Sala IV declines to return child to U.S. custodial dad

The Sala IV constitutional court has determined the presumed interests of a child are superior to the country’s obligations under the international treaty covering child abductions.

This is the latest episode in the long-running legal battle by Trina Atwell and the custodial parent of the child, Roy Koyama of Missouri. Ms. Atwell was married to a Costa Rican, Henner Chaverría, when she met Koyama, and she came to Costa Rica with her daughter Emily in February 2009. When she returned to Costa Rica she reunited with Chaverría.

Koyama wrote on an Internet page last month that Emily had been denied refugee status in Costa Rica and had been ordered to be returned to the United States and him. However, the Sala IV said that returning the child to the United States would be contrary to the main interests of the girl.

Ms. Atwell is the subject of a Green County Court warrant for parental abduction.

The Defensoría de los Habitantes has been working as an adviser to Ms. Atwell and also filed its own case on her behalf.

The Juzgado de Niñez y Adolescencia del Primer Circuito Judicial de San José, the regional family court, ordered May 7, 2010, that the girl be reunited with Koyama. The decision also went against the wishes of the Dirección General de
Migración y Extranjería, and the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia.

Koyama has been getting help from a local lawyer and from the U.S. State Department. He normally is not in Costa Rica, although he has visited during the course of the long-running legal case.

Generally the child abduction treaty says that the initial court should have responsibility for deciding such cases. That would be the Green County Court in this case. However, the Sala IV cited sections of the treaty to say the the interest of the child should have priority.

The magistrates wrote in the decision handed down Tuesday that social work and psychology professionals had been involved in the case. The decision did not say if Koyama had been contacted. Both Koyama and Ms. Atwell have waged an Internet war via competing Web pages.

The case is not clear cut because Ms. Atwell said that she never was advised of a Green County Court hearing when Koyama was awarded custody.

She also claims Koyama is abusive and a drug user. He denies these claims.

This is another case of Costa Rican judges assuming responsibility for child abduction cases contrary to the intent of the international treaty. Almost always the favored party in the case is the mother. Men who abduct children to Costa Rica are quickly expelled.

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