Court Opinions: 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion from May 16

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

Editor’s Note: Law Week Colorado edits court opinion summaries for style and, when necessary, length.

Dumitrascu v. Dumitrascu

Alin Dumitrascu and Violeta Dumitrascu are both Romanian by birth and have family in Romania. Alin Dumitrascu moved to the U.S. in 2006 and became a U.S. citizen. Violeta Dumitrascu is a Romanian citizen.

The two met online in 2007 and married in Romania in 2015. They then moved to Colorado in 2016, and Alin Dumitrascu successfully sponsored Violeta Dumitrascu’s application for a green card.

Violeta Dumitrascu became pregnant with A.M.B.D. and the couple decided to travel to Romania for her birth in part to avoid hospital fees in the U.S. They traveled to Romania in early August 2019, where they stayed with Alin Dumitrascu’s father; though at that point they “intended to return to the United States at some point to raise the child.” 

Violeta Dumitrascu gave birth to A.M.B.D. on Sept. 4, 2019, and the couple lived in Romania for about 10 months after A.M.B.D.’s birth. During that time, Violeta Dumitrascu and Alin Dumitrascu began to diverge on their original plan to return to the U.S. According to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals opinion, “When A.M.B.D. was five weeks old, [Violeta Dumitrascu] got a job [in Romania] because someone had to earn money and [Alin Dumitrascu] did not want to work in Romania.” Violeta Dumitrascu’s green card also expired, the U.S. denied her application for an extension, and she developed reservations about returning to the U.S. “She therefore made plans for the family to live in Romania.” As part of these plans, she applied for “the First House program, a Romanian program to assist young families in buying their first home.” 

Alin Dumitrascu intended for the family to return to the U.S. He got Violeta Dumitrascu’s permission to travel to the U.S. with A.M.B.D. so he could obtain a social security card for the child. “He also planned to work on getting [Violeta Dumitrascu] a green card, to bring her over to the United States, and to earn money through a job.” To facilitate this trip, Violeta Dumitrascu signed an affidavit that stated: “I agree and consent[] that [A.M.B.D. can] travel to the United States of America, starting with July 6, 2020, until December 31, 2020, together with Alin Dumitrascu, as parent of minor.” 

Alin Dumitrascu took A.M.B.D. to the U.S. in July 2020. But he didn’t help Violeta Dumitrascu apply for a green card. And he didn’t return A.M.B.D. to Romania by the Dec. 31 deadline. Violeta Dumitrascu filed for divorce in Romania and launched these proceedings seeking A.M.B.D.’s return to Romania.

The district court found that Romania was A.M.B.D.’s habitual residence when Alin Dumitrascu retained her in the U.S. The court then evaluated whether Alin Dumitrascu’s retention of A.M.B.D. breached Violeta Dumitrascu’s custody rights under Romanian law and concluded that his retention did. Under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and the International Child Abduction Remedies Act, the court ordered A.M.B.D.’s return to Romania pending custody proceedings there. Alin Dumitrascu challenged the district court’s finding that A.M.B.D. habitually resided in Romania.

The 10th Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. It ruled the district court appropriately found A.M.B.D. habitually resided in Romania on the date the child was retained in the U.S. without Violeta Dumitrascu’s permission.

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