In the case of Pawananun v. Pettit, the U.S. District Court returned the parties’ two daughters to their habitual residence of Thailand. The parties stipulated that the father, Mr. Pettit, had wrongfully removed the parties’ children from Thailand. Mr. Pettit focused on arguing that it would present a grave risk of harm to the children to return them to Thailand because of certain claims of abuse of his daughters that he believed were inflicted by a family friend that may have been having an affair with his ex-Wife. The family friend, Mr. Hardy, was a doctor who had moved to Thailand from the United States. Mr. Hardy had been investigated in the U.S. after allegedly sexually assaulting patients and staff. He surrendered his U.S. medical license. Upon learning of this, Mr. Pettit began surreptitiously investigating Mr. Hardy and his involvement with his daughters by taking the children to a series of doctors without advising their mother of the same. He became convinced that Mr. Hardy was the cause of certain bruises that his daughters had sustained. He commenced a custody modification lawsuit in Thailand. He requested that Mr. Hardy not be anywhere near the girls, but Ms. Pawananun argued that Hardy was not a threat, and that the girls were always in her care. Mr. Pettit removed his daughters to the United States in January 2020. The Thai court found no abuse, and the doctors who had examined the girls seemed to indicate that their initial claims of abuse were related to Mr. Pettit’s belief that it existed more than any evidence.
The federal court concluded that Mr. Pettit did not meet his burden to establish a grave risk of harm. There is no evidence the children’s mother abused the children. There is insufficient evidence that Mr. Hardy did so. In fact, Mr. Pettit’s testimony apparently shifted, with different allegations, and changing facts. Furthermore, Ms. Pawananun has moved within Thailand, back to where her family resides, and therefore, the children’s exposure to Mr. Hardy going forward would not be an issue. Absent the most serious and well-documented evidence of abuse, the children should be returned.
As a quick note, this court previously addressed a preliminary motion that the Mother made in August 2020, where she argued that the Father was precluded from arguing a grave risk because he argued abuse in the Thai custody suit.