When a couple divorces, many issues need to be resolved. If children are involved, child custody can be one of the most complicated and emotionally charged decisions the divorcing couple faces. Most parents feel a deep love and concern for their children, and they are sometimes willing to go to extreme lengths to retain custody. Sometimes these disputes cross international borders, and one ongoing dispute involving a Texas youth was finally resolved this month.
A British man and American woman married and had a child in Hawaii in 1995. They moved to Chile and later separated, setting the stage for a child custody battle. The man was subsequently awarded visitation rights with the child in Chile, and both parents were prohibited from removing the child from the country without the consent of the other. Nevertheless, the mother did just that, ultimately settling with the boy in Texas.
The father asked the U.S. courts to order that the child be returned to Chile. He relied upon The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Both the United States and Chile are signatories to that treaty. At issue was whether or not the father had a “right of custody” under the treaty, and the dispute went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2010, the Supreme Court said the British father could continue his appeal to regain custody of his son.
Even though Chile ruled the father only had limited non-custodial rights, the Supreme Court determined the father had a right of custody and could pursue his return to Chile. The case was returned to the lower courts, and the nearly 10-year litigation continued. However, the boy in question recently turned 16 and “aged out” of The Hague Convention, which only applies to children under the age of 16. Accordingly, the child custody case was dismissed, and the mother reports the boy continues to reside with her in Texas with no plans to see his father.
When child custody disputes cross international borders, they often involve a myriad of laws and regulations. Unfortunately, the children are in the middle of these situations. It is easiest when the parents and children are in agreement, but unfortunately that is not always the case. Complex cases like this usually require the assistance of those who understand the intricacies of U.S. and international laws regarding child custody.
Source: CNN, “Child at center of high court fight over custody get closure,” Bill Mears, Feb. 14, 2012