On February 26, 2021, in the matter of Colchester v. Lazaro, the U.S. District Court for the W.D. of Washington ordered the parties’ 6-year-old child returned to Spain. This child had been the subject of a separate Hague Abduction return petition in 2018. In January 2020, Mr. Colchester secured a sole custody order from the Spanish courts, and in April 2020, Ms. Lazaro again absconded with the child to Washington State, precipitating this action. The Court spent the better part of its 3-page order describing what it deemed to be Ms. Lazaro’s “meritless” efforts to “sidestep” court rulings and her repeated “disregard” for those rulings. In elaborating on Ms. Lazaro’s behavior, the District Court crafted an order that included quite a few enforcement measures that are worth noting in a blog post. Most specifically, the order included the following language:
“The United States Marshals Service shall assist Mr. Colchester or his duly-appointed agent with enforcement of this order. Specifically, the United States Marshal is DIRECTED and AUTHORIZED, as soon as practical, to enter the homes of [grandmother] Donna Turner, at . . ., and/or [aunt] Jade Oliver at . . ., or any other location in the State of Washington, to execute this order and seize S.L.C. and her U.S. passport, which may also be in the possession of Ms. Lazaro. Once obtained, the United States Marshal is DIRECTED to remit custody of S.L.C. and her U.S. passport to Mr. Colchester or his duly-appointed representative. In doing so, the United States Marshal is authorized to search any part of these addresses, or any other location in the State of Washington, in search of S.L.C. or her U.S. passport. The United States Marshal is authorized to use reasonable force to execute this order and to arrest any person who impedes its execution of this order.”
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“If S.L.C. is not produced at either address, the Marshals Service is instructed to apprehend and bring before the Court Ms. Turner and/or Ms. Oliver, if present, and any other person obstructing the Marshals’ efforts to carry out this order. The Marshals Service is authorized to use such force as is reasonably necessary to prevent flight or a willing attempt to circumvent this order.”
These robust enforcement measures are used in circumstances where a parent has a pattern of contempt. But, as a note, these types of enforcement measures are not necessarily the type used in other countries.