Jacksonville, FL – Attorneys, Ethan Andrew Way and April R. Geer*, of the Jacksonville law firm Gillis Way & Campbell (GW&C), secured a dismissal in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida, for a domestic violence survivor accused of abducting her child beyond international borders. Cesar Icaza, the father of the child and Honduras native, filed a Petition for Return of Child under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“Hague Convention”) against his wife, Lauren Jones, a U.S. citizen. The Hague Convention is an international treaty intended to protect children from being wrongfully removed or retained beyond international borders.
The Petition filed in March 2016, alleged that Jones wrongfully retained her son in the U.S. when she failed to return, with her child, to Honduras, in accordance with a travel authorization signed by Icaza and the Honduran Courts. The Petition also alleged that Ms. Jones had fabricated multiple police reports in the U.S. detailing domestic violence by Icaza. The Petition’s most heinous allegation was that the child told Icaza that he had been sexually assaulted by Jones’ step-father, which led Icaza to submit the toddler to an invasive physical and mental examination. Jones adamantly denied all allegations.
Jacksonville Law Firm Wins Domestic Violence Case – Survivor Keeps Child in U.S. Federal Judge Dismisses Hague Convention Petition
The Hague Convention specifically requires that hearings be conducted expeditiously – generally requiring that Hague Convention cases be concluded within six weeks. The accelerated nature of Hague Convention cases requires counsel to quickly obtain all evidence and prepare for one chance to present the case. The nonjury trial (Icaza v. Jones 5:16-cv-69) was presided over by District Judge Robert L. Hinkle. The full day trial included live testimony by Icaza and his father, as well as Jones and her mother, step-father, and brother.
In his Order on the Merits, Judge Hinkle labeled this case as an “exceedingly rare exception” where the child’s habitual residence is not the last place where the “parents resided with a shared intent to remain.” Judge Hinkle found that Jones’ was the victim of domestic violence and that Icaza had “[conjured] false allegations of sexual abuse by [Jones’] step-father.” Judge Hinkle further held that the child was not wrongfully retained in the U.S. and dismissed the Petition on the merits.
“This win vindicates Ms. Jones’ actions to protect her child at all costs,” Geer said. “The media is full of stories of wealth and privilege prevailing at the expense of justice. Thankfully, this is not one of those stories. Our client gave everything she had to protect herself and her son from a man whose resources and connections far exceeded her own. Ms. Jones can now rest easy knowing that she and her child can stay in the U.S. and will no longer be subjected to Icaza’s abuse.”
*April Geer is licensed in NC only, FL admission pending.