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Child custody disputes get messy over international borders

There are many issues that need to be resolved when a couple decides to get divorced. There are considerations surrounding child support, spousal support and even who gets to keep the house. But for some couples, the biggest source of contention is child custody. Custody issues can become even more muddled if a child is taken across country borders.

Recently a child custody case that made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court has been dismissed. The case involved a boy who was taken out of the country of Chile by his mother back to the United States.

The mother and father had met and married in England and then gave birth to their son in the United States. Soon after the family moved to Chile; it was in Chile that the parents separated. A custody decree issued in Chile did not allow either parent to take the boy out of the country without the permission of the other. Even so, the mother left the country and brought the boy back to the U.S.

The father fought for his son's return to Chile, citing that the Chilean custody decree was enforceable. Under the Hague Convention, the right of custody in one country should be acknowledged and enforced by other countries.

When the father brought the case to the courts, he was denied by a federal appeals court. The court ruled that the right of custody under the Hague Convention did not apply to him. But when the case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, the ruling changed.

The majority held that the father did have a custodial right and should be allowed to claim a right of custody under the Hague Convention. Despite the ruling, the case was recently dismissed because the child caught in the middle of this custody dispute turned 16 and no longer falls under the coverage of the Hague Convention.

Source: CNN, "Child at center of high court fight over custody gets closure," Bill Mears, Feb. 14, 2012

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