The parents, in this case, reached a settlement agreement related to Mr. Garzon’s request to have the parties’ two minor children returned to Colombia under the Hague Abduction Convention. As part of their settlement, the parents filed a request in the Circuit Court for Washtenaw County, Michigan, asking that the terms of the settlement be incorporated and merged into a Judgment of Custody, Parenting Time and Support. In June 2022, Mr. Garzon sent a letter to the federal district court that sat in the Hague Abduction proceeding, indicating that Ms. Hoffman was not complying with the terms of the settlement agreement. The court construed this letter as a motion to enforce, and denied it, instructing Mr. Garzon that he must file such a request in the state court proceeding.
This raises an excellent practice point. It is not uncommon that parents, even in the most contentious and high conflict of Hague Abduction return proceedings, reach an amicable and voluntary resolution. Once they do so, they need the guidance of skilled lawyers to guide them on the next steps. Should the agreement be filed in the court sitting in the Hague Abduction Convention case? Probably not, except to show that the case has been resolved, so that the matter can be dismissed. This is particularly true if the court is a federal court, with no jurisdiction over custody matters. It is further true because Article 16 of the Hague Abduction Convention makes clear that the Hague Abduction matter is not a custody case. It is common, however, for the voluntary agreement to be taken to the local (family) court in the country and venue that has jurisdiction over the issue of custody for the agreement to be made part of a court order. Weighing, strategically, how to file all the requisite paperwork in multiple proceedings in multiple countries and in what order, takes great skill, and good lawyers in both jurisdictions should be consulted.