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Nov 16, 2015

A Bitter, Transborder Child Custody Battle Before Belize Family Court

Neña Perez

A hostile battle over custody of a toddler began to unravel over the weekend. Two parents, one Belizean and the other Guatemalan, are tonight before the courts in Belize over guardianship of their two-year-old daughter. The child, Neña Perez, was brought here by her Belizean mother but her father is claiming that the child was wrongfully removed from her place of birth, that being Guatemala. The case was elevated to government officials, and on Friday, the child was taken from her mother in Orange Walk Town by the Department of Human Services. By this morning unknown to the mother, the matter was before the courts.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano has a report of this unusual case.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

A bitter, transborder custody battle for a toddler born in neighboring Guatemala has come before the Belize Family Court.  It is a most unusual case involving two-year-old Neña Perez, seen here in the loving care of her mother.  The child’s father is Guatemalan.  Her mother, Analiz Perez Gutierrez, says she is Belizean, despite the existence of a pair of distinct birth certificates.  The dispute between the now-separated couple has resulted in the Department of Human Services taking guardianship of baby Neña.

 

Liz Perez Gutierrez

Liz Perez Gutierrez, Mother of Neña Perez

“I was awakened, you know, on Friday, by this social worker accompanied by a policeman stating that they were going to take custody of my child because the father had reopened a case that was already closed and was able to obtain an order to get my daughter seized from me and returned without me having any say about it.  So I was very scared because I could not understand why this had been happening; however, especially the fact that no proper documentation was provided to me and I am well aware of what he is capable of and, you know, all that psychological trauma that I was trying to get over, you know, had been, the wound that I was trying to heal had been reopened.”

 

The intervention was the outcome of a decision taken by relevant local authorities acting on a formal request made by their Guatemalan counterparts.

 

Judith Alpuche

Judith Alpuche, C.E.O., Ministry of Human Development

“We were responding to a request from the Guatemalan central authority that was, this matter was filed under the Hague concerning the wrongful removal of this two-year-old Guatemalan child.  The child was wrongfully removed and brought into Belize.  So Guatemala being her place, her country of usual residence, using the language of the convention, she was brought into Belize.”

 

According to Judith Alpuche, Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Human Development and Social Transformation, the child’s mother left Guatemala and returned to Belize with Neña, but did not notify or receive consent from the father prior to her departure.

 

Judith Alpuche

“Our involvement in the case is through the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction.  Belize, as well as many other countries, or most other countries in the world, are signatories to that convention that deals with exactly this kind of situation primarily.  When parents are in custody battles or when the custody of children are at stake or in question we are the central authority.  The Department of Human Services specifically, is the central authority for that convention.  So basically the focal point that deals with these matters.”

 

The contention, from the mother’s perspective, is that no one from that department, including the social worker handling the case, cared to share any information with her pertaining to the child’s removal.

 

Liz Perez Gutierrez

“No one wanted to give us information, the Human Development Department closed off all doors to me and my family and even my attorney to get any further information as to what was going on.  This person who had taken my child, the social worker had given a false name which were later revealed because of some posts that were made on Facebook of people who went through similar stories as mine, similar experiences where this same social worker had been involved in having their children taken away as well under questionable, you know circumstances.”

 

This morning, all parties, with the exception of the father who is in Guatemala, appeared before the court.

 

Marcel Cardona

Marcel Cardona, Attorney for Liz Perez Gutierrez

“We came to Belize City this morning to investigate further with the Department of Human Services as to exactly what has transpired since Friday and if the child, the young child, the two-year-old child is safe in their custody and we did manage to speak with the director, Ms. Liliani Arthurs, and she has confirmed that indeed the child is in their custody.  Subsequent to that we came to the Belize Family Court where, unknown to us, a preliminary hearing was being heard on the application of the Department of Human Services for an interim custody order in favor of the Department of Human Services over this two-year-old child.”

 

Judith Alpuche

“We have the legal authority under the Families and Children’s Act.  This morning, we went to court because under that section of the Families and Children’s Act when we remove we must produce the child to the court within forty-eight hours.  So we must make the court aware of what was done either within forty-eight hours or the next business day and since it was a weekend then Monday being the first opportunity we went to court.  The court has granted us interim custody of the child for two months until the matter is resolved.  So that is where we are.  This was not a kidnapping, this was not, nobody was paid, nothing outrageous as has been raging on social media, was done.  Nothing untoward.  It is straight procedure under the Hague Convention.”

 

It is unclear whether Liz Perez Gutierrez will be allowed to visit her child in the interim.  While legal custody of baby Neña expires on January fifteenth, 2016, her mother is also scheduled to return to court on that date when it will be decided whether the child remains or returned to her country of birth. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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8 Responses for “A Bitter, Transborder Child Custody Battle Before Belize Family Court”

  1. #FindingNina says:

    The Child’s name is Nina

  2. bELIZE FIRST says:

    Screw guatemalan counterparts how when we want stuff to get done they don’t help us like for example getting back the stolen vehicles…

  3. Rescuenina says:

    The child was kidnapped by people involved in organized crime, family of Analiz, she then took the child not only lying to the father but also without documents like a passport or permission. She is being called to justice in Guatemala since she is registered as Guatemalan only and has Id and no double nationality, dont let yourself be fooled by a Guatemalan criminal pretending to be Belizean

  4. Be True to u self says:

    Where is the humanity in us Belizean, that child is two year old female and should be in her mothers’ care not with any guatemalan father and you all know what those guatemalan fathers are like with their young daughters and also not in any childrens home as they too have evil advantious people who treat the kids there cruelty.That Baby should be with her mother, and a social worker should visit the home daily until the case is finished. It is also cruelty for a baby to be taken from her mother who is the one who brought her into this world and who would never see any harm come to her. Who knows why her mother brought her to Belize, what all she was going through. Look at the picture of the baby,well taken cared of , contented with her mother. That’s a sweet baby girl. U THE COURTS DON’T MAKE A WRONG DECISION NOT FOR THE LOVE OF MONEY. Now Mr. Minister of Human Services and Mr. Prime Minister a Belizean Mother needs your help for her child.A mother and her child should not be separated ever.

  5. Rescuenina says:

    Besides that the child is being held because the mother refuses to answer for her crimes in Guatemalan court, this is the behaviour of a criminal manipulating belizeans to gain protection from her crimes, the lawyer Mr Cardona states they didn’t know of the hearing yet they posted about it since Friday.

  6. concerned says:

    If this was the child of 1 of those human services officers, or the CEO or 1 of those Ministers…that ruling would not even be an option. This is a mother who would not hurt her own child. Her best interest is her daughter. How on earth will it be in ‘the best interest: of a poor 2-year-old to be away from what has been her only home with her mother. This is ruthless and unacceptable!!!!!! The father is selfish thinking only about himself! Whatever happened to protecting our own citizens? As Belizeans, it seems we cannot be safe even in our own country! atrocious!

  7. real says:

    Judith asked Guatemala for danny killers see if we get anyway with your country Guatemala thats were you were born so i know you not for belizean but for your Guatemala

  8. ZION MCDONALD says:

    Social work should do their due deligence before going into a family’s home and extracting a child especially where it concerns cross border families. In any country, the laws or people who enforce them, sides with the parent of that country. If this was the other way around the Guatemalans would not have extracted the child from her father infact, just the oposit, they would have ignored the request of the Belizean parent and put as much of an obstacle they could to helping with the well being of the child weather it was the right thing to do or not. It is obvious the Belize Socall workers are trying to make a name for themselves facing international watch observers of these cases. look at this family, look at this woman, do you believe she would endanger her child? Do you think the child is living in a deplorable condition? Why don”t you give a reasonable doubt to this “BELIZEAN” family and act on their behalf, observe their situation and behavior before you go yank a child from the “Love” of family and put him/her in the ‘devils’ hands. If this was my child it would be declared war, we are god of our own and some parents would lay down their lives for their children, after all we are imiges of GOD, did he not do the same for us? PROTECT AND SERVE YOUR OWN; OUR COUNTRY, OUR PEOPLE, OUR PRIDE. This is Belize! Not for Guatemala.

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