Professional legal language translation and multilingual legal interpreting services play an important role in child custody cases. In a recent Texan case, Delgado-Ramirez v Lopez, the court rejected a defense involving the exercise of rights of custody – in contradiction to a foreign court’s revocation of parental rights prior to the wrongful removal. In this particular case, the child was living with Delgado-Ramirez who had custody, although he was the natural child of Lopez.
However, Delgado-Ramirez had registered the child for school in Mexico and had already paid the related expenses. Further, Delgado-Ramirez was exercising her authority over the child’s living arrangements by allowing the child to live with Lopez with ongoing monitoring and visitations. However, Lopez took the child to El Paso and the Mexican court therefore revoked Delgado-Ramirez’s custody.
In the US, Lopez contented that the child should not be returned to Mexico as Delgado-Ramirez was not exercising rights of custody in accordance with the Hague Convention. However, the court stated that this had to be proved by showing “acts that constitute clear and unequivocal abandonment of the child”. Although evidence, via a foreign language translation was brought, the court held that Lopez failed to meet this standard of proof on the grounds that:
- The Mexican revocation, via its foreign language translation, did not define an exercise of custody rights
- The Mexican decision did not specify whether Delgado-Ramirez was exercising rights of custody
- The Mexican courts afterwards reinstated Delgado-Ramirez’s custodial status.
What this case demonstrates is the heavy burden of proof that a removing parent must show in the US in order to satisfy the requirement that the parent left behind failed to exercise their rights of custody.