INCADAT legal file Hague parental abduction

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The parents got married in 2005 in California, United States of America. The couple had two children: a boy in 2008, and a girl in 2010. In 2005, the mother was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and had difficulties regarding the care of her children. In April 2010, the parents decided to grant an authorisation so the boy could move to Santa Ana, El Salvador, with his maternal grandmother and the father could devote himself fully to take care of the mother. After the girl was born, the mother’s condition deteriorated and, in July of the same year, the parents decided to grant an authorisation so the girl could also move to El Salvador with her brother and maternal family.
At the end of 2010, the mother travelled to El Salvador and passed away in March 2012. The father learnt about this the day following her death. He tried to communicate with the mother’s family, but he was unable to do so. Thus, he filed a lawsuit before the Salvadoran embassy located in Washington D.C. He later contacted the US embassy in El Salvador, which took measures so that the maternal family would return the children to him.
Since the maternal family refused to return the children, the father travelled to El Salvador, went to the maternal family’s flat, but was unable to take the children with him. As a consequence, he brought all administrative and legal proceedings which were necessary to recover them. Finally, at the beginning of August, he filed a petition for return.
In August 2012, the Court with jurisdiction over minors (Juzgado Especializado en la Ni?ez y Adolescencia) in Santa Ana ordered the immediate return of the children. It held that the children were wrongfully retained by the maternal grandmother and aunt. The grandmother and aunt appealed the decision on the basis of lis pendes since a lawsuit was filed in July 2012 before the Court with jurisdiction over family matters (Juzgado de Familia) in Santa Ana over the loss of parental authority. Moreover, they stated that granting the return would not guarantee the regular course of the proceedings. They also argued that the father was not fit to exercise the duties of a parent and that he had not been granted legal custody of the children and, finally, that the father had completely abandoned the children.