International child custody case goes to Supreme Court

Few Maryland child custody cases will ever make it as high as the U.S. Supreme Court, but one recent case from another state did just that. The child custody case that made it to the Supreme Court was a unique case because it had to do with international custody issues, a topic we discussed in our Nov. 8 post ("International child custody can be challenging in Howard County"). The father in the case is actually American, while the mother is originally from Scotland. The two share a 5-year-old daughter who was born in Germany and has dual citizenship in both the United States and United Kingdom.

The father is a sergeant in the US Army and was deployed for a time to Afghanistan. During that deployment, the mother moved her child to Scotland and established a residence there. Once the father's deployment ended and he transferred to Alabama, the mother and daughter reunited with him there. After the marriage began to disintegrate, she obtained permission from a federal District Court to move back to Scotland and take her daughter with her. She did this according to the tenets of The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which is aimed to prevent children from being shuttled back and forth between countries.

She argued that the child's habitual residence had actually been in Scotland, and the court denied the father's motion for the court to reconsider its decision. The mother has been living in Scotland with her daughter in the 14 months since her move back to that nation after the court's decision. The child custody proceedings have been ongoing since that time, with the father attempting to appeal a lower court's decision. The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the issue was moot since the child was now in Scotland.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in this child custody case, which could potentially affect Maryland residents who are going through similar international custody disputes. While there's not yet any way to tell how the Supreme Court will decide this case, it may be an interesting one for divorcing spouses who are part of an international couple to follow. It could certainly impact how U.S. courts handle such global child custody cases in the future.

Source: Huffington Post, "Rare Family Law Case Heard by U.S. Supreme Court," Margaret Ryznar, Dec. 11, 2012