CHICAGO (CN) -The 7th Circuit took the rare step of intervening in a family-law case and ordered an American woman to bring her son back to his father in Sweden.
“Although the federal courts normally have nothing to do with child custody issues, there is an exception for cases that arise under the International Child Abduction Remedies Act,” Judge Diane Wood wrote for the appellate panel.
After Swedish physician Magnus Norinder and Texas physician Sharon Fuentes met on the Internet in 2006, their relationship progressed quickly. Fuentes visited Sweden in 2007 to become engaged, and the couple soon had a son.
The family moved to Sweden when the child was 5 months old, and Norinder got Fuentes a hospital job.
When the couple’s relationship soured, however, Fuentes moved out with her son and switched hospitals. Norinder’s employer meanwhile suspended him to investigated substance-abuse charges brought by Fuentes.
On March 17, 2010, under the guise of a two-week vacation to Texas, Fuentes brought her son to the United States. On the day of her supposed return to Sweden, Fuentes sent Norinder a text message that said she was keeping their son and disappeared.
Norinder hired a lawyer and, after a month of searching, found his wife and child in southern Illinois. He then filed suit under the Child Abduction Remedies Act, seeking the boy’s return to Sweden.
U.S. District Judge William Stiehl expedited the case and ultimately ruled that the child’s “habitual place of residence” was Sweden. Since Norinder retained custody rights under Swedish law and posed no threat to his son, Stiehl ordered the boy returned to Sweden.
The 7th Circuit affirmed on appeal, referring to the child by his initials, JRN.
“This case is not a close one,” Wood wrote. “Although JRN was born in Houston, Texas, the family moved to Sweden five months after the child’s birth and lived there until the trip Fuentes took that triggered this lawsuit.”
Fuentes had shared Norinder’s intention to raise JRN in Sweden, the court ruled. She had at least 80 percent of her personal items shipped to Sweden in 2008, applied for and received permanent residency status, found a home, and did not maintain a residence in the United States or pay taxes.
The judges agreed that Fuentes failed to present evidence that Norinder posed a threat to JRN.
The court also affirmed an award of $150,000 to Norinder for attorneys’ fees and costs.