In Avendano v. Balza, the First Circuit affirmed the U.S. District Court’s refusal to return G, a minor child, to Venezuela on the basis that G was mature, and objected to the return. The Petitioner Mother appeals the court’s finding on two points.
Point one: Petitioner argues the court wrongly concluded the child was mature
The trial judge did not commit clear error when concluding that the child was mature. The trial judge had examined a variety of witnesses who had observed the minor child’s demeanor, heard testimony from the child’s Guardian Ad Litem, and had even interviewed the minor child personally in the GAL’s office before concluding that the child’s desires were “very clear, consistent, and rational” and that he not only stated a preference for the United States, but clearly objected to being returned to Venezuela. The Court rejected the Petitioner’s argument that the Court should have examined the child’s maturity at the time of the wrongful retention instead of at the time of the evidentiary hearing.
Point two: Petitioner argues the court wrongly concluded that the child was not unduly influenced
While the language of the Hague Abduction Convention does not require that the court examine any undue influence over the minor child when assessing the child’s objections to being returned, the U.S. Department of State has highlighted the potential for the Taking Parent to “brainwash” the minor child, thereby influencing the child’s viewpoint. If the court concludes that the child was unduly influenced, it has the discretion to weigh the child’s objection accordingly. The court did not clearly err in determining that the Respondent did not unduly influence G’s views.