Descargar texto completo EN

Nombre del caso

In re: B. DEL C. S. B., (minor), Mendoza v Miranda, 559 F.3d 999 (9th Cir. 2009)

Referencia INCADAT

HC/E/US 1260



Estados Unidos de América - Competencia Federal


Tribunal de Apelaciones

Estados involucrados

Estado requirente


Estado requerido

Estados Unidos de América



18 March 2009




Residencia habitual - art. 3 | Integración del niño - art. 12(2)


Apelación concedida, restitución denegada

Artículo(s) del Convenio considerados

3 12(2)

Artículo(s) del Convenio invocados en la decisión


Otras disposiciones


Jurisprudencia | Casos referidos


INCADAT comentario

Objetivos y ámbito de aplicación del Convenio

Residencia habitual
Residencia habitual

Excepciones a la restitución

Integración del menor
Integración del niño
Suspensión equitativa del plazo de prescripción (equitable tolling)


Sumario disponible en EN


The proceedings related to a child born in Mexico in April 1997 to unmarried Mexican parents. The parents had previously lived in the United States of America, but during the pregnancy the father had been deported following an arrest for drug trafficking.

The parents described their relationship during the four years following their return to Mexico as “abusive”. Claims were made by both parents about the behaviour and actions of the other.

In February 2001, the mother returned to the United States of America with the child. She regarded the relationship with the father to be over, but she did not communicate this sentiment to him.

The child returned to Mexico in the summer of 2001, and spent the 2001/2 school year with the father.

In June 2002, the child went back to stay with the mother, who was now living with a new partner. The father subsequently agreed to the child staying in the United States of America, on condition that he would be able to speak with her on the telephone and see her during school holidays. However, communication between father and child ended in late 2002/early 2003.

Mother and child resided in the same accommodation. The father, despite repeated and various attempts, was unable to establish contact.

On 26 March 2004, the father submitted his return application with the Mexican Central Authority. This was forwarded to the United States Central Authority (NCMEC) on 26 April.

On 27 July 2006, NCMEC located an address for mother and child, which was the same address the father last had for them.

On 9 March 2007, the father’s return application was filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

On 3 December 2007 the District Court ordered the return of the child: Mendoza v. Miranda (In re B. del C. S. B.), 525 F. Supp. 2d 1182, (C.D. Cal., 2007).

The District Court found that the mother’s retention of the child had become wrongful sometime between her disclosure of her new relationship in August 2002 and the father’s last conversation with the child in January 2003, that the child’s country of habitual residence prior to the wrongful retention was Mexico, and that the father had not acquiesced in the child’s retention. Further, the Court held that the mother had not satisfied her burden of proving an Article 12(2) defence because the child’s unlawful immigration status precluded her from being settled in the United States of America. In addition, the Court added that even if the mother had shown that the child was well settled in the United States of America, it would have been entirely reasonable to toll the one-year filing period until early 2007, when the child was located.

The mother filed a notice of appeal on 28 December 2007.


Appeal allowed and return refused; the retention was wrongful but the child was now settled in her new environment.


Habitual Residence - Art. 3

In its evaluation of “settlement”, the 9th Circuit expressed support for the view that an undocumented child may be habitually resident in a country within the meaning of Article 3.

Settlement of the Child - Art. 12(2)

The mother argued that the District Court erred in finding that the child was not settled in the United States of America, solely because she did not have legal status, and, that the father was not entitled to rely on the doctrine of “equitable tolling” with respect to the filing of his return petition.

The 9th Circuit recalled its earlier decision in Duarte v. Bardales, 526 F.3d 563 (9th Cir. 2008) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 741] that the doctrine of equitable tolling was available under the Hague Convention only where "the abducting parent took steps to conceal the whereabouts of the child from the parent seeking return and such concealment delayed the filing of the petition for return”.

In determining whether a child was settled for the purposes of Article 12(2), the 9th Circuit drew upon factors identified in the dissenting judgment of Bea J. in Duarte. The 9th Circuit held that the relevant factors included:
(1) the child's age;
(2) the stability and duration of the child's residence in the new environment;
(3) whether the child attended school or day care consistently;
(4) whether the child had friends and relatives in the new area;
(5) the child's participation in community or extracurricular school activities, such as team sports, youth groups, or school clubs; and
(6) the respondent's employment and financial stability.

It added that in some circumstances consideration would be given to the immigration status of the child and the respondent. But, in general, the latter would only be relevant if there was an immediate, concrete threat of deportation.

The 9th Circuit affirmed that there was nothing in the Convention itself, its case law, or in the practical reality of living in the United States of America without documented status, to persuade it that immigration status should ordinarily play a significant, let alone dispositive, role in the "settled" inquiry.

The 9th Circuit held that ordinarily the most important factor would be the length and stability of the child's residence in the new environment.

In the light of this assessment, the 9th Circuit held that the District Court had erred in concluding that the child was not settled in the United States of America because neither she nor the mother was a legal resident.

The Court added that where, as in the present case, a child had lived and thrived in her home and school for over half of her life, and there was no reason to believe that she (or her undocumented parent) would suffer any imminent, negative consequences as a result of her unlawful status, it would be contrary to the Convention's purpose of keeping a child in "the family and social environment in which its life has developed" to rely on immigration status as the basis for rejecting an Article 12 defence.

Equitable Tolling
Given that equitable tolling may permit the return of children otherwise settled in their new environment, the 9th Circuit adhered to the parameters set down in Duarte so as to ensure that the Convention's concern over uprooting children was not sacrificed to its aim of deterring child abductions.

It recalled that under Duarte a court may equitably toll the one-year period where two related conditions were met:
(1) the abducting parent had concealed the child and
(2) that concealment caused the petitioning parent's filing delay.

In the present case, the father had failed to displace his burden of establishing concealment.

Author of the summary: Peter McEleavy

INCADAT comment

Habitual Residence

The interpretation of the central concept of habitual residence (Preamble, Art. 3, Art. 4) has proved increasingly problematic in recent years with divergent interpretations emerging in different jurisdictions. There is a lack of uniformity as to whether in determining habitual residence the emphasis should be exclusively on the child, with regard paid to the intentions of the child's care givers, or primarily on the intentions of the care givers. At least partly as a result, habitual residence may appear a very flexible connecting factor in some Contracting States yet much more rigid and reflective of long term residence in others.

Any assessment of the interpretation of habitual residence is further complicated by the fact that cases focusing on the concept may concern very different factual situations. For example habitual residence may arise for consideration following a permanent relocation, or a more tentative move, albeit one which is open-ended or potentially open-ended, or indeed the move may be for a clearly defined period of time.

General Trends:

United States Federal Appellate case law may be taken as an example of the full range of interpretations which exist with regard to habitual residence.

Child Centred Focus

The United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit has advocated strongly for a child centred approach in the determination of habitual residence:

Friedrich v. Friedrich, 983 F.2d 1396, 125 ALR Fed. 703 (6th Cir. 1993) (6th Cir. 1993) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 142]

Robert v. Tesson, 507 F.3d 981 (6th Cir. 2007) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/US 935].

See also:

Villalta v. Massie, No. 4:99cv312-RH (N.D. Fla. Oct. 27, 1999) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 221].

Combined Child's Connection / Parental Intention Focus

The United States Courts of Appeals for the 3rd and 8th Circuits, have espoused a child centred approach but with reference equally paid to the parents' present shared intentions.

The key judgment is that of Feder v. Evans-Feder, 63 F.3d 217 (3d Cir. 1995) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 83].

See also:

Silverman v. Silverman, 338 F.3d 886 (8th Cir. 2003) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 530];

Karkkainen v. Kovalchuk, 445 F.3d 280 (3rd Cir. 2006) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 879].

In the latter case a distinction was drawn between the situation of very young children, where particular weight was placed on parental intention(see for example: Baxter v. Baxter, 423 F.3d 363 (3rd Cir. 2005) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 808]) and that of older children where the impact of parental intention was more limited.

Parental Intention Focus

The judgment of the Federal Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in Mozes v. Mozes, 239 F.3d 1067 (9th Cir. 2001) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 301] has been highly influential in providing that there should ordinarily be a settled intention to abandon an existing habitual residence before a child can acquire a new one.

This interpretation has been endorsed and built upon in other Federal appellate decisions so that where there was not a shared intention on the part of the parents as to the purpose of the move this led to an existing habitual residence being retained, even though the child had been away from that jurisdiction for an extended period of time. See for example:

Holder v. Holder, 392 F.3d 1009 (9th Cir 2004) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 777]: United States habitual residence retained after 8 months of an intended 4 year stay in Germany;

Ruiz v. Tenorio, 392 F.3d 1247 (11th Cir. 2004) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 780]: United States habitual residence retained during 32 month stay in Mexico;

Tsarbopoulos v. Tsarbopoulos, 176 F. Supp.2d 1045 (E.D. Wash. 2001) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 482]: United States habitual residence retained during 27 month stay in Greece.

The Mozes approach has also been approved of by the Federal Court of Appeals for the 2nd and 7th Circuits:

Gitter v. Gitter, 396 F.3d 124 (2nd Cir. 2005) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 776];

Koch v. Koch, 450 F.3d 703 (2006 7th Cir.) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 878].

It should be noted that within the Mozes approach the 9th Circuit did acknowledge that given enough time and positive experience, a child's life could become so firmly embedded in the new country as to make it habitually resident there notwithstanding lingering parental intentions to the contrary.

Other Jurisdictions

There are variations of approach in other jurisdictions:

The Supreme Court of Austria has ruled that a period of residence of more than six months in a State will ordinarily be characterized as habitual residence, and even if it takes place against the will of the custodian of the child (since it concerns a factual determination of the centre of life).

8Ob121/03g, Oberster Gerichtshof [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/AT 548].

In the Province of Quebec, a child centred focus is adopted:

In Droit de la famille 3713, No 500-09-010031-003 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/CA 651], the Cour d'appel de Montréal held that the determination of the habitual residence of a child was a purely factual issue to be decided in the light of the circumstances of the case with regard to the reality of the child's life, rather than that of his parents. The actual period of residence must have endured for a continuous and not insignificant period of time; the child must have a real and active link to the place, but there is no minimum period of residence which is specified.

A child centred, factual approach is also evident in German case law:

2 UF 115/02, Oberlandesgericht Karlsruhe [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/DE 944].

This has led to the Federal Constitutional Court accepting that a habitual residence may be acquired notwithstanding the child having been wrongfully removed to the new State of residence:

Bundesverfassungsgericht, 2 BvR 1206/98, 29. Oktober 1998  [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/DE 233].

The Constitutional Court upheld the finding of the Higher Regional Court that the children had acquired a habitual residence in France, notwithstanding the nature of their removal there. This was because habitual residence was a factual concept and during their nine months there, the children had become integrated into the local environment.

Alternative approaches have been adopted when determining the habitual residence of children. On occasion, strong emphasis has been placed on parental intentions. See:

Family Appeal 1026/05 Ploni v. Almonit [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/Il 865];

Family Application 042721/06 G.K. v Y.K. [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/Il 939].

However, reference has been made to a more child centred approach in other cases. See:

decision of the Supreme Court in C.A. 7206/03, Gabai v. Gabai, P.D. 51(2)241;

FamA 130/08 H v H [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/Il 922].

New Zealand
In contrast to the Mozes approach the requirement of a settled intention to abandon an existing habitual residence was specifically rejected by a majority of the New Zealand Court of Appeal. See

S.K. v. K.P. [2005] 3 NZLR 590 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/NZ 816].

A child centred, factual approach is evident in Swiss case law:

5P.367/2005/ast, Bundesgericht, II. Zivilabteilung (Tribunal Fédéral, 2ème Chambre Civile) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/CH 841].

United Kingdom
The standard approach is to consider the settled intention of the child's carers in conjunction with the factual reality of the child's life.

Re J. (A Minor) (Abduction: Custody Rights) [1990] 2 AC 562, [1990] 2 All ER 961, [1990] 2 FLR 450, sub nom C. v. S. (A Minor) (Abduction) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/UKe 2]. For academic commentary on the different models of interpretation given to habitual residence. See:

R. Schuz, "Habitual Residence of Children under the Hague Child Abduction Convention: Theory and Practice", Child and Family Law Quarterly Vol 13, No. 1, 2001, p. 1;

R. Schuz, "Policy Considerations in Determining Habitual Residence of a Child and the Relevance of Context", Journal of Transnational Law and Policy Vol. 11, 2001, p. 101.

Settlement of the Child

A uniform interpretation has not emerged with regard to the concept of settlement; in particular whether it should be construed literally or rather in accordance with the policy objectives of the Convention.  In jurisdictions favouring the latter approach the burden of proof on the abducting parent is clearly greater and the exception is more difficult to establish.

Jurisdictions in which a heavy burden of proof has been attached to the establishment of settlement include:

United Kingdom - England & Wales
Re N. (Minors) (Abduction) [1991] 1 FLR 413 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 106]

In this case it was held that settlement is more than mere adjustment to surroundings. It involves a physical element of relating to, being established in, a community and an environment. It also has an emotional constituent denoting security and stability.

Cannon v. Cannon [2004] EWCA CIV 1330, [2005] 1 FLR 169 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 598]

For academic criticism of Re N. see:

Collins L. et al., Dicey, Morris & Collins on the Conflict of Laws, 14th Edition, Sweet & Maxwell, London, 2006, paragraph 19-121.

However, it may be noted that a more recent development in England has been the adoption of a child-centric assessment of settlement by the House of Lords in Re M. (Children) (Abduction: Rights of Custody) [2007] UKHL 55, [2008] 1 AC 1288, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 937].  This ruling may impact on the previous case law.

However there was no apparent weakening of the standard in the non-Convention case Re F. (Children) (Abduction: Removal Outside Jurisdiction) [2008] EWCA Civ. 842, [2008] 2 F.L.R. 1649,[INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 982].

United Kingdom - Scotland
Soucie v. Soucie 1995 SC 134 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKs 107]

For Article 12(2) to be activated the interest of the child in not being uprooted must be so cogent that it outweighs the primary purpose of the Convention, namely the return of the child to the proper jurisdiction so that the child's future may be determined in the appropriate place.

P. v. S., 2002 FamLR 2 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKs 963]

A settled situation was one which could reasonably be relied upon to last as matters stood and did not contain indications that it was likely to change radically or to fall apart. There had therefore to be some projection into the future.

C. v. C. [2008] CSOH 42, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKs 962]

United States of America
In re Interest of Zarate, No. 96 C 50394 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 23, 1996) [INCADAT cite: HC/E/USf  134]

A literal interpretation of the concept of settlement has been favoured in:

Director-General, Department of Community Services v. M. and C. and the Child Representative (1998) FLC 92-829 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/AU 291];

China - (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region)
A.C. v. P.C. [2004] HKMP 1238 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/HK 825].

The impact of the divergent interpretations is arguably most marked where very young children are concerned.

It has been held that settlement is to be considered from the perspective of a young child in:

7Ob573/90 Oberster Gerichtshof, 17/05/1990 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/AT 378];

Secretary, Attorney-General's Department v. T.S. (2001) FLC 93-063 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/AU 823];

State Central Authority v. C.R [2005] Fam CA 1050 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/AU 824];

Family Application 000111/07 Ploni v. Almonit, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/IL 938];

R 6136; M. Le Procureur Général contre M. H. K., [INCADAT cite: HC/E/MC 510];

Präsidium des Bezirksgerichts St. Gallen (District Court of St. Gallen) (Switzerland), decision of 8 September 1998, 4 PZ 98-0217/0532N, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/CH 431].

A child-centric approach has also been adopted in several significant appellate decisions with regard to older children, with emphasis placed on the children's views.

United Kingdom - England & Wales
Re M. (Children) (Abduction: Rights of Custody) [2007] UKHL 55, [2008] 1 AC 1288, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 937];

CA Paris 27 Octobre 2005, 05/15032, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/FR 814];

Droit de la Famille 2785, Cour d'appel de  Montréal, 5 December 1997, No 500-09-005532-973 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/CA 653].

In contrast, a more objective assessment was favoured in the United States decision:

David S. v. Zamira S., 151 Misc. 2d 630, 574 N.Y.S.2d 429 (Fam. Ct. 1991) [INCADAT cite: HC/E/USs 208]
The children, aged 3 and 1 1/2, had not established significant ties to their community in Brooklyn; they were not involved in school, extra-curricular, community, religious or social activities which children of an older age would be.


Where children are concealed in the State of refuge courts are reluctant to make a finding of settlement, even if many years elapse before their discovery:

Canada (7 years elapsed)
J.E.A. v. C.L.M. (2002), 220 D.L.R. (4th) 577 (N.S.C.A.) [INCADAT cite: HC/E/CA 754];

See however the decision of the Cour d'appel de Montréal in:

Droit de la Famille 2785, Cour d'appel de  Montréal, 5 December 1997, No 500-09-005532-973 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/CA 653].

United Kingdom - Scotland (2 ½ years elapsed)
C. v. C. [2008] CSOH 42, 2008 S.C.L.R. 329 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKs 962];

Switzerland (4 years elapsed)
Justice de Paix du cercle de Lausanne (Magistrates' Court), decision of 6 July 2000, J 765 CIEV 112E [INCADAT cite: HC/E/CH 434];

United States of America
(2 ½ years elapsed)
Lops v. Lops, 140 F. 3d 927 (11th Cir. 1998) [INCADAT cite: HC/E/USf 125];

(3 years elapsed)
In re Coffield, 96 Ohio App. 3d 52, 644 N.E. 2d 662 (1994) [INCADAT cite: HC/E/USs 138].

Non-return orders have been made where notwithstanding the concealment the children have still been able to lead open lives:

United Kingdom - England & Wales (4 years elapsed)
Re C. (Abduction: Settlement) (No 2) [2005] 1 FLR 938 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 815];

China - (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) (4 ¾ years elapsed)
A.C. v. P.C. [2004] HKMP 1238 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/HK 825].

Equitable Tolling

In accordance with this principle the one year time limit in Article 12 is only deemed to commence from the date of the discovery of the children. The rationale being that otherwise an abducting parent who concealed children for more than a year would be rewarded for their misconduct by creating eligibility for an affirmative defence which was not otherwise available.

Furnes v. Reeves, 362 F.3d 702 (11th Cir. 2004) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 578].

The principle of 'equitable tolling' in the context of the time limit specified in Article 12 has been rejected in other jurisdictions, see:

United Kingdom - England & Wales
Cannon v. Cannon [2004] EWCA CIV 1330, [2005] 1 FLR 169 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/UKe 598];

China - (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region)
A.C. v. P.C. [2004] HKMP 1238 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/HK 825];

New Zealand
H.J. v. Secretary for Justice [2006] NZFLR 1005 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/NZ 1127].