Is Jailing Your in-Laws the Only Way to Get Your Child Back From Brazil?

Dr. Chris Brann, a Houston physician, cleverly used a Federal Statute (The International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act of 1993, 18 U.S.C. §1204) to gain leverage in an international custody battle by having his ex-wife's parents arrested when they arrived at the Miami International Airport from Brazil.

In July 2013, Dr. Brann gave his ex-wife, Marcelle Guimaraes, permission to travel home to Brazil to visit her parents and participate in a family wedding with the parties' minor child, Nicholas, who was only 4 years old at the time. Ms. Guimareas was to travel to Brazil on July 2 and return no later than July 20, 2013. She did not return to Houston with Nicolas as agreed.

The criminal complaint alleges that the grandparents, Carlos and Jemima Guimaraes, were complicit in a plot to assist their daughter move Nicholas from the United States to Brazil in violation of Parenting Orders in Texas.

While Brazil is a member of The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, it does not readily abide by the Convention. Problematic is Brazil does not recognize custody orders from other countries if a parent is a Brazilian citizen. A child who is born of a Brazilian citizen automatically becomes a Brazilian citizen regardless of where born. Once the child enters Brazil, the Brazilian citizenship trumps all other citizenship that the child may have and the child is now subject to Brazilian laws exclusively. Any previous child custody orders are replaced with Brazilian child custody orders.

Like Dr. Brann, many other parents have lost their children to the Brazilian legal system.

Dr. Brann has indicated that the criminal case against his ex-in-laws might be dismissed if his ex-wife returns Nicolas to the United States immediately. Hopefully, for him and his son, this ploy will work.