Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court tackled an important family law related case. The case involves the often contentious and difficult issues than can arise when there is an international child custody dispute. Due to the prevalence of U.S. military all around the world and increasing international travel among populations in recent decades, these cases are becoming increasingly common. In fact, 80 nations, including the United States, are members of the Hague Convention, an international convention that was created in an effort to prevent children from being abducted and also from being shuttled back and forth between countries while the parents engage in international child custody disputes.
The father of the 5-year-old child at the center of this dispute is a member of the U.S. military. According to reports, the mother of the child who is a Scottish citizen, was once deported from the U.S. for overstaying her visa. The child remained in the father's custody as divorce proceedings began in Alabama. However, when the mother petitioned for the child to be brought back to Scotland under the terms of the Hague Convention, the federal court in Alabama ruled in her favor.
The father then appealed this decision. However, the wife's attorney is arguing that since the child is no longer living in the U.S., the U.S. courts no longer have any jurisdiction over the issue, and thus any ruling they may issue has no validity, or is determined to be "moot."
The father's attorney is arguing that the U.S. court should retain jurisdiction as the divorce was originally filed on U.S. soil. He also claims that the mother is unfit. The Supreme Court justices appear to be divided on how they will rule on the case.
Child custody disputes can be especially heart-wrenching for all involved. However, the primary goal of the courts when determining these difficult cases is to rule in such a way that will protect the best interests of the minor child.
Source: Las Vegas Sun, "Justices struggle with international custody law," Dec. 10, 2012