The Nobrega/Colmenares family, all Venezuelan nationals, resided in Venezuela. When the parents separated, they initially exercised a schedule where Mr. Nobrega would see his son every week and where they shared parental responsibility. Ms. Colmenares began expressing concerns that their son would return from his time with Mr. Nobrega and act violently and aggressively. She believed Mr. Nobrega to be psychologically influencing or abusing their son. She moved their son 3 hours away, and Mr. Nobrega filed a custody lawsuit in the appropriate court in Venezuela. The court set forth a new schedule for when the child would see Mr. Nobrega, and put in place a prohibition on either parent leaving Venezuela with the child. Ms. Colmenares accused Mr. Nobrega of bribing the judge. Shortly thereafter, she took their son to Tampa, Florida, and began residing there with her boyfriend, who was supporting her.
Mr. Nobrega filed a Hague Abduction application with the Central Authority and this suit before the U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Florida. He was able to demonstrate that the child had been removed from his habitual residence of Venezuela in contravention of the custody rights that Mr. Nobrega was actually exercising. Ms. Colmenares argued that returning the child would put him at risk of being psychologically abused. The court found that Ms. Colmenares only had “amorphous and uncorroborated” suspicions that the child was exposed to “unwholesome influences” or that Mr. Nobrega fostered “unwanted behavior more characteristic of an older child.” The conduct Ms. Colmenares alleged, even if true, fell short of the clear and convincing standard to make out a grave risk of harm to the child.
Ms. Colmenares also argued that Venezuela is corrupt and cannot guarantee its citizens basic rights. She stated that she fled to the USA, in part, to obtain an impartial review of her abuse allegations. The court found that, although Venezuela was experiencing political and social unrest, Venezuela remained “ready and able” to adjudicate the custody dispute. Venezuela was the proper forum to address Ms. Colmenares’ accusations and demands, and there remains an open case in that jurisdiction. Further, there was no evidence that Venezuela’s unrest is a grave risk of harm to the child.