We are currently discussing an international child custody dispute that went before the United States Supreme Court last week.
The case involves an American Army sergeant and a British citizen who had a daughter together in 2007 while they were married. They filed for divorce in 2010, and a federal court allowed the mother to take the daughter to Scotland, where the two had lived while the sergeant was deployed in Afghanistan.
The Supreme Court was simply addressing the issue of whether the Army sergeant has a right to appeal to the federal court judge’s decision to allow his ex to move with their daughter to Scotland, or if the issue was moot.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg got right to the point when she asked the attorney representing the Army sergeant why it would make any difference if he was able to appeal the federal court’s decision. The attorney replied that an appellate ruling in favor of his client could lead to many things, including swaying the Scottish court to stand down and allow the Alabama state court to handle the case.
Additionally, Justice Sonia Sotomayor made the point that a federal court reversal could potentially wipe away part of the nearly $94,000 in legal fees, court costs and other expenses the federal judge ordered the Army sergeant to pay.
But the British woman’s attorney, who said he had practiced law in Scotland in the past, said the Scottish court wouldn’t care if the American court reversed its decision. Some of the justices on the bench appeared to agree, concluding that it seems clear that the young girl’s “habitual residence” now appears to be Scotland. The Court will not issue a decision in the case until this summer.
As you can see, international child custody cases can be extremely complex, even for the Supreme Court. That’s why it’s important to seek legal representation right away if you see yourself facing an international child custody dispute — now or in the future.
Source: The New York Times, “Custody Case in Scotland Goes Before U.S. Justices,” Adam Liptak, Dec. 5, 2012