by Lawyer X, Esq.
I recently picked up a booklet at Skadden Arps’ Paris office called Skadden Pro Bono Report. In it, Skadden highlights its global network of attorneys’ pro bono projects. One featured article that caught my eye was a case handled by an attorney in Houston Texas named Celso Gonzalez Falla. It is a Hague abduction case involving a couple who were married and divorced in Germany. The husband is a German native and the wife is from Gabon. During the divorce proceeding the wife alleged that the husband had been abusive to her and the kids. Nevertheless, the German court awarded joint custody to both parents.
The husband subsequently granted the wife’s request to take the children to holiday in France but unknowing to him, she escaped with their 3 school aged children to Houston Texas where she was later found living with them in a women’s shelter. It was attorney Celso Gonzalez Falla to the rescue. He assisted the father in obtaining a modification of the German divorce decree, this time awarding him sole custody of the three children; then, with the aid of US State Department and an attorney in Frankfurt named Rebecca Kiesow-Hill, he appeared before the US District Court for Southern Texas and got the court to order the children back to Germany. Mr. Gonzalez Falla is quoted as saying “the Convention is designed to ensure the safe and immediate return of a child who was allegedly removed by respecting the rights of custody under the law of the country that has jurisdiction.” (The German court had retained jurisdiction in this matter, of course.)
This case is a triumph for the Hague Convention as well as for father’s rights. Mr Falla is quoted as saying that “unfortunately, in child abduction cases, fathers face additional challenges [than mothers].” His point is taken and we extend congratulations on a job well done in this case. Hopefully, the Court and Mr Falla are correct in their assessment that neither the mother and the children had been the subject of abuse in this situation and that it really was in the best interest of the children to award custody to their father and return them to his care in Germany.
by Lawyer X, Esq.