Lisa Hanna loses custody case

PAUL HENRY, Observer writer

Thursday, November 30, 2006    

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Former Miss World Lisa Hanna yesterday lost her custody battle in the Appeal Court which upheld an earlier court order that her five-year-old son be returned to his father, former Jamaica Labour Party senator David Panton, who now lives in the USA.

Hanna had appealed the March 20, 2006 decision by Justice Gloria Smith that the child be returned to Panton, who lives in Georgia, as her holding the child was in breach of a previous agreement between Hanna and her ex-husband.

In her appeal, Hanna said that Smith erred in her judgment, but the court found differently yesterday, ruling: "The order of Miss Justice Smith for the summary return of the child to Atlanta, Georgia is affirmed."

Panton and Hanna got married in New York and returned to Jamaica where the child was born. The family later moved to Georgia in February 2004 where the couple divorced five months later.

Based on a signed agreement between the two on June 9, 2004, a final judgment and decree was pronounced in the Superior Court of Fulton County, Atlanta, Georgia, giving "primary physical custody" of the child to Panton, with visiting rights to Hanna.

But Hanna filed a motion in the US court on August 10 for the judgment to be set aside on the ground of "duress". The court, however, denied the motion on August 25, stating that she had consented to and complied with the signed agreement.

Hanna, who lived next door to the child and his father, returned to Jamaica a year later.

In December 2005, Panton brought the child to Jamaica for a one-month stay with Hanna, with the understanding that he would return for the boy in January 2006. However, after returning to the island, Panton had to leave on January 11 without the child, who, according to court documents, was "restrained" by Hanna "contrary to their agreement".

Hanna later took out an injunction granting her custody of the child and an injunction restraining the removal of the child from the island. On March 20, Smith granted Panton an order discharging the injunction and seeking permission to take the child back to the US.

Hanna appealed on the grounds, in part, that when Smith sought to count the child's substantial connection to Georgia, she "failed to mention or balance the 19 or more criteria which established the child's real substantial and continued connection with Jamaica", which led to her "erroneous" decision.

But Smith, in her March ruling, noted that the requirements for the child's return were satisfied, as he was attending school; was going to church; had developed a bond with relatives in Georgia; and his father was in a "good job" and owned a house.

Following arguments in June, July and November, Justice Zailia McCalla, one of the three Appeal Court justices, concluded: "I am not persuaded that the learned judge erred in exercise of her discretion. Accordingly, I agree that the appeal should be dismissed.

The other two justices were Paul Harrison and Algernon Smith.




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