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Supreme Court to rule on international child custody dispute

The U.S. Supreme Court will be taking up international custody disputes in their next legislative session. Their future ruling could have a significant impact on international child custody disputes, especially for U.S. military members who have children with non-U.S. nationals.

While the Supreme Court usually doesn't review child custody issues, they will be deciding if U.S. courts have the right to rule on international child custody disputes when one parent has already taken the child to another country.

The Supreme Court will be reviewing the international child custody case that involves a U.S. Army sergeant who is challenging a lower court ruling that gave his ex-spouse, a Scotland native, custody of their daughter under the rules of the Hague Convention.

In 2011, a federal judge ruled that the mother could take their daughter to Scotland because it was the child's "habitual residence" under the Hague Convention. A few hours after ruling, the mother and daughter were on a flight to Scotland and currently reside there. Once there, the mother filed for child custody in Scotland.

Reviewing this case, several justices said they were concerned that the mother was able to flee to another country with their child immediately after the lower court ruling. The mother argues that U.S. courts don't have the power to bring her daughter back to the U.S. However, several justices thought that Scottish courts would still pay attention to their Supreme Court ruling and that both courts would be able to work together on the custody case.

Justices said that the Supreme Court ruling will have an impact on the Scotland custody case even if the Supreme Court does not allow the man to appeal the lower court's decision.

The Supreme Court decision will be very influential in future international child custody cases but parents will have to wait for their ruling, which is expected in June 2013.

Source: Reuters, "Supreme Court steps into international custody battle," Terry Baynes, Dec. 5, 2012

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