Another custody case involves sisters from Georgia

A Costa Rican family court judge has ruled that a local woman must return her two children to the father in the United States, but it is still unclear whether she will contest the decision.

This is the latest in a long series of international custody disputes.

The woman, Lucrecia Ramirez Camacho, had until Monday to appeal the decision that she must send her two daughters, 10-year-old Isabella and 6-year-old Elena, back to Georgia to live with their father and her husband Christopher Camacho.

By Tuesday it was not yet clear to Camacho’s attorney, Michael Manely, whether or not the woman had filed an appeal.The lawyer here representing Ms. Ramírez was not available.

Even with the appeal, Manely is confident that Camacho’s children will return soon.

“I think it’s very likely,” he said in a telephone interview assessing how probable it is that the children will returned to Georgia. “This is a case that is very clear under both tests Costa Rica uses.”

Manely described how international custody disputes in Costa Rica fall under international laws set at the Hague Convention on Child Abductions, which determines custody based on a child’s habitual residence and Costa Rican law, which determines custody based on a best interest test.

“When it became abundantly clear that all of the evidence regarding how these girls were raised was in Georgia, except for the few months that the mother was trying to unilaterally shift habitual residence, it was clear that these girls had to come home to Georgia,” said Manely.

Last summer, Ms. Ramirez, a native of Costa Rica, brought her children here for a month-long vacation, which was an annual routine when the children were off of school for the summer.

Ms. Ramirez extended the vacation several times before finally telling Camacho by phone that she
was not coming home, according to Manely.

Since then, Camacho initiated divorce proceedings in November and has been granted a judgment in Georgia in December ordering that the children be returned home.

Although the case was argued in April, as of last week a Tribunal de Familia judge, Yerma Campos Calvo, gave a second order the girls be returned to their father.

Manely said that these decisions were fairly easy to come to because the mother and the father presented the same set of evidence.

“Both sides agree on the facts,” he said.

In order to make her case, Ms. Ramirez argued that to send the children back would expose them to grave risk of harm, citing an incident when Camacho slammed a car door in a park after a quarrel with Ms. Ramirez and an incident in which he allegedly ordered one of his daughters to eat a hamburger that had not been prepared to her taste, according to Manely.

Despite not being able communicate with his daughters often while they have been in Costa Rica, and months of international legal battles, Camacho has left the divorce proceedings in Georgia open to allow her to legally come to a custody agreement.

“Dad has intentionally not finished this case so the mom can have a say in this. . . . she can still have her day in court,” said Manely.

Since it is still unclear whether Ramirez will appeal the case, it has not yet be determined how the children will return to the U.S.

In similar cases fathers in the U.S. were successful in court proceedings here but the children still were not returned. In one case, a mother sought and received refugee status from the Óscar Arias Sánchez administration to allow her to avoid an extradition to the United States to face a charge there of child abduction. One Costa Rican woman also lost possession of her children when the U.S. father brought them here and she was unable financially to continue with a court case.

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