The child’s father, Mr. Molina, removed the minor child from Honduras by walking with the child through Mexico and paying smugglers to transport him and the child across the Mexico-U.S. border. The child’s mother, Ms. Rodriguez, filed a request to have the minor child returned to Honduras. The only genuine issue at hand is whether returning the child to Honduras would expose the child to a grave risk of harm. Mr. Molina argued that returning the child to Honduras would expose the child to serious abuse or neglect given the past behavior of Petitioner in disciplining the child using a belt and other implements. The court examined the grave risk of harm argument by looking at three factors: (1) whether the parent abused the child and the frequency they did it; (2) how the parent responds to challenging parenting situations involving the child; and (3) whether there is spousal abuse.
The court had some stern words for both parents – the mother for her use of “physical force to discipline” the child and the father for “subjecting her to the known dangers of illegal smuggling operations to bring her to the United States without documentation or without a stable living arrangement.”
Ultimately, the court concluded that there was some reason to believe that the physical harm to the child would not recur after it reviewed several compelling affidavits by individuals with close relationships to the child, including a teacher, neighbor, and another local parent. The court dismissed an angry voicemail that the father presented as an “inappropriate outburst plain and simple.” In the end, the court concluded that “[i]f the standard were preponderance of the evidence, it would be met.” But, it did not meet the higher clear and convincing evidence standard. Neither parent submitted any proposed ameliorative measures prior to the evidentiary hearing, nor did they present any information on potential measures at or after the hearing. The court expressed an interest in having ameliorative measures established prior to returning the child, but opted to not ask the parents to present additional materials, out of concern it would delay the child’s return.