A Supreme Court case decided on February 19, 2013, Chafin v. Chafin, concerns the matter of an international child custody case. The girl’s father and mother fought for custody of their daughter under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and the International Child Abduction Remedies Act (ICARA). This agreement, signed by 89 nations, governs child custody across international borders and ICARA is the act passed by Congress that makes it effective in the United States. The two parties argued over the definition of “moot” or whether or not the facts and actions of the case are still practical and if the courts could grant effective relief. The Supreme Court vacated and remanded the case to its lower courts, overturning the decision made by an appellate court.

The father was born in the United States and the mother was born in the United Kingdom. The two were married in Germany. The father served in the military in Afghanistan and after the deployment, the mother took the daughter to Scotland, where they lived for several years.

The father returned to the United States and so did the mother and child. The father filed for divorce and child custody and then the mother was deported to Scotland as she overstayed her visa and she left her daughter with the father in Alabama.

The mother appeared in court, citing The Hague Convention and ICARA, to have her daughter returned to her in Scotland. She claimed that Scotland was the daughter’s country of primary residence. She received custody, but then the father appealed the decision. The appellate court ruled that the lower court’s decision was moot “on the ground that once a child has been returned to a foreign country, a U.S. court becomes powerless to grant relief.” The court also ordered the father to pay court costs, travel costs and legal fees to the mother.

The Supreme Court wrote that this lack of power to grant relief was not so:

“Held: The return of a child to a foreign country pursuant to a Convention return order does not render an appeal of that order moot.”

The Supreme Court explains that by explaining that the parties to the case had a “concrete interest” and that the court system could indeed grant effective relief to remedy the situation. Therefore, the case should not have been dismissed as moot. The Alabama court claimed that it did not have jurisdiction over the case. The Supreme Court wrote that the relief sought was not a “question of jurisdiction.”

Additionally, this was a “live dispute,” meaning that there was considerable active interest in the possible outcomes. The decision by the Supreme Court draws on how moot is defined from previous cases and may also set precedents of its own. It explored important topics for parents and children that are taken across Hague Convention signatory nations’ borders.

If you are seeking divorce or child custody, contact the law office of Jayson Lutzky, P.C. today. Mr. Lutzky offers free in person consultations and has over 29 years of experience. Call 1-800-660-5299 today to schedule an appointment and learn more about our office’s services. Visit www.MyNewYorkCityLawyer for further information.