The Lorenz family has finally, it appears, ended their ongoing litigation in both a state and federal court in Michigan and a family court in Germany. In 2020, Benjamin Lorenz brought the parties’ two children from Germany to Michigan to visit family. He then refused to return them on September 5, 2020, as scheduled. On November 25, 2020, Cornelia Lorenz filed a Hague Abduction return petition in the federal court in Michigan. In 2021, the parties jumped through a lot of procedural hoops, including mediation, motions to dismiss, motions to waive affirmative defenses, motions to preclude the children from testifying, motions for psychological exams of the children, etc. At a telephonic conference on October 25, 2021, then counsel for both parents requested a stay, to wait for a state court order regarding custody of the children, which was anticipated to be entered shortly. Cornelia had obtained a custody order in Germany. She had filed to register and enforce the German custody order in Michigan state court. On December 16, 2021, the Wayne County Circuit Court Judge ordered Benjamin to bring the children to court, so that Cornelia could return to Germany with them in accordance with the German custody order. Benjamin complied. On January 5, 2022, Cornelia filed a motion to dismiss, with prejudice, her Hague Abduction return petition. This is an example of how the use of the UCCJEA can, in some cases, aid in the prompt return of children, even more so than the Hague Abduction Convention.
The Magistrate Judge in the Hague Abduction case recommended dismissal, which is within her sound discretion. Benjamin objected, and sought a reconsideration of that recommendation. Benjamin argued that the removal of the children from the United States, and their return to Germany, was wrongful, and could only be done by the federal court in the Hague Abduction Convention return matter. However, as the Magistrate Judge indicated, it was Cornelia’s request to return the children, and her petition cannot be used as a vehicle for Benjamin to argue the children should be re-returned to the United States. Benjamin also argues, at least tangentially, that the state court’s enforcement of a foreign custody order violates the Hague Abduction Convention. However, Article 16 of the Convention only prohibits the Michigan courts, not the German courts, from resolving the merits of the custody case while the Hague Abduction Convention matter is pending. The Michigan state court did not resolve the merits of custody. It has no jurisdiction to do so. It only enforced an order issued by the court that has jurisdiction in substantial conformity with the UCCJEA. The children are returned. On April 20, 2022, the U.S. District Court adopted the Magistrate Judge’s recommendation to dismiss the Hague Abduction Convention case.