Certified legal translators and court-certified interpreters are routinely utilized in international and domestic family law cases and in international child custody cases. A recent, unreported case out of Virginia highlights the approach many courts are taking towards child relocation when one parent lives in a foreign country. Gudino v. Gudino (Record No. 0068-11-2, November 1, 2011). In the case, the Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision to award custody to the father, who was residing in Japan.
In Virginia, custody decisions are based on ten factors. On appeal, the mother argued that the lower court erred in several of its findings. Although the Appellate Court found that in some instances the trial judge was wrong, the factors were not seen as being pivotal and thus the error was ruled harmless. What this case highlights is a popular theme emerging in relocation cases: If substantial evidence supports a factor and the lower court has identified that factor as a primary element in their decision, then no comprehensive analysis needs to accompany the opinion and the ruling will not be reversed despite error in the handling of a non-primary factor.
What can be taken from this is the importance of establishing sufficient credible facts on the primary factors during the original trial. In cases involving parents residing in different countries, this will most likely involve the need for foreign testimony and evidence – which will need to be accompanied by foreign language translations.