Friday, February 22, 2013

SCOTUS Reverses Dismissal of Appeal of Return Order Under Hague Convention

Chief Justice Roberts delivered the opinion of a unanimous Supreme Court of the United States this week in the case of Chafin v. Chafin.  In that case, the Petitioner was a U.S. citizen and member of the armed forces, and the Respondent was a citizen of the U.K., living in Germany, where the parties later had a child.  During the Petitioner’s deployment in Afghanistan, the Respondent moved with the child to Scotland.  When the Petitioner was later transferred to Alabama, the Respondent traveled there with the child, and soon after the Petitioner filed for divorce and custody of the child in that state.  The Respondent was subsequently deported, at which point the minor child stayed with the Petitioner.  Several months later, however, the Respondent filed a petition under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and the International Child Abduction Remedies Act seeking the child’s return to Scotland.  The District Court for the Northern District of Alabama ordered the child’s return to Scotland, and the Respondent immediately took the child to that country and initiated child custody proceedings in that jurisdiction.  Scotland granted interim custody and an injunction against removal of the child prohibiting the Petitioner from removing the child from Scotland.  While Petitioner appealed the District Court’s return order to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, that Court ruled that the appeal was moot in that U.S. Courts lack authority to act once a child has been returned to a foreign country, and dismissed the appeal. SCOTUS reversed this week, however, and found that the return of a child to a foreign country under the Hague Convention does not render an appeal of that return order moot. 

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