The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHIN
Marie-Eline, age 7, and Francois, age 2, are the children of petitioner Felix Blondin and respondent Merlyne Marthe Dubois. Last August, Dubois removed the two children from their home in France and brought them to the United States, without their father's knowledge or consent. Blondin, a French national, petitions this Court for the return of his two children to France pursuant to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, Oct. 25, 1980, 19 I.L.M. 1501 (the "Convention"), and its implementing legislation in the United States, the International Child Abduction Remedies Act, 42 U.S.C. § 11601 et seq. ("ICARA").
I conducted hearings in this case on June 19, 22, 24, and 29, 1998. I heard testimony from Blondin, Dubois, and Marie-Eline. After due consideration of all the evidence and the arguments of the parties, I find by clear and convincing evidence that there is a "grave risk" that return of the children to France would "expose" them to "physical or psychological harm or otherwise place [them] in an intolerable situation." Convention, Art. 13b. Accordingly, the petition is denied. My findings of fact and conclusions of law follow.
Dubois, a 44-year old French citizen, met Blondin in the summer of 1990 in Guadaloupe. They were both living in France at the time; Blondin was in Guadaloupe on vacation and Dubois was there to attend her father's funeral. They became intimate and started living together in France, although they did not marry. (6/29/98 Tr. 23-25, 57).
In 1991, Marie-Eline was born in Paris. Blondin and Dubois continued to live together in Paris, with Marie-Eline as well as Dubois's son by a prior relationship, Crispin, who was approximately 16 years old at the time. (Id. at 24-25, 31-32). Starting in 1991, Blondin often hit or beat Dubois, sometimes when she was holding Marie-Eline, and often when he had been drinking. (Id. at 25-29). As Dubois described the beatings:
Yes, he would beat me with the child on me sometimes. . . .
He would beat me when the child was on me so she too would get blows. He beat me with the child on me, when I had the child on me.
(Id. at 27-28). Marie-Eline confirmed that her father hit her mother, sometimes with a belt (id. at 17-18), and she testified that "he spit on my mommy too." (Id. at 15). Blondin also screamed at and frequently hit Marie-Eline, sometimes also with a belt. (Id. at 11).
At some point in 1992, Blondin took a piece of electrical cord and twisted it around Marie-Eline's neck, threatening to kill her and Dubois. (Id. at 28-29). The next day, Dubois left Blondin, taking Marie-Eline and Crispin and moving to a shelter for battered women. (Id. at 29). After about two weeks, Blondin came to get them, and they went home with him. (Id. at 31).
In 1993, Dubois and Marie-Eline left Blondin again, going to another shelter for battered women, Structure de Meres et Enfants. (Id. at 32-34). They eventually moved to a different shelter, Foyer Amitie, where they stayed for approximately eight or nine months. (Id. at 34-35). Because of his age, Crispin was taken to a different shelter for young adults. (Id. at 36).
At some point in 1993, Blondin commenced a proceeding in the French courts to obtain custody of Marie-Eline. In December 1993, the proceedings were resolved as Blondin and Dubois reconciled. (Id. at 36-39, 41-42). The English translation of an October 7, 1997 order of a French court summarized the results of the 1993 proceedings as follows: "parental authority [over Marie-Eline] was granted to both parents jointly, the principal residence of the child being with the father, and the mother having visiting and sheltering rights." Dubois and Blondin started living together again. (Id. at 42). She became pregnant again, and their son, Francois, was born in August 1995. (Id. at 42-43).
Unfortunately, the beatings and threats did not stop. (Id. at 42-46, 55-56). In March and June 1995, while she was pregnant, Dubois saw doctors for injuries inflicted by Blondin. In one examination, the doctor found a cutaneous excoriation near her right eye, hematomas on the left arm and forearm, and hematomas on both breasts. The doctor noted that Dubois reported that she had been beaten by her husband on June 21, 1995. On an earlier occasion, a different doctor reported that Dubois complained of being hit in the face by her husband on March 19, 1995. This doctor found localized edema of the lower right maxilla and noted that Dubois complained of headaches. (DX D).
After Francois was born, Blondin continued to beat Dubois in front of the children and he often threatened to "kill everyone." (6/29/98 Tr. 45). Once, he threatened to throw Francois out the window. (Id. at).
In August 1997, Dubois left Blondin again, taking the children and coming to the United States. She explained why she did this:
Because Felix was worse and worse and worse. He would beat me very often, be angry all the time, always yelling, screaming. The children could not sleep, they were getting nightmares. They would wake up many times at night.
(Id. at 49). Dubois took the children and left France without Blondin's knowledge or consent; indeed, she forged his signature to a document to get a passport for the children. (Id. at 61-63).
In France, Dubois and the children were supported financially by Blondin. Although Dubois had some funds of her own at some point, those funds are gone. (Id. at 67-69). Since August 1997, Dubois and the children have been supported by and living with her family, including her ...