Senate passes Uresti bill targeting false information in international child custody cases
The Texas Senate voted unanimously Tuesday for an international child custody bill by Sen. Carlos Uresti that was spurred by the parental abduction of an 11-year-old San Antonio boy.
Senate Bill 1490, sent to the House on a vote of 31-0, would make it a felony to provide a Texas court with false statements regarding a child custody determination made in a foreign country.
The legislation was prompted by the case of Jean Paul Lacombe, who was pulled off a San Antonio school bus by Bexar County deputy constables in October 2009 and handed over to his father, based on false information provided to a state district judge.
According to news reports, the father, Jean Philippe Lacombe, had presented Mexican divorce documents to San Antonio state District Judge Sol Casseb and accused his ex-wife of kidnapping Jean Paul from Mexico. The documents were later determined to be outdated and misleading.
Based on those documents, Casseb granted Lacombe emergency custody and ordered him to return to court for a follow-up hearing. But Lacombe, a Mexican and French citizen, left the country with Jean Paul. Lacombe was later indicted in Bexar County on kidnapping and perjury charges; Jean Paul has since been returned to his mother.
"Mr. Lacombe would not have been granted custody if the court had been privy to all the facts," Uresti said. "This bill will impose a high price on anyone who provides false information on a child's custody status."
The Bexar County District Attorney's Office approached Sen. Uresti to file legislation addressing the issue. The bill would make it a third degree felony to knowingly provide a Texas court with false information regarding a child custody determination made in a foreign country.
It would also require that a record be made of all proceedings and hearings when implementing applicable provisions of the Family Code for international child custody cases.
Additionally, if law enforcement took custody on grounds that a child is in imminent threat of serious physical harm or is likely to be removed from the state, the child would have to be delivered to the Department of Family and Protective Services instead of the parent.
If a parent seeks to enforce a child custody ruling made in a foreign country or an order for the return of a child made under the Hague Convention, the court has the option to place the child with a parent or family member so long as that person has significant ties to the jurisdiction of the court. If no parent or family member has such ties, the court would then deliver the child to DFPS in the manner provided for the return of a missing child.
Senator Uresti represents Senate District 19, a 55,000 square mile area extending from the city of San Antonio in Bexar County to the Lower Valley of El Paso Count. The largest legislative district in the nation, it spans two time zones and contains nine of the 14 border counties in Texas.