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Lachhman v. Lachhman

November 20, 2008

ERIC LACHHMAN, PETITIONER,
v.
ROSEANNA LACHHMAN, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sifton, Senior Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Petitioner Eric Lachhman brings this petition against respondent Roseanna Lachhman pursuant to the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, done at The Hague on October 25, 1980 (the "Hague Convention"), T.I.A.S. No. 11,670, 19 I.L.M. 1501, see also Declaration of Kristina L. Pieper dated October 27, 2008 ("Pieper Decl."), Exhibit ("Ex.") B (copy of Hague Convention), as implemented in the United States by the International Child Abduction Remedies Act ("ICARA"), 42 U.S.C. § 11601 et seq. Presently before this Court is petitioner's request for an order directing the return of his daughter, C.L.*fn1 (the "child") to the country of her habitual residence under the Hague Convention. Upon the findings of fact and conclusions of law set forth below, the request is granted.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are derived from the petition and petitioner's affidavit submitted in connection with this action, as well as the evidentiary hearing held on November 12, 2008. Respondent has submitted no affidavit in connection with this matter and did not testify at the November 12, 2008 hearing.

Petitioner and respondent were married on June 20, 1999 in Guyana. Declaration of Eric Lachhman ("Lachhman Decl.") at ¶ 1; Marriage Certificate of Eric Lachhman and Roseanna Bacchus dated June 20, 1999, Petr's Hr'g Ex. 1. From August or September of 1999 until July of 2006, petitioner and respondent lived together at the same residence at 15A Craignish Avenue, London, England, which petitioner purchased approximately five years before meeting respondent. Lachhman Decl. ¶ 3. In 2003, the child was born to respondent and petitioner in Croydon, London, England. Id. ¶ 2; see also id. Ex. A (copy of child's redacted birth certificate).

On May 24, 2006, respondent filed for divorce. Id. ¶ 4. Petitioner states that his solicitors wrote to respondent's solicitors on several occasions concerning the divorce filing, but received no response. Id. To date, petitioner has received nothing beyond the divorce filing from either respondent or her lawyers, and I find and conclude that petitioner and respondent are still legally married. Id.

In July of 2006, petitioner and respondent agreed to separate, and petitioner moved out of 15A Craignish Avenue to live nearby with his parents in Camberwell, London. Id. ¶ 5. Respondent and the child continued to live at 15A Craignish Avenue until respondent took the child to the United States. Id. Respondent and petitioner agreed that the child would stay with petitioner on Saturdays and Sundays, and that petitioner could call the child throughout the week. Id. ¶ 6. Occasionally petitioner would pick up the child on Thursday evenings from her nursery school and return her to respondent on Sunday evening.

Petitioner states and I find that in England, the child was surrounded by family, including her paternal grandparents, an aunt and uncle, and two cousins, with whom she is close. Id. at ¶ 7. The child remains registered with her local general practitioner and health care providers in London, and still has a place in her nursery school program there. Id.; see also id. Ex. B (letter dated March 13, 2007 from doctor in Surrey, United Kingdom confirming that child is doctor's patient); id. Ex. C (letter dated February 26, 2007 confirming child's participation in nursery program in Norbury, United Kingdom since January 3, 2006, and noting date of last attendance as December 13, 2007).

Petitioner last saw and spoke to the child in the United Kingdom on October 22, 2006. Id. ¶ 8. After this date, respondent did not permit petitioner to pick the child up for her weekend visit, and forebade petitioner from talking with the child on the phone. Id. Petitioner contacted his attorney to attempt to regain contact with the child, and petitioner's attorney wrote to respondent on three occasions, with no response. Id.; see also id. Ex. D (letters dated November 14, 2006, December 12, 2006, and January 22, 2007, from counsel for petitioner to counsel for respondent and respondent directly, regarding arrangements for child to visit petitioner).

On December 15, 2006, a neighbor at the Craignish Avenue apartment informed petitioner that respondent had taken the child to the United States, and that respondent would no longer permit petitioner to see the child. Id. ¶ 9. Petitioner states that respondent had previously taken the child to the United States approximately six times with petitioner's knowledge, and that petitioner did not object to these trips as he wanted the child to form relationships with her maternal aunts, cousins and grandparents who reside here. Id. ¶¶ 9-10. However, petitioner did not agree to the child's permanent relocation to another country, and the child's recent removal to the United States was effected without his knowledge or consent. Id. ¶ 10.

On December 15, 2006, petitioner contacted the London police and explained that he believed that his daughter had been abducted by her mother. Id. ¶ 11. Detective Constable Rebecca Glenn of the International Child Abduction Unit explained to petitioner that under United Kingdom law, child abduction occurs when a child is absent for at least 28 days, which at that point had not yet elapsed. Id.

On January 20, 2007, the same neighbor at the Craignish Avenue apartment informed petitioner that he could hear movement in petitioner's apartment, which was above the neighbor's apartment, and that he thought respondent had returned from the United States. Id. ¶ 12. Petitioner called the apartment immediately and spoke to respondent, who said that she had left the child in the United States with respondent's sister because respondent was ill and could not care for the child in her condition. Id. Respondent told petitioner that she would bring the child back to the United Kingdom when respondent recovered. Id.

Petitioner informed Detective Constable Glenn of respondent's return and the child's continued abduction, and Detective Glenn contacted respondent. Id. ¶ 13. During the course of their conversation, Detective Glenn informed respondent that, under United Kingdom law, it is considered criminal abduction to remove a child from his or her residence for more than twenty-eight days without the consent of the other parent. Detective Glenn later advised petitioner that should respondent return to the United Kingdom, she will be arrested. Id.

Petitioner states that between January and February of 2007, he believed Detective Glenn was pursuing the abduction case, and that he was surprised to learn in late February that she had done nothing. Id. ¶ 14. Following an unfruitful meeting with Detective Glenn on February 24, 2007, petitioner sought legal assistance. Id. While searching for a solicitor competent in child abduction matters, petitioner states that ReUnite*fn2 contacted him and advised him to complete a Hague Convention Application. Id. ΒΆ 16. Petitioner compiled the requisite supporting documents and ...


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