The children’s father, Jonathan Curle (Jonathan) is a Canadian citizen, born in Zimbabwe where he maintained a residence all of his life. His wife, Krystal Curle (Krystal) is a US Citizen who maintained legal residency in Zimbabwe where she lived with her husband. The Curles met in California, while Jonathan was a student in the 1990s. After their first child was born in Folsom, California, in 1999, the family moved to Zimbabwe where their second child was born a year later. Their third child was born in Mt. Shasta while visiting the United States in 2003. At all times the parties maintained their residence in Zimbabwe. Jonathan’
In late 2009 the family came to California to attend Krystal’s sister’s wedding and to meet with representatives of Grace International Church (“Grace”) concerning Jonathan’s ministry license. Jonathan and Krystal met with the International Ministries board of Grace who suggested to Jonathan and Krystal that they remain in the United States for a year to do fund raising for the church and to “work on their marriage.” In January of 2010 the family returned to Zimbabwe and in February, 2010, Krystal and the children travelled to the United States with the stated intention of returning to Zimbabwe on the 4th of January 2011. Jonathan travelled from Zimbabwe on the 11th of March 2010 to join his wife and children in California. It was never the family’s intention to renounce Zimbabwe for American residence or to settle in America.
Jonathan never, at anytime, filed a petition for permanent residency in the United States as he always intended to return to Zimbabwe with his family. When the time came for the family to travel back to Zimbabwe from the United States in January of 2011, Krystal refused to return to Zimbabwe.
On January 10, 2011, Krystal told Jonathan that, not only was she not returning to Zimbabwe, she would not allow the children to return to their home with him. Krystal then hid the children's passports from Jonathan. As Jonathan was only in the United States on a tourist visa, he had no choice but to leave the country. Compounding the trauma of this incident, Krystal initially refused to allow Jonathan access to the children and actively hid them from him (although she did allow Jonathan a brief opportunity to say goodbye to the children just before he left) and the Siskiyou County Superior Court later issued provisional orders allowing Jonathan limited visitation with the children until his visa expired and he was forced to leave the U.S.
Regardless of the complaints recently made by Krystal’s family in the press, the above are the facts as determined by the Siskiyou County Superior Court Judge during trial in Yreka, California on Jonathan's Petition to return the children to Zimbabwe under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction ("Hague Convention").
The most concise summary of what the Hague Convention does comes from the State Department website in which it describes the convention in the following terms:
The Hague Convention is the primary civil law mechanism for parents seeking the return of the children from other treaty partner countries. Countries that are party to the Convention have agreed that a child who was living in one Convention country, and who has been removed to or retained in another Convention country in violation of the left-behind parent's custodial rights, shall be promptly returned. Once the child has been returned, the custody dispute can then be resolved, if necessary, in the courts of that jurisdiction. The Convention does not address who should have custody of the child; it addresses where the custody case should be heard.
Krystal made some of the same arguments in trial that her family has made in the press, specifically, that the children would suffer abuse or neglect if they are returned to Zimbabwe. The court evaluated those claims and the evidence presented in support of those claims and found Krystal’s claims meritless. Specifically, the court found that Krystal wrongfully retained the children in violation of Jonathan's custodial rights, and that Zimbabwe was the children's habitual residence prior to Krystal's wrongful retention of the children. Citizenship is not the determining factor under the Hague Convention. Habitual residence is.
In response to Krystal's claim that the children would suffer abuse or neglect were they returned to Zimbabwe, the court noted that: a) the family lived in Zimbabwe for 10 years, in spite of Krystal's claim of risks associated with living in the country; b) in addition, "a review of the Zimbabwe Guardianship of Minor's Act indicates the courts actually do take into account the interests of both parents and the needs of the minor children." The court did not make its decision lightly. It had the benefit of hearing evidence at a day long trial, and issued its decision in a carefully written 15 page ruling that weighed the evidence and analyzed the law. There was no omitted evidence or mistakes. It is time for the Curle children to return home to Zimbabwe.