Cases & Deals

Attorneys aid father in Mexico to achieve U.S. visitation and parental rights

Clients Client P

Jones Day assisted their client, a father residing in Mexico, in reaching a settlement agreement with his wife, a U.S. citizen, enabling the child to reside in Texas with her mother, but allowing her to visit her father three times a year. Jones Day's client is a Mexican father who speaks no English at all. In 1998, he married a woman who grew up in the Houston area but decided to go to college in Mexico. They had a child several years into the marriage and resided in Mexico. In 2001, when the child was 10 months of age, the mother decided to return to the U.S., absconded with the child and permanently took up residence near Houston. She obtained an American divorce decree in 2002 from the 309th Houston family court (based on a fraudulent Waiver of Service), then promptly married another man and had a child with him. She never told her first child who her real father was and the child grew up believing that the second husband was her father.

Meanwhile, back in Mexico, when our client determined that his wife was not coming back, he began the long and arduous task of obtaining a Mexican divorce decree so that he could obtain a court order to see his child. Our client was granted a Mexican divorce in 2004, granting him access and visitation with his daughter, which he tried to enforce in the United States through the Mexican Consulate in Houston. When his efforts proved unsuccessful, he contacted the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which refers cases to attorneys interested in doing pro bono work.

In August 2007, the judge of the 309th Houston family court set aside the 2002 divorce decree on the grounds that it was obtained by extrinsic fraud, and instead recognized the 2004 divorce decree the client obtained in Mexico. The judge also agreed that our client should start visitation with his daughter as soon as possible. However, shortly afterwards the mother filed a Petition for Termination and Adoption of Stepchild, alleging that termination of the client's parental rights and adoption of the child by the stepfather is in the child's best interest.

Jones Day became involved when Client P requested help to fight the mother's adoption petition and to finalize his rights of possession and access to the child. We successfully attacked a number of defects in the mother's pleadings, requiring her to amend her petition twice since filing and, eventually convincing the judge to grant our Motion to Dismiss the Adoption Petition. With the threat of the client being shut out of his child's life finally removed, we focused on working out the details with respect to the client's possession, access and support of the child. In the summer of 2009 the client was allowed to take his daughter on a month-long visit to Mexico, where he and the family got to spend time with her for the first time since she was abducted. In early 2010, the parties reached a settlement agreement, whereby the child would continue residing with her mother in Houston but would visit her father in Mexico three times a year. With our help, the client's long and arduous journey to be a part of his child's life is finally completed.