This new Colorado case does not break any new ground, but it helpfully discusses the difference between a Hague Convention child abduction case and a case about child cusotdy jurisdiction questions under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. The Hague Convention is not about custody jurisdiction, it's more like extradition. But that distinction is often lost when trying to make people understand the even more fundamental distinction between deciding the merits of custody and deciding about jurisdiction or abduction return -- which are "procedural" decisions, and yet all-important ones that can make the difference in whether justice is done,whether a child continues to have a relationship with both parents, and whether a child's custody is decided by a court with sufficient evidence to actually decide a case in the child's best interests. Even some U.S. Supreme Court justices who were supportive of the Hague Convention, in the oral arguments of Abbot v. Abbot,130 S.Ct. 1983 (2010) mistakenly described the Convention as being about jurisdiction.
In this case, "IN RE PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITIES CONCERNING T.L.B.", Colo. App. 1/19/12, a Vancouver mother abducted children to Colorado and the father immediately filed for custody in Vancouver. The father filed and lost a Colorado Hague Convention case for immediate repatriation of the children, but when the Vancouver court finally was able to investigate the merits of the case, it found that the mother had made false sexual abuse allegations, and it gave custody to the father. When he went to Colorado to enforce the custody order, the mother argued that jurisdiction over child custody had moved to Colorado when the father filed the Hague case there. The Colorado Court of Appeals responds to that:
23 Mother argues, however, that Colorado's subject matter jurisdiction to determine parental responsibilities for the children was established in father's Hague Convention proceeding in Adams County, and that because the children's return to Canada was denied in that proceeding, the trial court erred by applying the UCCJEA and finding that Canada, rather than Colorado, had jurisdiction. We are not persuaded. ... ¶ 27 We reject mother's argument, relying on the Supremacy Clause, U.S. Const. art. VI, cl. 2, that the Hague Convention proceedings preempted the trial court's UCCJEA analysis. Proceedings under the UCCJEA do not conflict with, and are not preempted by, proceedings under the Hague Convention because the two laws address different objectives. See Suarez v. Castrillo, (D. Colo. No. 11-cv-01762-MSK, July 13, 2011) (2011 WL 2729074) (unpublished opinion and order denying reconsideration). The Hague Convention focuses on returning children who have been wrongfully removed from their place of habitual residence, whereas the UCCJEA sets forth standards to determine which jurisdiction decides custody disputes. ¶ 28 ... we reject her contention that a decision not to return a child under the grave risk exception means that the country to which the child was taken must always make the final parental responsibilities decision concerning the child. ¶ 29 Under the Hague Convention, a country to which a child has been removed has jurisdiction to decide the merits of the return claim but not necessarily the merits of the underlying custody dispute. ... See Simcox v. Simcox, 511 F.3d 594, 607 (6th Cir. 2007) (finding grave risk of harm is not an invitation for an abducted-to country to also decide the child's best interests); Friedrich, 78 F.3d at 1068 (grave risk exception is not a license for abducted-to country to decide best interests because that decision is a custody matter reserved to the child's country of habitual residence);
Thanks to Ron Nelson for alerting me to this one.