Grandparents Arrested in Child Abduction Case

GeorgiaLeeLang057Chris Brann is a Houston, Texas doctor whose 9-year-old son, Nicolas, was abducted by his ex-wife, Marcelle Guimaraes, in 2013, on the pretence that she was simply attending a wedding in Brazil, her home country and the home of her parents.

She led Mr. Brann to believe that after the wedding celebrations she and Nicolas would return to Texas, where the parties shared joint custody of Nicholas, but that was a subterfuge. She had already prepared in advance to remain in Brazil; obtain a sole custody order; and with the help of her parents had arranged to pre-register Nicolas in a school in Brazil.

Mr. Brann filed an application for the return of Nicolas under the Hague Convention on Child Abduction, an international treaty to which most countries are signatories, as is Brazil. However, Brazil is also one of several countries who pay lip service to the treaty but frequently ignore the spirit of the law and through delay and other tactics fail to order the return of children.

The guiding principle of the treaty is that custody decisions should only be made in the country where the child is “habitually resident” in order to foil parents who abscond to another country and seek orders that would not otherwise be granted in their home country.

While father Brann has visited his son in Brazil numerous times, the justice system in Brazil has failed to respond in accordance with the treaty. However, the tide may now turn as Nicolas’ Brazilian grandparents, Carlos Otavio Guimaraes, 67, and Jemima Guimaraes, 65, were taken into custody this week when they arrived at the Miami International Airport. Their involvement in Nicolas’ removal from Texas has led to charges for international abduction and conspiracy to abduct. They face up to five years in prison if convicted.

Mr. Brann reportedly issued a statement remarking that he was “very sorry it has come to this” and hoped their arrest will convince them to persuade their daughter to return Nicolas to the United States in return for his plea for leniency for them.

Child abduction is one of the worst forms of child abuse and too often abducting parents are given a slap on the wrist, rather than the harsh punishment their conduct deserves.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

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