“Parental child abduction is child abuse”

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Hague Convention) is the primary civil law mechanism for parents seeking the return of their children from other treaty partner countries. As of March 2016, ninety-four (94) countries states are party to the convention. Countries that are party to the Convention have agreed that a child who was habitually resident in one Convention country, and who has been removed to or retained in another Convention country in violation of the left-behind parent’s custodial rights, shall be returned. Once the child has been returned, any custody dispute can then be resolved in the courts of that jurisdiction. The Convention does not address who should have custody of the child; it addresses where the custody case should be heard.

For example, in a recent case in which CELLA & ASSOCIATES, LLC represented the Petitioner-father from Colombia, the father had agreed in writing to the mother’s request to allow her to travel to the United States with their seven-year-old son for three months, ending on June 30, 2015. Once in the United States however, the mother immediately moved with her boyfriend and filed an action for sole custody in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Bergen County. Although the father was never served with the Summons and Complaint, an Order granting sole custody of the child to the mother was entered. The mother then immediately forwarded a copy of that Order to the father and demanded that the father pay child support.

Stranded in Colombia without his son, the father was referred to Joseph G. Cella, Esq. Upon taking on his case CELLA & ASSOCIATES, LLC, immediately drafted and filed Petition and Emergency Motion for the Return of the child in the Federal District Court, District of New Jersey, and secured an immediate stay of the New Jersey Superior Court Custody Order. As wrongful child removal/retention cases are handled in an expedited manner, discovery was concluded in a matter of several, and the matter was scheduled for trial.

After two full days of testimony, the Federal Judge issued a twenty-four page decision in which he found that the mother had wrongfully retained the child in the United States in violation of the father’s parental rights under Colombian law; that the child’s country of habitual residence at the time of the wrongful retention was Colombia; the father had not acquiesced or consented to the wrongful retention; the mother had failed to meet hr burden of proof with regard to each of the affirmative defenses she had raised; and ordered the mother to pay the father’s counsel fees and costs.

Presently, the child will meet with a reunification therapist, and be reunited with his father and paternal family in Bogota, Colombia this week, where the custody, visitation and support issues will be properly decided. The mother has decided to also move back to Colombia.

The circumstances of every wrongful child abduction or retention case are different and each requires a tailored response. Please call and discuss your child’s case with an attorney at CELLA & ASSOCIATES, LLC as soon as possible to determine what if any options may be available to you in seeking the return of your child.

Joseph G. Cella, Esq.


Attorneys At Law

Miami, FL – Clifton and Fort Lee, NJ


National Toll Free: 877.583.7080


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