Determined whether domestic violence can present a “grave risk” of harm to children within the meaning of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
This case involved the question of whether the history of domestic violence could provide the basis for refusing to repatriate a child to the country of his/her origin under the “grave risk of harm” exception of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. In particular, the federal court in the Southern District of New York was asked to decide whether repatriation could be refused in a case where respondent was a victim of domestic violence who had fled with her children to protect them from further abuse perpetrated by the petitioning parent. Respondent Marthe Dubois and her two children had left France after suffering years of severe abuse at the hands of Petitioner Felix Blondin. The district court held that the “grave risk” defense applied because the children were likely to continue to be exposed to their father’s violence upon repatriation. On appeal, the Second Circuit remanded the case back to the district court to determine whether any arrangements might be made to mitigate the grave risk faced by the children. Relying on the expert testimony, the district court concluded that no arrangements could mitigate this risk because returning to France would invariably cause the children to re-experience their post-traumatic stress disorder, which had abated during their residence in the United States. In the second appeal, the U.S. government filed an amicus curiae brief urging the return of children to France. In response, Legal Momentum filed an amicus curiae brief to explain to the court why the history of domestic violence presented a sufficiently serious risk to the children to warrant departure from the Convention’s presumption of return. The Second Circuit ultimately affirmed the district court’s opinion.