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U.S. Justices hear international child custody case

U.S. Justices hear international child custody case

Date: December 18, 2012

Residents of Illinois may be interested to know about an international child custody case that entails an international treaty, specifically the Hague Convention treaty. Under the treaty, children involved in a child custody dispute can be protected from being taken to any other country illegally.

The United States Supreme Court has before it a child custody case in which the parents belong to different nations. The father, a military man married to a woman from Scotland, had been posted to the United States, where they filed for a divorce. While deciding the child custody issue, a lower court allowed the mother could return to Scotland with the child, which the mother did within a few hours of the court’s decision. The father appealed in an appellate court, which dismissed the case as moot because the mother had left the county.

The father then appealed to the Supreme Court to decide the case. At an oral argument before the Court, the mother argued that the Supreme Court does not have jurisdiction over the case according to the terms of the Hague Convention. The father argued that the case began in the United States and that almost immediately and well before he could appeal the judgment of the lower federal court, the child was already in Scotland with her mother. Hence, he did not have reasonable time to pursue his case. He also contended that the mother was not fit to get custody.

The judges differ, but in general, the majority seemed to be sympathetic to the father. However, the Supreme Court has yet to decide the issue. The only question the Supreme Court is deciding is whether under international law the father can ask for the temporary return of the child. Normally, state courts finalize child custody cases and determine the best interests of the child.

Whatever the ruling of the Supreme Court turns out to be, it may be considered an important precedent in child custody cases that estranged couples from different countries may find helpful. Because this area of family law is particularly complex, these couples may consider consulting an attorney who can both explain the law and the procedural matters surrounding an international custody battle.

Source: CNN, “Justices divided over international child custody dispute,” Bill Mears, Dec. 5, 2012

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