Moreno v. Zank, No. 17-2397 (6th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Zank, a U.S. citizen, and Moreno, an Ecuadorian citizen, divorced and had joint custody of BLZ, born in Michigan in 2006. The decree prohibited Moreno from taking BLZ to Ecuador without prior notice to Zank. In 2009, Moreno took BLZ to Ecuador. Zank obtained a Michigan state court temporary sole custody order, contacted the State Department, and filled out a Hague Convention petition with the Embassy in Ecuador. Zank did not complete the process by filing the petition with the Ecuadorian courts. The State Department labeled Ecuador as noncompliant with its Hague Convention obligations. In Ecuador, Moreno enrolled BLZ in school. BLZ flourished, participating in extracurricular activities and making many friends. In 2010, Moreno permitted Zank to visit BLZ in Ecuador. Zank did not take BLZ to the Embassy or pursue a Hague Convention petition. Moreno obtained an ex parte order from an Ecuadorian court prohibiting BLZ from leaving the country. The parents eventually filed an agreement in Ecuador: Moreno received full legal custody and an increase in child support; Zank waived issues concerning BLZ's arrival in Ecuador. The "no travel" order was lifted. BLZ visited Zank in 2014. Moreno and Zank reiterated their agreement, for filing in the U.S.; it was filed in the wrong court. In 2016, BLZ visited Zank. Zank claims that BLZ told him that Moreno had physically abused her and that she did not wish to return to Ecuador. BLZ voiced a preference for living permanently with Zank. The Michigan court granted Zank custody. Moreno filed this Hague Convention petition in federal court, which held that the original abduction meant that Ecuador could not be the child’s habitual residence. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The proper remedy for the initial kidnapping was a Hague Convention petition in Ecuador, subject to applicable defenses, not self-help.