U.S. Court Refuses to Enforce Hague Convention

April 1st, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
A New Zealand father has returned to the United States in a desperate effort to be reunited with his children who were abducted to the San Francisco Bay Area by his American wife.  The abduction occurred three years ago, but, despite the fact that both the United States and New Zealand are signatories to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, Cossey has been unsuccessful in getting more than supervised visitation with his children.  Read about it here (New Zealand Herald, 3/31/12).

Cossey and his wife met in the United States when he was here working.  They married, had two sons and eventually moved to New Zealand where they lived a comfortable life.  He worked; she was a stay-at-home mother.  But one day the couple had an argument that Cossey characterizes as very minor.  The next day he received a call at work.  It was his wife telling him she was leaving and taking the children.

She did just that, fleeing to Auckland and catching a plane to the U.S. that very night. 

Cossey filed the appropriate claim in New Zealand requesting the return of his children, but nothing happened.  Officials in neither country managed to enforce the provisions of the convention to which both countries were parties.

Eventually, at wits end, Cossey returned to the United States just so he could have some contact with his children.  Apparently he still had a visa allowing him to work, so he’s done that while trying to assert his parental rights in family court.

“Thankfully I am able to legally reside in the US permanently, otherwise I would have lost all contact with my children by now,” he says.

It hasn’t been easy.  So far he gets the one-size-fits-all custody arrangement – i.e. she has custody, he has visitation two days out of two weeks, except he can’t see his kids without supervision.  Why?  You know the answer without my telling you.

His estranged wife has also filed charges of domestic violence and sexual molestation of the boys against him – allegations he calls “ridiculous”. His wife did not return calls from APNZ.

Simple as that.  The Hague Convention requires signatory countries to return children within 60 days of the filing of a complaint.  I’ve complained many times about the behavior of, for example Mexico, due to its frank refusal to comply with the Convention it signed.  But here’s a case in which the United States is doing the same thing.

Of course it is.  In this country, mere allegations of child abuse or domestic violence are sufficient to take a father out of his child’s life at least for a time.  In Cossey’s case it’s been three years and counting with the exception of the supervised visits.  Is there a single shred of evidence to support his wife’s claims?  If there is, the article doesn’t mention it, and she let her opportunity to make her case in print go by.

But as we know, and as Cossey has certainly learned, family courts don’t need evidence to take a father from a child.  What we also know is that child abduction is itself a form of child abuse, and it’s pretty clear that Cossey’s kids have experienced just that.

It was a tearful first reunion, he says. “The kids didn’t know what was going on. The entire event was pretty traumatic for them.”

So what we have is a court that looks at a mother’s unsupported allegations of abuse and (a) refuses to enforce the Hague Convention and (b) only allows their father the most limited of supervised visitation.  It looks at the same kids who’ve plainly been abused by their mother’s abduction of them and her denial of contact with their father, and gives the thumbs up.  That’s bad for children and it violates the Hague Convention, but why would a family court be concerned about that?

So far the whole thing has cost him $70,000.

Grant Cossey, welcome to the United States.  Get comfortable, it looks like a long stay.

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