Gehlen (Father) and Sandra (Mother) were married in 2014 in Germany, as Father was a U.S. military member serving overseas. In 2015, the parents moved to the United States, first to Ohio where their two children were born, and then to Tennessee in March 2019, where their marriage, unfortunately, broke down. On May 7, 2019, the Mother and children traveled to Germany to visit her family, with a return date of August 17, 2019. On August 14, 2019, Father traveled to Germany to help with the return of the Mother and children, but the Mother refused to return and would not let the children leave Germany. Father initiated a Hague Abduction return petition in the German courts, and secured a return order, affirmed on appeal. Eventually, Mother relinquished the children to Father, so he could return to Tennessee. In November 2019, Father had also started a divorce and custody proceeding in Tennessee, where he was ultimately granted primary residential custody. He asked for abduction prevention measures, and the Court gave Mother two months of unsupervised visitation in Germany, in exchange for her posting a bond of $50,000. She was also ordered to surrender the children’s German passports and never apply for replacements. Father appealed. The Appellate court rejected the Father’s arguments, and found that the abduction prevention measures that were ordered by the trial judge were not an abuse of discretion, even though they were of a less restrictive nature than what the Father was requesting (i.e., supervised visitation in the United States).
As a note, Tennessee is one of more than a dozen U.S. states that have enacted the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act. UCAPA requires a consideration of a variety of factors that relate to child abduction risk and provides a variety of prevention measures that a court can employ based on the level of risk that the court deems exists. UCAPA includes, as a key risk factor, whether a parent has previously abducted a child. The Comments to Section 8 of UCAPA indicate, “Ideally the court will choose the least
restrictive measures and conditions to maximize opportunities for continued parental contact while minimizing the opportunities for abduction. The most restrictive measures should be used when there have been prior custody violations and overt threats to take the child; when the child
faces substantial potential harm from an abducting parent who may have serious mental or personality disorder, history of abuse or violence or no prior relationship with the child; or when the obstacles to recovering the child are formidable due to countries not cooperating and enforcing orders from the United States, not being signatories to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction or non-compliant.” The New York State Bar Association produced a webinar on the features of UCAPA that can be found by clicking here.