HOW WE GOT HERE
As I said on CNN, "the term miscarriage of justice comes to mind."
Mom, the opposing party, filed a Hague Convention Petition in May, 2011.
The "Hague Convention" is the practitioner's short way of
identifying the Convention on International Child Abduction. There are
many Hague Conventions, but that is the one that we mean when we use that phrase.
Hague Convention is designed to return children to the country of their Habitual Residence
when a child has been removed from that country or is being retained in
a new country. Straight forward enough, right? If a parent snatches a
child from their home country, or at the conclusion of a visit to a new
country, refuses to allow the child to leave, the Hague Convention is
there to sort it all out and make it all right.
But in our case, neither of those scenarios applied.
The shortest way to tell the story is that Mom, a native and then resident
of Scotland decided in November, 2009, to reconcile with Dad, a native
and resident of the USA. Dad had just returned from 15 months in Afghanistan
and was now stationed at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. To everyone
Mom wrote and to everyone Mom spoke, she said she was moving to Alabama.
Mom arranged for the United States Army to move all her worldly possessions
from her place in Scotland to their place in Alabama.
In February, 2010, Mom and their daughter, who had just turned three and
had been living with Mom while Dad was deployed, arrived in Alabama.
Mom and Dad were volalite. During one argument, Mom threatened to take
the child away where Dad would never see her again. Dad filed for divorce,
sought an emergency hearing and removed the child's two passports,
one Scottish and one US (the child is a dual citizen) from the family safe.
By the next week when the Divorce Court heard the emergency hearing, Mom
and Dad had patched things up and told the Court they didn't need
a hearing. According to Mom, Dad kept the Scottish passport but returned
the US passport to the family safe. According to Dad, he put the Scottish
passport on a stack of papers in the garage. According to a letter Mom
wrote the Alabama Divorce Judge several months later, she had the passport
and she had a truck. If she had wanted to leave with the child, she could
have done so.
Weeks turned into months. Mom returned to Scotland to renew her 90 Visa,
writing friends at the end of her stay in Scotland that she was sorry
to leave Scotland but she was happy to be returning home to Alabama. Mom
applied for permanent residency in the US and took all but one of the
necessary steps to obtain residency.
The parties had not dismissed their divorce petition. When the Divorce
Court set it down for a hearing in September, 2010, the parties obtained
a continuance. When the Court set it down again in December, 2010, Mom
hired a local attorney to obtain a continuance so that the matter would
not go forward.
But on Christmas Eve, 2010, Mom's plan to live out the rest of her
life in the United States came to a screeching halt.
In September and again in early December, 2010, Mom had been arrested for
being publicly drunk. She had been out drinking, without Dad (he was home
putting the child to bed) and had gotten into an altercation with the
cab driver and, subsequently, the police officer who had to threaten to
shackle her to keep her from kicking him. I doubt this won the hearts
and minds of the local constabulary.
On Christmas Eve, Dad contends that he read the child to sleep and went
off to sleep himself only to awaken to find Mom in the bedroom with a
large kitchen knife, extremely intoxicated and threatening that Dad would
never make it out of the bedroom alive. Mom agrees that Dad read the child
to sleep as he did every night and went to bed himself. She denies that
she went to the bedroom with a knife. She admits that she was drinking,
at least a bottle of wine. The police who arrived on the scene found Mom
Mom was arrested. While in lockup, the police discovered that Mom had overstayed
her 90 day visa (she hadn't yet finished obtaining her permanent residence)
and notified the federal officials who held her until she was deported.
While awaiting deportation Mom wrote to Dad that she had messed up and
she wished she could stay in the United States.
When Mom arrived in Scotland, for the first time anywhere she contended
that she had been essentially held a prisoner in the United States by
Dad's taking the child's passports, preventing Mom from ever leaving the US.
Despite all the evidence above, and quite a bit more that I didn't
bring up, the trial judge bought Mom's 12th hour assertion and allowed
the child to be taken back to Scotland.
Dad had 45 minutes in a hotel parking lot with his little girl before Mom
whisked the child away and boarded the first international flight out
of Huntsville that she could find.
By the time the child was taken, she had lived in the United States for
18 months. The last 10 of those months, was with Dad alone.
As I said, a miscarriage of justice.
As bad as all of this was, "at least," you're thinking, "Dad
has a right to appeal. The Federal Circuit Court will review the trial
judge's bad ruling and fix all this, right?"
(To be continued...)