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High court takes on international child custody issue

International child custody disputes can become a tangled legal mess in a hurry. That appears to be the case in a recent custody case between an Army sergeant based at Ft. Stewart, Georgia, and the mother of his 5-year-old daughter.

The couple's argument over the daughter has reached the Supreme Court of the United States, whose ruling could set a legal precedent for similar cases in the future. A ruling in the case is expected in the coming months.

Both sides have taken jabs at the other and their ability to raise the daughter. The woman claims that the Georgia father is manipulative, while he says the woman is an unfit parent. The woman formerly resided in the United States with the Georgia father, but was eventually deported when her visa expired. The man pointed out that she was once arrested for disorderly conduct, as well.

When the woman returned to her home country of Scotland, she petitioned for custody of their daughter under the Hague Convention's Civil Aspect of International Child Abduction.

A federal judge in the United States granted the woman permission to bring the child back to Scotland with her. Before the man could appeal the decision, the woman did just that. The federal appeals court said that the matter was out of its hands now that the child was on foreign soil.

One of the justices lamented that under this mode of operation, if a foreign parent receives permission to take their child, they are encouraged to get out of the country as fast as they can, even if an appeal has been filed.

On the other hand, the Hague Convention was put in place to stop parents from volleying their children from one country to another. It remains to be seen what the justices will ultimately determine, but, for now, the young girl remains in Scotland.

Source: CNN, "Justices divided over international child custody dispute," Bill Mears, Dec. 5, 2012

Though the child custody laws that govern international disputes are quite different from custody cases between parents who both live in Georgia, they both can be quite complicated. Find out more about our work with parents trying to establish child custody by visiting our website.

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William C. Gentry, Attorney at Law

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