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U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear international child custody case

As some divorced parents in Georgia may know, a disagreement over child custody can lead to a lengthy court process in which both parents may want what they think is best for their child. One child custody case involving a father whose wife moved their child out of the country has reached the U.S. Supreme Court. The father, who filed for divorce is seeking to have a federal appeals court ruling overturned. That ruling allowed his 5-year-old daughter to remain out of the country with her mother.

The Supreme Court has agreed to review his case under an international treaty. Since 2007, the mother has lived apart from her husband with the child because of the father's job. She traveled to Alabama to visit her husband in February of 2010 in an effort to try and save the marriage. However, she had to return to Scotland after her visa expired and tried to seek the return of their daughter after an Alabama state judge awarded the father custody.

In October of last year, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the little girl should be returned to her mother in Scotland because it had been her "habitual residence." The basis for the ruling was the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, according to reports. In February of this year, an 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the father's appeal in that ruling claiming the issue was no longer valid because the little girl had already returned to Scotland.

The father argued that decision was contradictory to the federal appeals court's ruling because the decision effectively denies him his parental rights of a child that was wrongfully abducted and taken to another country. International child custody cases involving the Hague Convention are rather common, according to the attorney representing the mother in this case, because no one seems to know which jurisdiction should determine a child's custody.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the matter by the end of June next year, when its next term is slated to end.

Source: CNBC, "Supreme Court to hear int'l child custody dispute," Aug. 13, 2012

William C. Gentry is a Marietta, Georgia, attorney handling a variety of family law cases, including divorce and child custody issues similar to what was discussed in today's post.

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