Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Hague Convention: Brazilian Style

Tim Weinstein has taken the plunge and put pen to paper and here is the third in his series of articles on the Hague Convention and Brazil born from his personal experience with the process but let us be clear - "experience with the process"?

The reality for Tim is his children have been retained in Brazil for almost 3 years and the emotional loss and separation,feelings of despair and bewilderment even when the relationship with his children is strong is still more than many can bear compounded by the frustration with uncaring, insensitive bureaucrats plentiful wherever you wish to look.

Hague Convention: Brazilian Style
by Timothy Weinstein

In August, 2006, when my two children were illegally retained in Brazil, I was comforted by the fact that the Hague Convention on the International Aspects of Child Abduction had entered into force between Brazil and the United States nearly 3 years earlier in December, 2003. The Convention, having the same legal standing as an international treaty, has been accepted by 81 countries since its drafting in 1980. Article 2 of the Convention states that, 

“Contracting States[countries] shall take all appropriate measures to secure within their territories the implementation of the objects of the Convention. For this purpose they shall use the most expeditious procedures available.”

It further establishes the goal in Article 11 that a child be returned within six weeks from the date of commencement of the proceedings. With this in mind, I dutifully filed my petition through the Department of State, fully expecting to have my children back quickly.

A treaty is like a contract and there are several fundamental principles relevant to treaty law. 

The first is best expressed by the Latin phrase, pacta sunt servanda - in English, pacts must be respected. The second, according to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, states that "every treaty in force is binding upon the parties to it and must be performed by them in good faith." With this comes the implication that a party to a treaty cannot utilize provisions within its domestic laws as justification for a failure to comply with the terms of the treaty. In the United States, an international treaty is second only to the constitution.
According to Article 3 of the Convention,

"The removal or the retention of a child is to be considered wrongful where 
    a) it is in breach of rights of custody attributed to a person, an institution or any other body, either jointly or alone, under the law of the State in which the child was habitually resident immediately before the removal or retention; and
    b) at the time of removal or retention those rights were actually exercised, either jointly or alone, or would have been so exercised but for the removal or retention

The left-behind, or requesting, parent will often obtain a local court order to establish that these conditions existed at the time of abduction and then attach this order as evidence for the petition. Like most requesting parents, I obtained a court order and attached it to my petition.
Article 12 very clearly outlines the procedure that a Contracting State(country) must follow when faced with a petition under the Convention,

"Where a child has been wrongfully removed or retained in terms of Article 3 and, at the date of the commencement of the proceedings before the judicial or administrative authority of the Contracting State where the child is, a period of less than one year has elapsed from the date of the wrongful removal or retention, the authority concerned shall order the return of the child forthwith."

It would seem that getting one's child back from a country that is a signatory to the Hague Convention is a black and white issue. In most countries, it is; however, not so in Brazil.

Paraphrasing from Article 13, a return order may be refused, if the court believes that:
 a) the child would be exposed to a "grave risk of physical or psychological harm" or put "in an intolerable situation" if sent home; or
 b) the child "objects to being returned" and is old and mature enough to have his or her views taken into account. 

A provision of Article 12 however, is often also cited by Brazilian courts as reason to refuse issuing a return order. This provision, which states that,

"The judicial or administrative authority, even where the proceedings have been commenced after the expiration of the period of one year referred to in the preceding paragraph, shall also order the return of the child, unless it is demonstrated that the child is now settled in its new environment." 

This was cited in the case of David Goldman, when in October, 2005, the Federal Court recognized that although his son had clearly been abducted, because more than one year had passed since the date of abduction and the date of ruling, the child was to remain in Brazil. A correct interpretation is that a court may only invoke this provision of Article 12 if the requesting parent waited more than one year to commence proceedings, clearly not the case for Mr. Goldman.
In clear violation of Article 16, which states:

"After receiving notice of a wrongful removal or retention of a child in the sense of Article 3, the judicial or administrative authorities of the Contracting State to which the child has been removed or in which it has been retained shall not decide on the merits of rights of custody until it has been determined that the child is not to be returned under this Convention or unless an application under this Convention is not lodged within a reasonable time following receipt of the notice."

The US Department of State noted in its 2008 Report on Compliance with the Hague Convention,

"The USCA notes several instances during FY 2007 in which Brazilian courts treated Convention cases as custody decisions, rather than applying the principles of wrongful removal and retention laid out in the Convention." 

Furthermore, many cases end up in local, rather than federal courts. Not only is this in clear violation of the treaty itself, but also with the principles of treaties in general. As a result, the Department of State gave Brazil a failing grade in the category of Judicial Performance.
These are not the only examples however, of how the Brazilian judicial system has failed to properly implement the Hague Convention. 

Ask Ariel Ayubo whose son was abducted in August, 2004. Since then, he has had 13 judges assigned to his case. According to Mr. Ayubo, it appears that no judge wants to make a ruling on this issue and simply passes it off to the next judge after 3 months. Alessandra Oliveira is now on the third judge since her two children were abducted in December, 2007. Manuel Bordaty, whose three children were abducted in March, 2007, has a different story (see www.hatufim.org). Although his case has not changed judges, he has been waiting nearly two years to even have his day in court. Kelvin Birotte's son was abducted in April, 2006 and although the judge heard his case in March, 2008, he is still waiting for a ruling. 

Taking a page from my own case, the judge ordered a psychological evaluation of my children in March, 2008. The psychologist performed the evaluation in November, 2008 and presented her report to the judge's secretary in January, 2009. The secretary, sensing the need to act "expeditiously", handed the report to the judge a mere 17 days later. I think that Francois Larivee, whose child has been in Brazil since 2004 best stated the situation with this quote, "When will the Supreme Court  make a final decision? 2009? 2010? 2020?" Some left-behind parents even expressed the suspicion that the judges intentionally delay just so they can then apply (albeit improperly) Article 12 as previously discussed in this article.
What would it take for Brazil to get their act together? Maybe they should follow the lead of the Manitoba Court System in Canada. In 2007, they adopted a standard procedure for Hague Convention cases and published it for the world to see. It would be nice if things were this simple in Brazil; unfortunately, they're not. With this, I'll leave all newly left-behind parents with one piece of advice, "Take a number and get in line, because it will be a long and frustrating wait."
For further information about the Hague Convention and it problems, please go to:

© Timothy Weinstein 2009

All rights reserved – fair use and reproduction in full or in part allowed with full attribution to author and publisher

Friday, April 24, 2009

International Child Abductions Are a Two-Way Street - US Compliance is Not a Rule But an Exception!

This article is written as a counterpoint to those written by fellow contributor, Tim Weinstein - the views are my own and given in a spirit of education and awareness with a positive outlook on improving matters for children and parents subject to international child abductions of which there are many today and many more to come.

The Sean Goldman case has catapulted the issue of international child abduction into the public eye, particularly in the United States from where the little boy was abducted by his mother to Brazil. The subsequent death of the mother and continued retention of Sean Goldman by his stepfather, a noted Brazilian lawyer specializing in Hague Convention cases has sparked an international controversy between the two countries.

Much has been made of the lack of compliance by the Brazilian authorities with the Hague Convention as well as numerous and repeated findings of non-compliant behavior of Brazil and other Hague Convention signatories the United States has partnered with.

Little has been noted of the record of non-compliance of the United States.

International child abduction is an emotive and divisive issue with tempers and attitudes rapidly polarized along nationalistic lines but the road runs two ways; children are abducted to the United States as much as are abducted from it so what happens when positions are reversed and a child is abducted to the major signatory and advocate of the Hague Convention?

First of all the accurate answer is nothing happens.

Abducting a child to the US is not a criminal offence here; there is no legislation making it unlawful or a criminal offence as abducting a child out of the US provides through federal legislation such as the International Parental Kidnapping Act. The only recourse a left-behind parent has is to initiate the Hague Convention for the return of the child or to follow the domestic process here in the United States.

US Hague Convention 90% return record

Then Assistant Secretary of State Maura Harty testified to Congress that approximately 90% of children abducted to the United States are returned. Despite numerous enquiries and requests for evidence to support this staggering statistic, the US Department of State has never produced any evidence to back up this golden glowing record. The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has repeatedly criticized the Office of Childrens Issues for its performance even going as far as describing it as a "dysfunctional office".


Professor Nigel Lowe is a researcher and lecturer at Cardiff Law School, UK and has compiled a comparative study of return rates amongst Hague Convention signatories. The United States is ranked as average with a meager return rate of 52% but this is still a long way from the truth as many abductions fail to be treated as Hague Convention cases simply because of the manner in which they are classified or the inability to use the treaty in the United States. It is conceivable, though a stretch, that the return rate may not be 90% but closer to 10%; wherever the true figure lies it is a lot less than is claimed which begs the questions, what is the United States actually doing and where are all the millions of US taxpayers dollars actually getting spent?

Invoking the Hague Convention in the US

A left-behind parent has their child taken to the United States; what do they do?

Cry, tremble, suffer shock and disbelief, experience depression, anger and helplessness and much, much more.

Ask David Goldman what it feels like. Ask any parent in this situation.

When the mind has cleared sufficiently to act, the police are called or the lawyers as surely there must be a law somewhere which will cause the machinery to turn and swoop into action to recover and return the child? If a left-behind parent is fortunate, they learn of the Hague Convention and invoke it; an application is filed with the Central Authority which for the US is the Office of Childrens Issues in the US Department of State. Form filling and international correspondence will follow and assuming you know where the child is, lawyers can be retained and a Hague application filed and served on the abducting parent.

A US court will hear the case and order a return and the matter then is transferred back to the country from which the child has been abducted and all within the 6 weeks allotted by the Hague Convention standards for which Brazil has been rightly and thoroughly castigated.

A sad episode with a happy ending; except this is rarely seen in practice.

Though the Hague Convention is ratified by the US it is second in authority to the US Constitution which requires the due process of law; though Hague Convention proceedings are summary in nature, that is, you get into court, have a hearing and get a ruling almost immediately (a few days in any event), this simply cannot happen in practice - US Hague Convention proceedings can take many months creating even more strain on the left-behind parent financially and emotionally leading to collapse of the effort to recover their child - in legal parlance it is known by the misnomer, "acquiescence".

The legal delays do not cease there as the US Constitution dominates the Hague Convention leading to issues of constitutional law being considered when in fact, establishing which country has jurisdiction and sending the child to that jurisdiction BEFORE domestic legislation is applied was the intent of the treaty.

A pro-American parent bias is seen repeatedly in such cases, demonstrated by the US authorities (including the State Department) as well as the US courts, even though the American parent is the abductor and ultimately leading to serious injustices and repercussions for the child in question and the reputation for American parents subsequently traveling overseas and asking foreign courts to give them their child back.

The Hague Convention in Practice

First of all, the United States as the dominant advocate for this international treaty and with the most to gain or lose from its implementation, is one of only a handful of countries which reserved on a major treaty requirement designed to make it work.

The United States will not pay legal fees or provide legal representation for the left-behind parent invoking the Hague Convention in the United States.

The United States does not provide for legal representation unlike most of its treaty partners; for instance, a parent coming to the United Kingdom invoking the Hague Convention is required to pay nothing for legal representation or any other legal costs - they are borne in full by the UK taxpayer. Even much-maligned Brazil provides a mechanism to provide left-behind parents no-cost legal representation coming to that country and invoking the Hague Convention (though many left-behind parents and observers question what use representation is in a "rigged game" of a Brazilian court).

Not so for a foreign parent coming to the US and with a Hague Convention hearing costing from $30,000 and upwards to hundreds of thousands in legal fees and costs, what use is the treaty in the US if most left-behind parents simply do not have the financial legs to pay for it?

The question is rhetorical - in truth many cases are never heard and the US abductor succeeds because the Hague Convention is never invoked due to the cost involved. This also results in far less abductions being classified as such and helps to depress the return rates claimed by the United States even further though by how much, no-one knows or at least, the Department of State is not saying. Though the US cannot be said to be non-compliant in this respect, after all they have reserved on this condition, the practical impact is to render the treaty beyond the reach of the majority of left-behind parents seeking the return of their children abducted to America.

This begs another question: how serious is the US government in really tackling international child abduction if the major tool to thwart it has been emasculated?

Concerns with State Department Staff Conduct

There are two main concerns regarding State Department staff - concern with the level of instances of US passport issuance to minors overseas resulting in abductions to the US, and secondly, serious concerns regarding the probity and honesty of staff at the US Central Authority.

Issuing a US passport to a child overseas is not as uncommon as you may initially think. Many children are born overseas to American parents and so qualify through their parents for US citizenship and a US passport. Many US residents in the UK for instance, have made their home overseas and married or cohabit with a British citizen; children result naturally and by they are entitled to dual citizenship of both countries - a situation replicated around the world.

Issuing a US passport to a child overseas requires the consent of both parents, American and foreign; this is a provision enacted in legislation specifically to prevent the abduction of children from overseas to the US. In practice, it is simply and conveniently by-passed by several exceptions used by overseas consular staff when considering issuing a US passport - the most notable one is the exception where there is "a credible pattern of domestic violence"; but what constitutes a credible pattern and what constitutes domestic violence?

These are matters for a consular officer to decide based on one parent's claims (the American parent) with no hearing or notice to the other side (notably the foreign parent) - a simple claim of domestic violence or simply a claim of being in fear have resulted in issuance of US passports to children who then have been abducted from their homes to the US.

This issue persists to this day and getting it unblocked is problematical as upon being removed to the US the left-behind foreign parent, already painted by the State Department as an "abuser" must get the same US agency to implement the Hague Convention to return the children so removed.

There is a clear conflict of interests within the State Department - they are gatekeepers and protectors but control who gets entry to the US and who can and will be allowed to find and seek the return of children abducted with the assistance of their own officials.

Misconduct of US Government Officials and a Culture of Ignorance

Mistakes will happen with any organization - it is human nature to make mistakes but to continually make mistakes upon learning of the error moves beyond the realm of human error and into misconduct and eventually criminal conduct. Has the State Department made mistakes? Of course, this is understandable but what happens when a mistake is made and identified?

In 2007, a child born in the United States to a Swedish mother and American father was taken from the US to Sweden; the mother claimed she had been deserted by the father and had no job or means of support. Several months later the American father realizing what had happened invokes the Hague Convention and the Swedish court ordered the return of the child to America - at this point it is important to note that Sweden has a long history of non-compliance with the Hague Convention as far as the US Department of State is concerned.

The child back in America with the American dad - a success?

Except certain matters start to come to light.

The father did not travel to Sweden either for the proceedings or to collect the child for return to America - the reason kept quiet was he could not get a US passport because he was a wanted felon with a lengthy criminal history and is barred from having a US passport as a consequence. For several weeks after return to the US the child lives with the father in a car!

Eventually, the father, a convicted rapist and drug dealer abandons the child with another girlfriend who contacts the Swedish mother who duly comes, collects the child and returns to Sweden - the then 3 year old child reportedly saying, "Hands up mother*******!" given the number of times the home he stayed at had been raided by the US police.

Moves to have the child returned again appear to have fizzled out but why was this child put through such an ordeal in the very first instance and why was the child not properly protected in America?

Emily Rose Hindle was removed from the UK in February 2003 with the assistance of a US passport issued in London; police reports across the United States and filed subsequently, demonstrate State Department officials were involved in removing the child and hiding her in America claiming her British father was an abuser and not to know where his child was in the US.

The child was voluntarily returned to the UK after the British court seized jurisdiction only for a team leader, Barbara Greig to file a Hague Convention application claiming abduction from Florida and that state had jurisdiction based on 6 months residency of the mother. The High Court in London accepted this claim during Hague Convention proceedings and duly sent the child to Florida for custody hearings to take place and conditional upon the child receiving medical treatment for a condition rendering her blind in one of her eyes.

No medical treatment was forthcoming and while proceedings were filed in Florida the British father could not access the legal process firstly because Ms Greig arranged for his visas to be denied to come to court or for visitation with the child and when he was successful, requested and successfully arranged his arrest and deportation by US immigration services - after the American court found he was not a danger, not violent and the American mother was making false allegations dismissed no less than 7 times by the court.

Subsequently it was also discovered that far from living in Florida for the 6 months required the mother had been in Florida for 6 weeks - there had been no jurisdiction and therefore no abduction by the British father, the entire Hague Convention proceedings being a fraud by the mother and the US government official now keeping the father out of the country and away from his child and the American court.

The child subsequently disappeared to become classified as missing and endangered and upon being discovered in Kansas, depositions taken of witness living with the mother testified to Ms Greig being in contact with them and the mother while she was in hiding and helping conceal the mother and child from the Floridian court. The child became permanently blinded while the efforts of Ms Greig delayed court proceedings for 5 years resulting in the child settling with the American parent and effectively destroying the parental relationship with the British father - the child now calls another man "Daddy" and has lost her family and heritage - a prime goal of international child abductors.

Notwithstanding the lack of jurisdiction, the lack of medical treatment, the efforts of the mother to adopt the child out and into the care of a convicted pedophile not the serious issues confronting the child or the claims of the American judge claiming to be a "provincial who does not do the Hague Convention" the child remains in Florida and is unlikely to see her home and family again.

Why Does this Matter to American Parents?

This matters for American parents seeking the return of children abducted to these countries - Scott McIntyre had his daughter Lili abducted to the UK but could not meet the requirements of the British High Court which included getting a ruling from the state from which the child was allegedly abducted. The child's home state did not understand what it was being asked to do and issued an order stating it had no jurisdiction because the child was no longer in its jurisdiction - the High Court accepted this and struck out the Hague proceedings keeping the child in the UK.

The High Court now purposely requests such jurisdictional rulings of US courts as a matter or routine to avoid the fraud previously perpetrated upon it with Emily Rose Hindle and the State Department - this costs more time, more money and increases the uncertaintly for American parents.

Increasingly, foreign jurisdictions distrust the agencies involved here in the US when it comes to returning a child - the history of returns of children leading to the children not being protected or fair proceedings being denied in the US either by visa difficulties, unfairness or ignorance in an American court room or simple lack of enforcement for existing orders and conditions has created a poor perception and reputation for the US - American parents must work even harder to overcome this when asking for their children back.


Mistakes of the Past Must Not Haunt the Future


With a change in administration at the White House and a promise of more open, more responsible government time will certainly tell but for hundreds and thousands of foreign parents dealing with international custody issues within the United States, change will come too late to make any substantive difference to the shattering of their families.


Let us be clear - what has been done cannot be undone however, the future is fat with international child abductions yet to occur and given the nature of international relationships, all are in agreement - the rate of abductions will increase.


Abductions are a two way street both into and out of the United States - the track record of the US in handling both instances is lamentable, particularly for abductions into the country.  Today is another day and we must look to the future and seek to improve matters for all concerned.  The Department of State is not the appropriate agency to be handling these cases - diplomacy and ignorance are a dangerous mix to confront for when the government is wrong and the citizen right, then the citizen beware!


The Department of Justice has long asked for the remit for incoming and outgoing abduction cases; a claim vigorously fought off by the State Department but this would be a step in the right direction for many children, parents and respect for international law which ranks only second in authority to the Constitution of the United States and bottom of the ladder in the expedient minds of State Department officials with their own agenda.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Day in Court with Kim Banister and My Day in the Court of Appeal

Rewind to Last Friday

I drove through the night from Richmond, Virginia through North Carolina, South Carolina, a whole lot of Georgia and finally into northern Florida brushing the Atlantic until I arrived at New Smyrna Beach just in time for sunrise on Friday morning.

I watched with a coffee and cigarette while a couple pulled up in their big car and cuddled while doing the same as me - I thought I should give them some privacy and left them to the sunrise.

A father who had contacted me about his own situation was in court before Judge Rowe (our new judge replacing Judge Doyle) and his ex had Kim Banister as her attorney too - I decided to join him firstly, because it was an opportunity to take a look at Judge Rowe and secondly, to give some support to a fellow parent-in-distress.

No names on this as Kim seemed to take umbrage at my presence - I was there to harass her client - someone I've never met and am unlikely to.

We all laughed at this - it's pathetic but don't laugh too hard!

Kim is an attorney primarily dedicated to acting for indigent mothers (and not so indigent but what the heck - the taxpayer is footing the bill so come on board one and all) I believe the run of the mill mantra is "Harassment, Fear, Intimidation" and it is quoted in any situation Kim doesn't like - don't belittle this strategy because it works as often as not.

Not in this instance though as Kim was adamant I was not to be allowed into the court room - it's a public forum came the response - I think Kim is a little rattled with not having her own way and a new judge.

How do I feel having my ex's attorney rattled?

Smugly ambivalent - what she does is none of my business all I focus on is the next step and planning playing chess in the jungle (sorry the legal process) but nice to see her reacting to me and not vice versa.

Speaking of which - Judge Rowe - hard to assess him at this stage, His Honor was polite and dignified and unlike Judge Doyle made no move to stop each side presenting their case. I felt he should have exercised more control over the proceedings - Kim has a habit of fillibustering when you are on a set allocated amount of time - I'll be watching for that when it's my turn with Judge Rowe and as Kim appears to have become a reader of my blog, now you know why I was there Kim ;)

The dad in this case is understandably ticked off - he hasn't seen his kids for a year and here he is trying to jemmy something out of his ex while the evening before his dad has been rushed to hospital and kept in.

Of course he's running hot under the collar but I told him what I tell everyone else - put your fists in your pocket, shut your mouth and stick your chin out.

After lunch at the Brickhouse and sweet iced tea and a pep talk from yours truly on "Keep your mouth shut!", he picked his kids up; I watched from a distance as they were dropped off and his son first hugged his dad but it was his daughter who made an impression on me - she just ran up to him and almost bowled him over - a far cry from the daughter who was supposed to never want to see him again. You cannot look at something like that and ignore the love involved - why that little girl had been denied contact with the dad she clearly loves and clearly missed is not sad, it is uncivilized, wholly avoidable and yet commonplace.

It is the currency of Kim Banister's world which is why I feel sorry for her and a great deal of pity.

I watched dad and sprogs drive off without a hitch - it felt good to see and I thought of Emily as I enjoyed another coffee and my last cigarette.

Come Back to Today

Today in Edgewater, it is a hot sunny morning with a cool breeze drifting in over the ocean and with a full tummy after breakfast with Rob Skelton (who had his daughter, Marissa Joy abducted to Spain) I am back with Ariel Ayubo and in search of coffee (Ariel and I met in Washington DC and he has his son retained in Brazil). Both fathers here in Volusia County and both relying on the Hague Convention to bring their children home to a court where Judge Doyle claims,

"Here in this county we're provincials, we don't do the Hague Convention!"

"Prat!" one wag exclaimed when he heard that.  "Horses Ass!" was another.

Thank God he's been sin binned to small claims court and out of family court - he can do less damage there and then only to a bank balance and not a family.

Today, my day will comprise of going through the record sent up to the Court of Appeal in Daytona and making sure my index of papers is correct and properly matched so I can start writing up my initial brief for the appeal.

At the same time I have to get back to the court in DeLand because it is time to get some hearing time for the court to consider sentencing Sheila for her criminal contempt.

What an appalling thought - I'm asking for the mother of my child to be imprisoned - but what else can I do, Emily is more important than my feelings and if the court had stepped up to the plate and straightened her out years ago we wouldn't be in this mess today.

I'm looking forward to getting done and heading home as much as the sun and beach look inviting, there is just too much else to do but for my parent-in-arms in Alaska, I hope you enjoyed your time and so did the kids.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

5th District Court of Appeal - Motion Granted Mr Hindle

Hearing the flap of the mailbox this afternoon I checked to see what missives had arrived.

One looked radioactive replete with "FLORIDA FIFTH DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL" stamped across it - I poked it with a stick and as it wasn't breathing I proceeded to open it at arms length.

It was a response to a motion to supplement the record to which the opposition objected.

Blah, blah, blah - then - motion granted.


Working pro se (meaning without a lawyer) is daunting but not impossible (just impractical) - it feels like Daniel being fed to the lions though as yet, I have not had the opportunity to represent myself in court and is a delight I guess will be waiting for me down the road.

Bottom line - my motion has been granted - the appeal is on and a stack of evidence is in - including medical records and the Hague order for Emily to receive the medical treatment which has been ignored for so long.

Now how do you like them apples!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What was it like to see my kid after 3 years?

I was asked this question a couple of days ago and it is one I have had turning over in my mind since seeing Emily again after 3 years.

Really though, the question must be what was it like for Emily after not seeing her dad for 3 years - it's all too easy to slip into how this affects you as the parent and if not forget the child, forget they have been put into the situation you are in.

I'm not going to say visitation went well because I don't think it did go well; but this masks the simple delight in spending time with someone you love very much after such a separation.  Stripping out the extraneous matters - Sheila and Paul the gorilla boyfriend, being threatened and having a cloud of fear and apprehension hanging over your head, then what you are left with is Emily and her infectious giggling and laughing.

Judge Doyle got one thing right - "Children do as they're damn well told!" - and after the two of us had gotten past the, "You're Karl, Paul is my daddy!" phase, Emily settled down very quickly and was busy smacking me on the butt because I was too busy tickling her while playing Dad and Daughter tag in the hotel - something I remember doing with my nan when I would run and "hide" under the newly made bed covers or behind the sofa after sticking a clothes peg on my sleeping grandfather's nose :)

The emotions for both of us, bottled up for so long were all present in super concentrated dosage; looking at the pair of us playing, walking along the beach, chatting with hotel reception or messing around at the Waffle Shoppe diner, you would not have known we had not seen each other for so long.

Emily is my little girl and at 7 years of age, she knows I'm her Daddy; she cannot openly say she loves me, nor during her time with me did she bring herself to say it except for one occasion while when it was time to go back to mom, her demeanour changed automatically as the situation did - Children do as they're damn well told, and Emily it is clear, has been told how to behave with me by her mom and no doubt, others around her.

But when she's with me and away from these influences, she's free to be daddy's little girl and she knows it but is like a caged animal when being released - the cage door is opened and there is that short period of disbelief that you're really free to leave which as soon as the moment is seized results in elated scampering and enjoyment of freedom.

What was it like to see Emily after 3 years?

An utterly unbelievable and extremely happy time tainted by the fear of Sheila and her boyfriend.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

AnteBellum Addendum

There are times when something has to happen which slaps me square across the face; not a love tap or a splash of cold water in the morning but a serious smack which jolts the senses and conscience and makes you check for blood.

The time with Emily has been a warm electrified blanket and the week after has been horrible with putrid reflection.

I wish I had the backbone to quit but I don't; the Queen and my nan made me a far too stubborn (or hard) a character for that to happen

My last post seems to have struck a nerve with readers who feel my message was I was giving up.

It's not the case.  

The title belies my intent - Antebellum - the term given to the period immediately prior to the American Civil War.  In conversations with my attorney in Florida, I made it clear I believed we had to get past Judge Doyle and the Florida trial (which took 5 years) - clearly there was to be no relief for anything of substance, particularly getting treatment to stop Emily from losing her eye.  

What this has done is establish rights which have been abused and it is this abuse, continuing abuse, which must now be dealt with.

I was sent a note expressing outrage at Emily calling "Paul", Sheila's latest boyfriend, "Daddy" - they were not happy (neither am I) but they suggested I should insist on Emily calling me Father.  I don't reject that but I am absolute nevetheless; I am Emily's Daddy and I always will be - no man (or mother or State Department official or judge) will encroach on Emily's perogative to have her real Daddy.

How some parents "acquiesce" is not beyond me, but I'll be damned if I will - Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of Bellum - in the most civilised sense of the phrase and as Margaret Thatcher almost said,

The man is not for turning!

Thursday, April 09, 2009


Sitting in North Carolina after a couple of days driving and deliberating on matters.

Finally, I got to see Emily after 3 years and we had what was a happy time but also deeply disturbing and for both Patsy and I, at times frightening.

Firstly, we arrived in Panama City full of expectation only to be confronted by a brute of a man in the shape of "Paul"; Sheila's current boyfriend, who burst into near hysteria with what he was going to do with me and so on - apparently I like hitting women - and Emily is right there when this kicks off.

Sheila sits and smiles - she's wound the poor bugger up and now his testosterone is kicking in and he wants to give me a good kicking as a consequence - consequence for her if he does - nothing!

I left as soon as I could skidaddle out of there with Emily in tow only to look round and this ape is now giving the same treatment out to Patsy.

Patsy rejoins us and we get back to the hotel - surprise, surprise - "Paul" claims to be a policeman!

Shades of Volusia County Sherriff and Captain Osowski spring to mind - Florida law enforcement have a particular breed of brute which populates their ranks - walking hard-ons with badges and guns - the best policing a blowjob can buy.

The week passes by trying to make the connection with each other - a deeply conflicted little girl who calls you "Karl" because you are not "Dad"; that's Paul these days because Mom says "We both love him very much."

A deeply curious little girl who is full of questions - why did you hurt mom, the judge says you have to go when you see me, why are you a bad man?

I'm buggered if I know the answers to give under the circumstances, I've never really understood how deeply and truly evil this parental alienation stuff can really get nor how easy it is to perform without any repercussion from anyone.

Maybe my name is Lucifer!

Now I have seen Emily, something I've worked bloody hard to achieve for so long, I ask myself the question, 

"Why do I feel so utterly depressed and so exhausted I'm seriously questioning whether I should just walk away and concentrate on the family I can be a part of?"

Then I look at this:

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Untangling the Bureaucracy of International Child Abduction

Untangling the Bureaucracy of International Child Abduction

Timothy Weinstein

You have probably heard the story of David Goldman and his 5 year battle to bring home his son, Sean, who was abducted to Brazil from the United States. 

Browsing the principal website on this case, BringSeanHome.org and the Forums within will soon show there are over 50 active cases that fall under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction involving children taken from the United States to Brazil.  Behind this obscene number of cases there are the children and behind them, a bewildering array of acronyms used to describe the multitude of agencies that a left-behind parent must navigate.

The Hague Convention entered into force in the United States on July 1, 1988, and entered into force with Brazil on December 1, 2003. This article is designed to help you untangle this maze so that you will have a more complete understanding as you read through the postings in the Forums on Sean and David’s website but also of the tortuous bureaucracy that has grown around the Hague Convention.

Our journey today starts within the United States.

When a child is first abducted from the United States there are two tasks that a left behind parent must immediately do.

First, they must contact the Office of Children's Issues (OCI), created in 1994 in a consolidation of various departments within the Bureau of Consular Affairs, part of the United States Department of State (USDOS). OCI currently serves as the United States Central Authority (USCA) for two multilateral treaties:

         ·            The Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption; and

         ·            The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction

By an Executive Order, the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs was designated as the United States Central Authority.

From September 1, 1995, to April 1, 2008, however, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) a part of the US Department of Justice, processed incoming cases of children abducted from other Hague Convention countries to the United States. Although it currently does not have any official role in cases where children are abducted to or from another Hague Convention country, a left-behind parent is still likely to utilize their resources if the location of their child(ren) is not known.

The second task a parent must do is contact local law enforcement to file a missing person's report and request that the child's name be entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database.

The NCIC is a computerized index of criminal justice information that can be accessed by federal, state, and local law enforcement along with other criminal justice agencies, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Local law enforcement will also notify the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) of the abduction.  Taken from their website,

"Interpol is the world’s largest international police organization, with 187 member countries. Created in 1923, it facilitates cross-border police co-operation, and supports and assists all organizations, authorities and services whose mission is to prevent or combat international crime."

Although this process should be without problems, many left-behind parents experience tremendous difficulties in registering their children in the NCIC and with Interpol. The following quote can be found on the Office of Children's Issues website,

"If local law enforcement is unaware of the legal requirements for immediate entry into NCIC, please let our office know."

To read about one parent's, Carlos Bermudez, experience, please read this posting on his son’s website JusticeforSage

Once the left-behind parent has gathered all of the information required for a petition under the Hague Convention, they then send it to the Office of Children's Issues which will then forward it to the appropriate Central Authority for the country to which the child was abducted.

In the case of David Goldman and my own children, the country is Brazil but there are almost 90 other countries who have signed the treaty.

Designated in 2001 as the Brazilian Central Authority (BCA), the Office of the Special Secretary for Human Rights (Secretaria Especial dos Direitos Humanos (SEDH)) receives Hague Convention applications submitted by parents seeking the return of or access to their children in Brazil and ensures that the application is filed through the Office of the Solicitor-General (Advocacia-Geral da UniĆ£o (AGU)) with the proper court.

The AGU represents the Brazilian federal government, directly or indirectly, in judicial or non-judicial instances, and provides legal advice to the government. The AGU will then file a civil lawsuit against the abducting parent in which the Brazilian government is the plaintiff.  A left-behind parent also has the option of filing through a private attorney, in which case however, the AGU would normally not participate.

In addition, the SEDH (often interchanged with the term, BCA) serves as a point of contact for the left-behind parent and/or their attorney, the foreign Central Authority (in this case, the Office of Children's Issues) and the courts for purposes of obtaining information on the implementation of the Hague Convention in Brazil and the status of pending cases.

As noted before, petitions filed under the Hague Convention are considered civil lawsuits.

What if however, the parent wants to seek remedy under criminal codes?

There are a number of U.S. laws which the left-behind parent can use though ultimately however, the left-behind parent must work with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), an agency within the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) to pursue charges of kidnapping against the abducting parent.

I hope this article has served its purpose and that you now have a better understanding of the multitude of agencies with which a left-behind parent must communicate when their child is abducted.

© Timothy Weinstein 2009 

This article may be reproduced in full and republished with attribution