On August 11, 2022, a Magistrate Judge in the Western District of Louisiana issued a Memorandum Ruling granting Ms. Ariza Lopez’s request to return her dual citizen child to Honduras using the Hague Abduction Convention. Mr. Ash, who is not the child’s biological parent, but is listed on the child’s birth certificate, removed the child from Honduras and traveled to Louisiana on November 9, 2021, in violation of a settlement agreement that prohibited him from removing the child from Honduras. When Ms. Ariza filed a missing child report, she was presented with a document that purported to give Mr. Ash permission to take the child from Honduras, and also purported to relinquish all custody rights over the child. She alleged the document was falsified. On or about November 17, 2021, Ms. Ariza filed an application with the Honduran Central Authority to return her child. It transferred her application to the U.S. Department of State, which located the child in Hosston, Louisiana. Ms. Ariza then filed the instant petition in federal court on April 22, 2022.
One of Mr. Ash’s primary arguments against returning the child was that Ms. Ariza had no custody rights, and/or consented or acquiesced in allowing the child to relocate to the United States. But, Ms. Ariza called a handwriting expert to testify that the document purporting to absolve her of all custody rights was forged. Given that Mr. Ash’s evidence relied very heavily, if not exclusively, on this “forged” document, the court found he did not meet his burden. Mr. Ash further argued that the child (age 10 at the time of trial) was mature and objected to being returned. The court interviewed the child in camera, determined the child was, in fact, mature, but concluded that “any apprehension the child has towards returning to Honduras has been fostered by Ash in an attempt to keep the child in the United States.” Finally, the court found unpersuasive Mr. Ash’s argument that “the whole of Honduras” is “an unsafe place with a bad educational system[,]” and therefore, he did not meet his burden to prove the child’s return would expose him to a grave risk of harm. There was no pattern of violence or harm to the child. There was no concern of “uprooting” the child from the USA because Mr. Ash had not even enrolled the child in school in Louisiana. His argument lacked “particularity and legitimacy.”