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International child custody dispute now before U.S. Supreme Court

As this blog has duly noted occasionally in prior posts, child custody can be a thorny and sticky consideration in many a divorce settlement.

And to the extent that is true in some divorces in Florida and other states across the country, it can be greatly compounded in an international custody dispute.

Notes one attorney currently representing a client in a cross-border custody matter: "You've got this child who's like a ping pong ball, and no one knows who's supposed to decide the custody question."

In the matter that comment alludes to, a couple is litigating the question of where their five-year-old daughter should live. The girl is currently with the mother in Scotland. The father wants her back with him in Alabama.

The daughter had been living apart from her father and with the mother abroad for several years, owing to the father's deployments as a service member. The mother and daughter visited the dad in Alabama in early 2010, with the parents seeking to revive their marriage.

They couldn't, and the wife had to return to Scotland, with an Alabama state judge awarding child custody to the father.

That ruling was subsequently reversed by a federal court judge, who ruled that the daughter must be returned to her "habitual residence" in Scotland pursuant to the requirements of the Hague Convention.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that ruling, calling the matter moot because the girl was already out of the United States.

The father has pushed on with legal challenges, arguing that the appellate court decided wrongly and that its decision essentially gives custodial rights to any parent who kidnaps a child and take that child abroad.

The matter now rests before the U.S. Supreme Court, which has agreed to hear the case during its next term. A decision is expected sometime next year.

Source: Reuters, "U.S. Supreme Court to hear int'l child custody dispute," Jonathan Stempel and Terry Baynes, Aug. 13, 2012

  • Our firm regularly provides strong counsel and client-focused representation in matters such as that described in this post, which involve complex child custody considerations and outcomes. To learn more about this legal subject area, we invite you to visit our Miami Child Custody and Visitation page.

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