abduction Remedies Act. The father wanted an order that the child be returned to London to have a British court make a custody determination.

The trial court found that the father made a prima facie case of wrongful retention under the Hague Convention. However, the court denied the father’s petition to return the child to London. The mother asserted an affirmative defense under Article 12 of the Hague Convention that the child was “now settled” in New York.

The presumption under the Hague Convention is that a child must be returned to the state from which she originally was wrongfully removed unless: (1) one year has elapsed between the date of wrongful removal and the date proceedings commence; and (2) the child is found to be “now settled in its new environment.”

The father appealed, and argued that the “now settled” defense did not apply because the one-year period in Article 12 should have been tolled until he could have reasonably located his child. He also argued that the child was not settled in New York because the child and mother lacked legal immigration status.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeal held that (1) equitable tolling does not apply to the one-year period in the “now settled” defense and (2) a child’s immigration status should not be given controlling weight in determining whether the child is “now settled.”

The case makes it harder for foreign parents to win an international custody dispute. The Second Circuit’s Lozano v. Alvarez opinion can be read here.

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