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Parents can challenge custody cases when child lives abroad

Should international child custody disputes end if the child is already living in another country? Earlier this week the Supreme Court reviewed an international custody case between a U.S. soldier and his wife from Scotland and their ruling could impact future international custody disputes involving a U.S. parent.

The Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. court system does not lose jurisdiction in international child custody cases when the child lives outside the country. This ruling could impact future cases where an American parent wants to file for custody or challenge a custody arrangement when their child lives in another country with the other parent.

The Supreme Court reviewed the case after the American father lost his appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals. The father appealed the original ruling that his daughter could return to Scotland with her mother under the Hague Convention. The Court of Appeals denied his appeal, stating that he could not challenge the ruling because his daughter was already living in Scotland and he would have to rely on Scotland's courts.

In the father's last effort, he appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court and they ruled in his favor. The Supreme Court ruled that U.S. courts still have jurisdiction over international custody disputes because it deals with how a parent's child will be raised. They said that not ruling in favor of the American father would send the wrong sign to other parents and possibly encourage a parent to take their child to another country to avoid a child custody hearing.

Since the child is already living in Scotland, the father will have to rely on the Scottish courts complying with the U.S. court ruling. However, if Scottish courts don't comply with the ruling, U.S. judges can automatically stay rulings under the Hague convention in international custody cases.

Source: ABC News, "Court: US Custody Case Not Moot With Child Abroad," Jesse J. Holland, Feb. 19, 2013

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