When one or both parties to a family law case do not agree with the decision made by a trial court judge, they can file an appeal. Although rare, it is possible for a family law case to be appealed all the way to the United States Supreme Court, the nation's highest court. Last week, the Supreme Court heard arguments from both sides of an international child custody dispute.
The case involves an American Army sergeant and a British citizen who were married and had a child together in 2007, while the Army sergeant was stationed in Germany. That same year, the British woman moved with the couple's young daughter to Scotland while the sergeant was deployed to Afghanistan.
The family eventually reunited in Alabama in 2010, but the couple soon decided to end their marriage. The Army sergeant filed for divorce and custody rights in an Alabama state court, while the British woman asked a federal court to allow her to take their daughter to Scotland pursuant to the Hague Convention, which holds that child custody proceedings should take place in the country of the child's "habitual residence."
The federal court judge agreed that the child's residence was in Scotland, and the mother was allowed to move there with the child 14 months ago.
When child custody cases cross international boundaries, they can become very complex, especially with regard to jurisdictional issues. The purpose of the Hague Convention, which dozens of countries throughout the world have signed, is to make sure that international child custody cases are heard in the right venue.
Please check back tomorrow for more on this interesting case.
Source: The New York Times, "Custody Case in Scotland Goes Before U.S. Justices," Adam Liptak, Dec. 5, 2012