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Supreme court agrees to hear foreign custody dispute

The US Supreme Court [official website] on Monday agreed to hear [order list, PDF] a case dealing with a parent's ability to sue for custody in the US when a court has determined that the child's normal residence is in another country, and the child has already left the US. In Chafin v. Chafin [docket], US Army sergeant Jeffrey Lee Chafin and his Scottish wife, Lynn Hales Chafin, disputed custody [SCOTUSblog report] of their five-year-old child. Mrs. Chafin obtained a court order declaring Scotland to be the child's normal residence under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction [text] and has since left the country with the child. Sgt. Chafin appealed the decision to the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website], but the court declined to hear the case, saying that once the child left the country, the case was resolved. The Supreme Court will hear Sgt. Chafin's appeal of the court finding that the child's normal residence is in Scotland.

The Hague Convention, which currently has 84 signatories [text], seeks to eliminate difficulties that arise when a court in one country does not recognize custody decisions [DOS backgrounder] of a foreign court. Japan became the most recent country to sign the treaty [JURIST report] in 2011 during the G8 Summit, but it has not yet ratified. Russia remains the only G8 nation to not sign the treaty. China is also not a signatory.

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