Supreme Court Hears Another Family Law Issue

Supreme Court Hears Another Family Law Issue

Family law is back at the Supreme Court.

This morning, the Court heard Lozano v. Alvarez, a case concerning the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (the “Hague Convention”) and an international custody dispute.

In brief, two Colombian parents had been living in England. They separated and Mother took the child to France and then New York in 2008. Father looked for his daughter and ultimately found her in 2010. He then filed a Petition under the Hague Convention in federal court asking the child to be returned to the United Kingdom.

Under Article 12 of the Hague convention, if a parent removes a child to another country and the non-custodial parent files a Hague action in the new country within one year of the child’s removal, that country must order the child’s return to the original country for a custody determination.  (Note:  the current country is not issuing custody orders.)

The issue being addressed by the Supreme Court today is whether or not Father met the one year time-frame of the Hague Convention to have the child automatically returned to the UK (the home country in this case) for a custody decision or if the one year deadline passed and the custody case can be heard in the United States.  Father wants the Article 12 deadline tolled because he alleges Mother was hiding the child, and he could not file within the year through no fault of his own.  You can read a more detailed synopsis of the facts and legal argument at scotusblog (they also have a link to the documents in the case here).

The link to the oral argument is here, and a decision is expected in several months.

International abduction cases are unfortunately not uncommon.  A case involving a New Jersey father and Brazilian maternal grandparents (the mother had taken the child to Brazil and then passed away) took several years to resolve.  The child was eventually returned to the United States.  NBC spoke to the boy a few years after his return.

Citizens of the United Stated can learn more about the Hague Convention at the Department of State website. The International Association of Matrimonial Lawyers also provides resources.

If you need assistance with an international custody case, be sure to talk to an experienced family law attorney.