Holland & Knight Attorneys Reunite Mother and Daughter Using International Child Abduction Treaty
Miami – November 13, 2009 – Holland & Knight attorneys Keith Ramsey (ORL), Michael Milne (ORL), and Alvin Benton (ORL), along with guidance from attorneys Christopher Weiss (ORL) and Hague Convention specialists Brett Barfield (MIA) and Robert Watson (MIA) successfully secured the return of a three-year-old daughter to her mother, a British citizen and Holland & Knight's client.
The abduction of Cameron Willis occurred nearly one year ago when she and her mother, Tracy Willis, were in the U.S. to visit the child's father. When the mother wanted to return to the United Kingdom, the father requested that the child be permitted to stay with him for another 30 days after which he would return the child to the U.K. Instead, the father kept Cameron in the U.S. and concealed her whereabouts.
Using the remedies available under the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction ("Hague Convention"), Holland & Knight's attorneys were able to secure a safe return of Cameron to her mother in the U.K. on November 5, 2009.
The petition was filed in May 2009 in the Middle District of Florida but the father was not in the district to be served. With the assistance of the State Department and other federal and state agencies, the child ultimately was located in Pennsylvania. The case was thus transferred to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Seven days before the first hearing in Pennsylvania, the father was arrested on domestic violence charges. Holland & Knight worked with the police and child protective services to turn Cameron over to her mother in light of the pending Hague Convention proceeding. At the first hearing a few days later, the team announced to the court that the mother was dismissing her petition in order to return to England with the child. The court accepted the decision and wished the mother well.
The Hague Convention is an international treaty intended to protect children internationally from the harmful effects of wrongful removal or retention and to establish procedures to ensure their prompt return to the state of their habitual residence, as well as to secure protection for rights of access. Signatory nations agree that a child who was living in one country, and who has been removed to or retained in another country, in violation of the left-behind parent's custodial rights, must be promptly returned. Upon the return of the child, any custody dispute can be resolved.
Although Holland & Knight has a depth of experience representing parents in cases under the Hague Convention, it was the first such case for attorney Keith Ramsey, who offered these thoughts on the experience: "This is what the principles of the Hague Convention are all about. The reunification of our client and her daughter is truly amazing. Although it was a long journey with several twists and turns, we're so happy to see this through with such a great result."
For almost 40 years, a sense of community purpose has been instilled in Holland & Knight's attorneys. Holland & Knight attorneys recognize that they have a professional duty to provide free legal services to individuals who cannot afford them and to groups whose primary purpose is helping the poor.