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Colorado Court Denies Custody to Latvian Nanny

We’ve blogged about legal translation services for parental rights and guardianship cases involving foreign countries and the role of the Hague Convention in such disputes. In the case below, a Colorado probate court was faced with determining the guardianship of a child whose Latvian father had passed away.

In In the Interest of L.B., a child, the subject child was born in 2009. Her mother passed away the following year. Both the child and her father had dual citizenship in Latvia and the United States and the father owned residences in Colorado, Latvia, and France. In 2011, the child’s father hired a nanny, and subsequently developed a romantic relationship with her. The child attended school in Colorado from 2012, 2013 and 2015, but the child, her father, and the nanny lived in Latvia for a year in 2014.

Father Executes Two Separate Wills

The child’s father died in 2015 and left two executed wills. His first will was signed in 2012 in Latvia and his second will was signed in Denver, Colorado, USA. In his second will, he revoked all prior wills and indicated that the second will should be interpreted according to Colorado law. Both wills appointed the child’s Latvian nanny as guardian in the event of the father’s death.

In the 2014 Will, the father left his estate in trust for the benefit of his child and another adult daughter. The primary purpose of the trust was “to provide for the health, education, support, and maintenance” for the child. It requested that the trustees consider retaining the father’s Colorado condominium in order to provide a residence for the child and her guardian.

Nanny Files Lawsuit in Orphan’s Court in Latvia

After the father’s death, the Latvian nanny and the adult daughter filed a probate action seeking to establish temporary co-guardianship for the child for six months. The court appointed the nanny and adult daughter as co-guardians for several months. During this period of time, the nanny filed a petition for guardianship over the child in an orphan’s court in Latvia. Neither the Latvian nanny or her Latvian attorney informed the Latvian court about the probate proceedings pending in Colorado or the father’s 2014 Will.

Latvian Nanny and Adult Daughter Disagree Over Child’s Country of Residence

While the Latvian nanny and adult daughter were acting as co-guardians of the child, a dispute arose over where the child should reside. The nanny desired to live with the child in Latvia, while the adult daughter of the deceased thought the child should live in the United States. The Colorado probate court determined, based on the evidence, that the child should reside and attend school in Denver, Colorado. The court also appointed the adult daughter and a Latvian couple living in Denver as co-guardians.

The Latvian couple had met and cared for the child after the father’s death and had developed a relationship with the child. The probate court determined that the couple would be able to provide the child with a similar life experience as the adult child had growing up along with the lifestyle that the father would have wanted for the child.

The nanny appealed the probate court’s decision, arguing that the court did not have subject matter jurisdiction over the dispute. The Latvian nanny also argued that the probate court erred because it did not communicate with the Latvian court in a timely manner, failed to consider certain testimony, and violated the Hague convention, among other things.

Colorado Court of Appeals Upholds Probate Court’s Guardianship Order

The Colorado Court of Appeals rejected each of the nanny’s claims. As to the issue of subject matter jurisdiction, the appeals court found that the record did not reveal a valid prior appointment as guardian under Latvian law. In fact, the court noted that the Latvian appellate court found that the nanny and her attorney had deceived the orphan’s court by relying on the 2012 Will and by failing to disclose the existence of the 2014 Will and Colorado court proceedings. Furthermore, the court explained that Latvia had declined jurisdiction on the grounds that Colorado was a more appropriate forum to resolve the dispute.

As to the allegations regarding the court’s failure to communicate with the Latvian court, the appellate court found this argument to be without merit. The appellate court explained that the Latvian court had declined jurisdictions and terminated its proceedings after it learned about the existence of the 2014 Will from the Colorado probate court, a decision which was upheld by the Latvian appellate court.
The court also rejected the Latvian nanny’s arguments regarding the consideration of certain evidence. The nanny had argued that the probate court erred by considering the testimony of lay people about the quality of education in Latvia. The court pointed out that the nanny had failed to object to the testimony of three witnesses who testified that the father had informed them that he thought the child would receive a better education in the U.S.

The court of appeals also rejected the nanny’s argument that the court violated the Hague Convention. The court explained that the purpose of the Hague Convention is to “promptly return children who are wrongfully removed or retained, unless one of the express narrow exceptions applies.” Essentially, it prevents parents from abducting their children to obtain a more favorable custody arrangement in another country. The court declined to reverse the probate court’s determination that the child was a resident of Colorado and held that the Latvian nanny had no right to determine the child’s place of residence since she was not a natural or adoptive parent.

The case is In the Interest of L.B., a Child, Edite Dusalijeva, and Mara B. Blumberg, et al., Case No. 15CA1663 announced on January 12, 2017 by the Colorado Court of Appeals.

Certified Translation from Latvian to English for Probate Cases

All Language Alliance, Inc. provides certified document translation services from and to Latvian, French, Chinese, Lithuanian, Spanish, Russian, Swedish, and other foreign languages. Contact our legal translation service for retain in-person and remote Latvian, Swedish, Spanish, Russian, Chinese deposition interpreters and translators for probate and parental rights cases.

**This legal translations article should not be construed as legal advice. You should always consult an attorney regarding your specific legal needs.***

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