By Benjamin Flowers
A complicated custody battle between a Belizean mother and a Guatemalan father has resulted in their two-year-old daughter being handed over to the Department of Human Services.
The Family Court awarded custody of Neña Perez to the Department. According to the Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Human Development, Judith Alpuche, it stepped in and seized the child on Friday after being informed by Guatemalan authorities that she was removed unlawfully from her place of residence in Guatemala.
Alpuche explained that the Ministry had to intervene because Belize is a signatory to the International Child Abduction Treaty, created to address disputes such as this. As part of the procedure prescribed by the Family and Children’s Act, the Ministry had to bring the matter to Family Court within 48 hours after seizing the child, but since that was not done on Friday, it had to wait until Monday to do so.
The child’s mother, Anliz Perez Gutierrez said the entire emotional event has taken place without due process. She also alleged that the Ministry has not been forthcoming with any information concerning her child.
Gutierrez explained that the social worker, who came accompanied by a police officer to seize the child, did not have proper documentation and gave a false name when introducing herself. She further alleged the Ministry went to the Family Court for custody of the child without her knowledge.
The Ministry’s interim custody order expires on January 15th, 2016. The child’s father was not available for comment because he resides in Guatemala.