from the United States District Court for the District of
Utah (D.C. No. 2:17-CV-01309-RJS)
Hunnicutt (Jamila Abou-Bakr with him on the briefs), of
Dolowitz Hunnicutt, P.L.L.C., Salt Lake City, Utah, for
Benjamin Lieberman, of Lieberman Siebers, LLC, Salt Lake
City, Utah, for Respondent-Appellee.
TYMKOVICH, Chief Judge, EBEL, and PHILLIPS, Circuit Judges.
PHILLIPS, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
United States is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the
Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (the
Convention), Oct. 25, 1980, T.I.A.S. No. 11,
The Convention's purpose is to facilitate custody
disputes "promptly and exclusively, in the place where
the child habitually resides." Chafin v.
Chafin, 568 U.S. 165, 180 (2013) (Ginsburg, J.,
concurring). At issue in this case is the district
court's determination concerning the location of the
children's habitual residence. We identify no error in
the court's determination, and, exercising jurisdiction
under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we affirm.
The Watts Family Moves to Australia.
Watts is a dual citizen of Australia and the United States.
Carrie Watts is a citizen of the United States. In 2005,
Shane and Carrie married in Park City, Utah. From December
2006 to June 2016, the couple lived in North Carolina, where
they reared their three children-also dual citizens of
Australia and the United States-and ran an international
dirt-bike-racing school: DirtWise.
March 2016, the couple learned that their middle child would
need specialized medical attention possibly including
expensive palate-extension surgery. The family decided to
move to Australia to benefit from that country's
universal-healthcare system. The couple intended to live in
Australia until completion of their son's medical
treatment. They estimated this would take about two to
spring 2016, the family began preparing for the move. Shane
and Carrie rented out their home in North Carolina and
temporarily moved the family into Carrie's parents'
house in Utah. The family lived at this house in Utah from
June 2016 to September 2016. While living at Carrie's
parents' house, the family traveled around the western
United States, in part "to evaluate places where they
might choose to live when they returned from Australia."
Appellant's App. at 307. During this time, "the
parties had many conversations about their intentions to live
in Australia only long enough to obtain [their son's]
September 2016, the family moved to Australia. They rented a
home in Shane's hometown of Maffra, Victoria and shipped
many of their belongings to Australia. Carrie had also
applied for, and was later granted, a temporary visa enabling
her to remain in Australia for 12 months. In October 2016,
Shane and Carrie enrolled their children in school in
the rental home proved too small, Shane and Carrie bought a
house near Shane's parents' home. Carrie oversaw the
renovation of the new home and furnished the home with used
furniture that she bought and refurbished. In March 2017, the
family moved into this home.
move to Australia placed additional stress on Shane and
Carrie's already-strained marriage. Carrie had developed
second thoughts about the move and questioned the
sustainability of the stint in Australia. Shane continued to
travel overseas for work and, while doing so, rarely spoke
with Carrie. Concerned that she would be unable to work if
she and Shane later divorced, Carrie applied for a permanent
April 2017, Carrie called a family meeting, attended by
Shane's parents and Carrie's mother. At the
meeting's end, everyone agreed that Shane and Carrie
needed to remain together so that their child could continue
to receive necessary medical care, and so that Carrie could
get her permanent visa.
their professed resolve to remain together, Shane and
Carrie's relationship continued to deteriorate. From
April 20 to May 20, 2017 and again from May 30 to July 13,
2017, Shane traveled to the United States to teach DirtWise
classes. The couple barely spoke while Shane was away, and
Carrie noticed "irregularities" in their shared
bank accounts. Id. at 309. One morning, Carrie
discovered that she had been locked out of all their shared
accounts and that Shane had cancelled, or set zero-dollar
limits on, their joint credit cards. After learning this,
Carrie retained legal representation in Australia and met
with a bank representative who helped her secure $29, 000
from one of the joint accounts and another $16, 000 from
other accounts that the parties owned.
marked the beginning of the end. About July 13, 2017, Shane
returned to Australia, and on July 26, 2017, he tried one
last time to persuade Carrie to work on the marriage. When
she declined, Shane notified the Australian immigration
authorities that they had separated, and he withdrew his
sponsorship of Carrie's permanent-visa application.
Carrie obtained an "intervention order"-the
Australian equivalent of a protection order-against Shane.
Id. at 310. In the order application, Carrie alleged
that Shane had emotionally and financially abused her. But as
the district court found, "[t]here were no allegations
of physical harm or threats to Carrie or the children, and
the parties have stipulated . . . that Shane has never
physically abused any of the children." Id. at
August 17, 2017, about three days after learning that Shane
had withdrawn his sponsorship of her permanent-visa
application, Carrie took the children and flew to Utah. She
did not tell Shane beforehand, and she lied to customs agents
that she was traveling to the United States for a short
visit. As the district court found,
[before] removing the children and returning to the United
States, the parties never had a shared mutual intent to make
Victoria, Australia the habitual residence of the children.
At no time did Carrie and Shane mutually agree to change
their initial plan to be in Australia only long enough for
[their son] to receive his medical care-after which they
would return to the United States to raise the children.
Id. at 311. Carrie and the children have remained in
Utah since. In total, the family lived in Australia for just