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7-Year-Old Reunited With Father in International Abduction Case
Daily Business Review
A South Florida federal magistrate has reunited a boy with his Mexican father in a child abduction case where the Cuban mother fled to Miami.
The father, a resident of Puebla, Mexico, sought relief under the Hague Convention's Civil Aspect of International Child Abduction, to which both nations are a signator, after the mother violated a Mexican custody order that required the child, now 7, to stay in Mexico unless both parents and the Mexican foreign relations office consent.
Settlements such as the one that occurred in this case are very rare, said Rachel LeBlanc, the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., attorney who represented the father.
"The majority of these cases go to trial," LeBlanc said.
The couple was married in Cuba in 2001 but divorced in Mexico in 2009. On August 15, the mother called the father informing him she was in Miami with their child and would not return him.
The father flew to Miami and sought the aid of the Mexican consulate. He was advised to apply for assistance through the Hague Convention.
While the father went through legal channels, he paid to enroll the boy in a private school in Mexico.
LeBlanc, a partner at Shutts & Bowen, worked with two Miami associates, Vivian Bauza and Marcela Lozano. They agreed to take the father's case pro bono.
"These cases are very gratifying to take on, because we can help return children to their rightful homes and work to ensure their safety after their return," LeBlanc said.
South Florida is a hotbed for international abduction cases, LeBlanc said, "because of its location and ease with which people can acclimate.
"It's a melting pot region where people of many nationalities can fit in much more easily here than elsewhere," she said.
An agreed order issued March 19 by U.S. Magistrate Judge Edwin G. Torres allowed the child to fly back to Mexico the next day. It also provides the child shall travel to Florida for his 10-day winter break and 10-day spring break from school each year at the father's expense. The boy would also travel to see his mother for 10 days each summer beginning in 2014.
The order also requires the father to modify the Mexico custody agreement to conform with Torres' order.
Taking into account the animosity between the parents, Torres also required the boy should be allowed electronic communication with the absent parent, and father and mother "shall not disparage the other to (the son) or in (his) presence."
Shutts & Bowen, which has handled a number of Hague Convention child abduction matters, was referred to the case by the U.S. State Department. Child abduction cases proceed on an expedited basis in federal court, typically in a few months; this case was filed last December 4.
The international child abduction treaty seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of abduction and retention across international boundaries by providing a procedure to bring about their prompt return.
LeBlanc has handled all aspects of such cases for parents from many nations, including Venezuela, Mexico, Canada, Colombia and England.