The Minnesota Court of Appeals issued yet another opinion in the hotly litigated case of Cook v. Arimitsu. The facts are extremely complex, but surround a mother who took four children (2 sets of twins) to Japan in 2014, and did not return with them. Afterwards, the parents engaged in a series of lawsuits in Japan and Minnesota, having appealed all results in both courts on numerous occasions.
In Japan, the father initiated a Hague return petition, which, after an appeal, was granted for all 4 children, but was then eventually overturned in 2018. The current court order from those Hague proceedings denies the father’s request to return the minor children to the United States.
In Minnesota, the father initiated a child custody case, which after several appeals proceeded and ultimately gave the father sole custody.
For this appeal, the mother brought forth several discreet issues, but the most prominent issue was her request that the 2018 modified Hague return order (which denies the father’s request to return the children) be recognized in Minnesota. She makes 3 separate arguments as to why it should be recognized.
Her suggestion that it should be recognized under the Uniform Foreign-Country Money Judgments Recognition Act was dismissed outright.
She also argued that the Minnesota court recognize the final 2018 Hague order as a matter of comity. “American courts may decline to extend comity to foreign Hague Convention orders… if the foreign court’s determination ‘clearly misinterprets the Hague Convention, contravenes the Convention’s fundamental premises or objectives, or fails to meet a minimum standard of reasonableness.’”
The Court declined to extend comity to the Japanese order. The trial court concluded that the mother, who failed to comply with the original return order capitalized on the father when he fell on hard financial times by seeking to modify that order, and if the Minnesota Court would recognize that modified Japanese order (which denies the return of the children) the court would be legitimizing the mother’s wrongful retention of her children. The court concluded that Japan did not ensure the prompt return of the children to the USA (which Japan concluded was the habitual residence), and its system permitted the mother to use changed circumstances to her advantage to keep the children in Japan.
Finally, for her third argument, the court denied the mother’s attempts to use the UCCJEA to enforce an “order for the return of a child” as if it were a child-custody determination, opining that the order from Japan was not to return a child – it was the opposite.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial courts refusal to recognize the 2018 Japanese Hague order.