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Slight v. Noonkester

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

January 24, 2014

DAVID SLIGHT, Petitioner,


SUSAN P. WATTERS, District Judge.

This matter came before the Court for an evidentiary hearing on Petitioner David Slight's ("David") Verified Petition for Return of Child and Petition for Immediate Issuance of Show Cause Order to Respondent ("Petition") on January 21, 2014. This Petition was filed pursuant to The Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, done at The Hague on October 25, 1980, T.I.A.S. No. 11, 670 at 1, 2254 U.N.T.S. at 98, reprinted in 51 Fed. Reg. 10494 (1986) ("Hague Convention" or "Convention"). At the hearing, Slight was represented by Shane Coleman and Jamie Iguchi of Holland & Hart, LLP. Respondent Ingrid Noonkester ("Ingrid") was represented by William Gilbert of High Plains Law, PLLC. At the hearing, both parties presented evidence and argument to the Court. From the evidence received at the hearing, the Court enters the following:



1. David is an Irish citizen who has resided in Dublin all of his life. Ingrid is a Lithuanian citizen who at some point moved to Dublin. In June 2004, David and Ingrid met and began a relationship. Although they never married, David and Ingrid lived together until their separation in January of 2010.

2. In November of 2005, David and Ingrid's son, L.S., was born. (Ex. 501).

3. After their separation, David and Ingrid shared responsibilities as to L.S.' upbringing. Ingrid exercised custody the majority of the time. At the time, Ingrid worked three jobs, and David watched over L.S. when Ingrid was working. In addition, David would periodically have L.S. over for sleepovers and would occasionally drop off and pick up L.S. at school.

4. At some point in May 2012, the parties arranged for Ingrid to leave L.S. in David's custody on May 25, 2012. However, Ingrid never arrived at the designated location with L.S. Instead, on May 25, 2012, Ingrid and L.S. boarded a plane and flew to the United States, with their ultimate destination being Brady, Montana. The purpose of traveling to Montana was to move in with Alan Noonkester ("Alan"). Alan and Ingrid decided to live together after meeting on the internet.

5. Ingrid only decided to move L.S. out of Ireland after consulting materials provided by Treoir, which is an Irish organization that supplies information to unmarried parents. (Ex. 517). The materials informed Ingrid that under Irish law, the mother is the sole guardian of a child born unto unmarried parents. Accordingly, unless the father petitions a court for joint guardianship, the mother can remove the child from Ireland without the father's permission.

6. David had no knowledge of Ingrid's plans, nor did he ever consent to L.S.' departure from Ireland. In addition, at no time prior to L.S.' departure did David ever apply to an Irish court for guardianship, custody, or access.

David's attempts to bring L.S. back to Ireland

7. In the morning of May 25, 2012, after waiting in vain for Ingrid's arrival, David sent Ingrid a text message. Ingrid did not respond, so David sent another text that afternoon. That evening, Ingrid responded and falsely told Slight that she was in Lithuania and had moved in with her mother. Ingrid acknowledges that she lied to David, but explains that she was afraid of David's reaction and only lied to buy some time.

8. On May 26, 2012, David informed the Irish police that Ingrid had removed L.S. from Ireland without his permission. (Ex. F). About eight weeks later, in late July 2012, the police informed David that Ingrid had not gone to Lithuania, but rather gone to Montana. The police also gave David the street address where Ingrid and L.S. were living.

9. Although not exactly clear when, at some point in 2012, David filed a petition for L.S.' return with the Irish Government. David claims that this petition was denied due to the fact that David was not a guardian of L.S. at the time of the abduction.

10. On June 5, 2012, David applied to the Dublin Metropolitan District Court ("Dublin Court") for both sole custody of L.S. and to be named his guardian. (Exs. C-3 and C-4). While it is unclear whether Ingrid was served with these documents, she did know about the pending action. Ingrid never made a formal appearance before the Dublin Court, and the only action she took was writing a letter to the Dublin Court explaining her circumstances.

11. On September 11, 2012, the Dublin Court appointed David as both joint custodian and joint guardian of L.S. (Exs. C-1 and C-2). In the order appointing David joint custodian, the Court stated that:

Provided that the party to whom custody/access of the said child(ren) is hereby given shall not remove the said child(ren) from the jurisdiction of this Court without having first obtained in writing of the other party or the leave of this Court or of any other Court of competent jurisdiction.

(Ex. C-2 at 2).

12. Ingrid never saw the Dublin Court's orders until she was served with the Petition on December 31, 2013. However, she likely knew that the Dublin Court had issued such orders.

13. On November 9, 2012, David completed an Authorization to Release Case Information to allow the U.S. Department of State to discuss his case with prospective attorneys in the U.S. (Ex. H).

14. On April 15, 2013, David filed an application for access under the Hague Convention with the Ireland Department of Justice and Equality. (Ex. D). In that application, David authorized the Central Authority for the United States of America to represent him and act on his behalf. Id. at 6. On June 10, 2013, the Ireland Department of Justice and Equality forwarded David's application to the U.S. Department of State. (Ex. G). In the accompanying letter, the Irish Department representative noted that David previously applied for David's return, which was denied as he was not a guardian at the time of removal. Id. at 1.

15. On September 13, 2013, the U.S. Department of State arranged a phone call between David and his present counsel. This was the first contact David had with an American attorney.

L.S.' Adjustment to the United States

16. After their arrival in the United States, Ingrid and L.S. moved to Brady, Montana, to move in with Alan. Ingrid and Alan married in August of 2012.

17. While in Brady, L.S. attended school in the Dutton/Brady School District from August 2012 until February 2013.

18. After his arrival in Montana, L.S. developed a close relationship with Alan. L.S. and Alan have good relationship, with the two participating in typical father-son activities. L.S. has also developed close and meaningful relationships with Alan's two children from a prior relationship. In particular, L.S. is close with his step brother, Liam, who is two years older. Although Liam lives primarily with his mother in Fort Benton, Liam visits over the summer and on holidays. L.S. also has developed close ties with his step-grandparents. His step-grandmother, Laurie ...

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