Some interesting issues arose in the case of MARG v. Texas Department of Family & Protective Services. Third party caregivers were appointed as three (3) children’s conservators (custodians) in Texas. The child’s mother, from whom the children were removed, was agreeable to the third parties having custody of the children. At first, the father could not be located, and the children’s mother told authorities that she did not know his location or have his contact details. The father was appointed an attorney, and eventually was located. He alerted the Texas authorities that the oldest child had been abducted by the Mother quite some time before, and he had no idea to where she took the child. The second child was in utero at the time of the abduction. (The third child is not his child). He claims to have filed a criminal kidnapping action in Guatemala, where he lives, along with a police report, and a filing with the local court. In the instant proceedings in Texas, he referenced a desire to have the children returned to him, and mentioned the Hague Abduction Convention.
There are a variety of issues in this case: the father’s notice of his desire to initiate a Hague Abduction return petition; who should initiate that petition and at whose expense; concerns expressed in the Texas custody proceedings about the need for a home study in Guatemala and the lack of knowledge of how to do that in a foreign country; the eldest child’s lack of legal status in the United States; and third-party custody issues.
Ultimately the court reversed and remanded as to the two eldest children.
After you read the opinion, a few reminders. Article 16 of the Hague Abduction Convention says, “[a]fter receiving notice of a wrongful removal or retention of a child … the judicial or administrative authorities of the Contracting State to which the child has been removed or in which it has been retained shall not decide on the merits of rights of custody until it has been determined that the child is not to be returned under this Convention or unless an application under this Convention is not lodged within a reasonable time following receipt of the notice.” Additionally, International Social Service works with cross-border families, and one of the many services it provides is coordinating home studies in these complex international cases.