Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Third Circuit Rules Child Wrongfully Detained under Hague Convention

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld the District Cout's decision in Yang v. Tsui, No. 06-3962, Filed: August 22, 2007.

In the decision the Court held that the Father in this case wrongfully retained custody of his five year old daughter in Pittsburgh after taking temporary physical custody of her while the mother had surgery and follow up treatment for a major medical condition at home in Canada.

The Court found that, Under the Hague Convention, four questions must be answered. A court must determine (1) when the removal or retention took place; (2) the child’s habitual residence immediately prior to such removal or retention; (3) whether the removal or retention breached the petitioner’s custody rights under the law of the child’s habitual residence; and (4) whether the petitioner was exercising his or her custody rights at the time of removal or retention.

In this case the court found that based on an analysis of these considerations the child in this case was wrongfully detained.

The determination by a court that a child was wrongfully removed or retained does not automatically mean that the child must be returned to his or her habitual residence. Rather, once the petitioner has proven his or her case, “the burden shifts to the respondent to prove an affirmative defense against the return of the child to the country of habitual residence.”

The father maintained that he proved the “wishes of the child” defense by a preponderance of the evidence and that the District Court abused its discretion by entering the order for Raeann to be returned to Canada despite such proof.

The Court found that the District Court did not err by refusing to apply the defense. Consequently, the order of the Distict Court was affirmed mandating that the child be returned to her mother in Canada.