Child custody become complicated across international borders

On behalf of Loughmiller Higgins, Attorneys at Law posted in Child Custody on Wednesday, December 26, 2012.

The United States Supreme Court recently heard arguments in a child custody case that will be of interest to Texas residents who have a current or ex partner from another country. The case centers on the issue of when a U.S. court has the ability to hear an appeal of a child custody case. The outcome could have significant impact on many family court cases.

The case involves a child born to an American father and his wife, a Scottish national. Following their separation, the two began struggling over the care and custody of their daughter, now five years old. A federal District Court judge heard their case in Oct. 2011, at which time the mother argued for permission to relocate abroad with the child. That ruling in the mother’s favor hinged on the failure of the father to prove that the child was a habitual U.S. resident.

The father appealed the decision, but his appeal was dismissed. The grounds for the dismissal was the appeals court’s holding that the U.S. court system does not have the proper authority to rule on an appeal made after a child has left the country. The case will now be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In making his case, the father argued that his wife intended to reside in the U.S. with the child, and in fact lived here for a period of time. She was deported in 2011 for overstaying a temporary visa. She claims that the father’s access to their child has never been restricted, and that he can visit with the child in Scotland.

This case will make a loud statement about the rights of parents in Texas and elsewhere to pursue custody actions in regard to their children once those children have left the country. If the decision to dismiss this type of appeal stands, many fear that other parents will be encouraged to remove their children from the country in order to avoid an undesirable child custody outcome. On the other side, parents who are foreign nationals fear that their ability to relocate abroad with their children could be severely limited by lengthy court battles and appellate filings.

Source:, “Fort Stewart soldier’s fight for daughter reaches Supreme Court,” Marcus E. Howard, Dec. 5, 2012

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