In the unpublished opinion of Aslund v. Oslund, the NC Court of Appeals vacated a NC court order that enforced a Belgian custody order.
Father and Mother are parents to three children, all born in the United States. The family lived in Germany when the parties divorced and litigated custody. In November 2017, a German court granted the Mother “the right to specify the residence of all the Minor children.” The order was affirmed on appeal. In August 2018, the German court permitted the Mother to relocate the children from Germany to Belgium. The Father remained in Germany, and was found to have retained the children in Germany during one of his periods of access under the Hague Abduction Convention. While the Hague Abduction case was pending in Germany, the Father initiated a custody suit in Belgium. The Belgian court granted “principal custody” to the Mother on November 14, 2019. In June 2020, the Mother and children relocated to NC. Father sought relief in Belgium. Mother alleges she was not served with any of the court filings that Father filed in Belgium.
In August 19, 2020, the Belgian court gave the Father parental authority and primary residential custody. The Mother was not present in Belgium when the court heard the custody matter. On September 14, 2020, Father filed an “Ex Parte Motion for Injunction, Rule 65 Temporary Restraining Order and Attorney’s Fees” in NC. The following day, he filed a Petition for Expedited Enforcement of a Foreign Child Custody Order, seeking to enforce the August 19, 2020 Belgian order. The first pleading contained a certificate of service by certified mail. The petition, however, did not contain a certificate of service.
On September 18, 2020, the NC Court entered its order, scheduling an enforcement hearing for September 21, 2020, and directed law enforcement to take immediate custody of the children. That day, the children were removed from the Mother’s home and placed in Father’s custody. Mother contends she was not present when law enforcement removed the children, nor was she served with Father’s petition. On or about September 19, 2020, the Father and children returned to Germany. On September 21, 2020, the court held its hearing, without the Father or children present. The mother requested a continuance since she was not yet served. She received a copy of Father’s petitions that day. The hearing was ultimately held on October 7, 2020. Counsel appeared for both parties. Mother appeared in person, with Father appearing over WebEx. On November 30, 2020, the trial court entered an order enforcing the Belgian order, and awarding the Father $5,000 in fees.
Mother appealed arguing that the Father verified his petition to enforce the Belgian order in July 2020, when the Belgian order did not yet exist until August. Further, she argues that the Father’s petition failed to include certified copies of the Belgian order, and the “requisite English translations.” The NC Court of Appeals agreed with the Mother’s arguments, and vacated the order of enforcement.