WASHINGTON (CN) — Taking up a heart-wrenching international custody battle, the Supreme Court agreed Monday to resolve child-abduction claims against an American woman who fled an allegedly abusive marriage in Italy with her 8-week-old child.
In the underlying case, Michelle Monasky says she got pregnant from sexual assault by her husband, Domenico Taglieri, but that she could not return to the United States during her pregnancy because doctors said she would miscarry.
Monasky spoke no Italian and says Taglieri moved 165 miles away from her while she was pregnant. When he visited her on the weekends, she says the physical abuse intensified, even while she was nine months pregnant in February 2015.
After giving birth, Taglieri continued to live 165 miles away, and Monasky got help in Italy during the first two weeks from her mother. A month later, Monasky fled to a safe house for battered women. She waited there for two weeks until a U.S. passport arrived for the baby, identified in court papers by the initials A.M.T., allowing them to leave the country.
Taglieri tracked them down in Ohio, where Monasky was living with her parents, and filed abduction claims under the Hague Convention.
Despite finding that A.M.T. could not have acclimated to living in Italy during her short life, the Sixth Circuit affirmed an order that the child must be returned to Italy. The 10-8 ruling from the en banc court says the child could objectively be considered a habitual resident of Italy.
Monasky petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari in January, saying the court should have determined whether there was any subjective agreement between her and Taglieri to raise the baby in Italy.
Per their custom, the justices did not issue any comment Monday in agreeing to take up the case.
Monasky is represented by the law firms Gibson Dunn and Zashin & Rich. Mayer Brown represents Taglieri.
Supporting the mother in an amicus brief, three nonprofits that advocate for domestic-violence victims argued that objective evidence is not enough in a case like this to establish residency intent.
“Domestic violence victims often hide objective measures that indicate their desire and intent to leave as a means of survival, because often, the most dangerous time for a victim is during and immediately after their escape,” the brief states. “Courts that ignore subjective intent are more likely to make an erroneous habitual residence determination in cases where domestic violence is at issue — and risk sending the child back into an abusive environment.”
The brief also quotes Article 13 of the Hague Convention as saying that authorities need not return a child to the state of “habitual residence” if there is a “grave risk that [the child’s] return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation.”
Taglieri, an anesthesiologist, disputes that he was physically abusive toward Monasky but for one time when he slapped her in March 2014. “The district court found ‘credible’ Monasky’s testimony regarding physical abuse, but it did not reach a conclusion as to whether any additional physical altercations occurred,” Taglieri’s response brief states.