On October 6, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida denied Dr. Pflucker’s petition to have her two minor children returned to Peru. The court concluded that the United States, not Peru was the children’s habitual residence.
The facts of this case focus on whether Lt. Col. Warms wrongfully retained the parties’ children in the United States. Lt. Col. Warms argued that the parties agreed to relocate to the United States indefinitely, from Peru, where both children were born and where Dr. Pflucker had a dental practice and was running for a Peruvian congressional seat. Respondent and their eight-year-old (MRW) traveled to Louisville Kentucky in November 2020. Lt. Col. Warms testified that he also began inquiring about active-duty U.S. Marine Corps positions based in the U.S. that month. Warms and MRW traveled back to Peru in December 2020 to accompany Dr. Pflucker and their five-year-old (NW) on a flight to Kentucky. The family normally spent Christmas holidays in the United States, as Warms’ parents resided in Kentucky. The facts got more convoluted afterwards. They involved a trip by Pflucker back to Peru for a period of time in early 2021 (in January – March), enrolling the children in school in the United States only a few weeks before it concluded for the 2020-2021 school year, and having them finish virtually at the American School in Peru from the U.S., Warms securing a temporary assignment at a U.S. military base in Tampa, and Pflucker traveling to other U.S. places (like L.A. and D.C.) for doctor appointments. Pflucker also packed up the parties’ belongings in Peru and shipped them, via the U.S. military, to Tampa, although she said that she did so only for the temporary duration of Warms’ assignment. At one point, Pflucker hired an immigration lawyer to seek permanent residency in the U.S., and asked Warms to sign certain documents to aid in this endeavor. A variety of witnesses testified, and a WhatsApp recording was played for the court, that seemed to indicate Pflucker understood this move to be permanent, but perhaps tired of the idea once already in the United States. However, while in the U.S., she enrolled in a technical college to improve her English. The couple had a significant fight in June 2021, when Pflucker drove overnight to Kentucky to take possession of the children’s passports. Police were called, and ultimately, Warms secured them and gave them to her. While the family was driving back to Florida, there was a screaming and hitting incident where Pflucker also threw Warms’ phone out the window of a moving car. She was ultimately arrested for misdemeanor domestic battery and ordered to surrender her passport and those of the children to Warms.
Dr. Pflucker argued that the date the children were wrongfully retained in the United States was January 27, 2021, when the children could have gotten on a plane and returned to Peru with her when she went back to pack up their belongings. Given all of the facts, the children’s habitual residence, on the date of the alleged retention, was the United States. The evidence further shows that Lt. Col. Warms met his burden to prove that Dr. Pflucker consented to the children’s permanent relocation to the United States.