Legal Language Translation and Grave Risk Exception to the Hague Convention

Legal language translation and legal interpretation services play an important role both for legal filings and for presenting testimonial evidence in international divorce cases where parties speak different languages and are representatives of different cultures.

In the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals case Cuellar v. Joyce, where a father took his daughter from her Panamanian mother from Australia to the US, the court ruled that it was a wrongful removal but denied the child’s return based on Article 13 of the Hague Convention, commonly referred to as the grave risk exception.

In summary, the Court held that the child’s return would pose a grave risk to her well-being. Specifically, the trial court held that the mother did not have appropriate living conditions from which to raise a child, that the child had serious medical conditions, and that the removal would cause serious emotional harm.

On appeal, these findings were reversed, finding that despite a lack of running water, climate control and little furniture, billions of people live in such conditions and “if that amounted to a grave risk of harm, parents in more developed countries would have unchecked power to abduct children from countries with a lower standard of living.”

As for the medical condition, the court held that such an exception would only be granted if they were presented clear and convincing evidence both of the child’s serious medical needs and of the home country’s inability to provide the necessary care.

Finally, as to the third issue, the court held that “the fact that a child has grown accustomed to their new home is never a valid concern under the grave risk exception”.

Up Next: Language Translation, and Ethics for International Arbitrators