Curle, 38, and husband Jonathan, 37, a Canadian citizen, had been serving as missionaries with Texas based Grace International in Zimbabwe Africa since 1998. In 2009, the couple and children moved back to the United States, to seek marital counseling and safety from political unrest. Jonathan Curle neglected to file the proper paperwork with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and was ordered to leave the U.S. for a period of 5 years. He returned to Zimbabwe in 2011 leaving Curle and the three children in California.
Curle, represented by Marybeth Martinelli and Jonathan represented by William Anderson, argued their case before Siskiyou County Commissioner, JoAnne Bicego in the Siskiyou County Superior Court in Yreka, CA on January 17, 2012. On March 6, 2012, she returned her decision: Though none of the parties considered in this case are citizens of Zimbabwe, she established that it was their habitual residence and jurisdiction of the case be transferred to Zimbabwe, pursuant to The Hague Convention treaty. All three children must be returned to Zimbabwe by April 20, 2012.
With the continuing turmoil in Zimbabwe, and the mother’s inability to accompany the children outside of the airport due to threats made against her, the family is devastated that the Commissioner did not take into consideration issues of safety when determining jurisdiction. “My daughter’s only recourse is to take the children to Zimbabwe and return to the U.S. and attempt to fight this divorce and custody battle in Zimbabwe courts,” stated Keith Chilson, Curle’s father, during a radio interview with KSFO in San Francisco, California. “This could take many months the way the Zimbabwe courts work. My daughter is sending a retainer to a Zimbabwe International Divorce Law Firm to be ready to do this.”
Curle plans to appeal the ruling on the grounds of Article 13b of the Hague Convention treaty, “the requested State is not bound to order the return of the child if [they] establish that there is a grave risk that his or her return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm.” According to the US Embassy, “the safety and security situation in Zimbabwe is unpredictable, and subject to sudden change. The country suffers from a crumbling infrastructure that makes road travel hazardous, communications unreliable, and emergency medical care problematic.”
On April 3rd MaeVaughan Chilson’s facebook page read, "This morning there are only 15 days left from what might be the last time we will see our grand babies. I was remembering when our daughter called from Zim in the morning while I was at work saying, ‘We're going out the back gate, they're coming in the front’ (the police/guerrillas were forcing their way into the property which was surrounded by high fences & locked gates). She ended the brief call with ‘Don't call us, we'll call you’ and hung up. That was a very terrifying day.
The community is rallying together. Petitions have been sent to Congressman Wally Herger, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama. Facebook page, www.facebook.com/
Weed Assembly of God Church
2608 Hwy 97, Weed, CA 96094
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