International Custody Fight Goes to High Court

     (CN) – The U.S. Supreme Court interrupted its summer hiatus to take up a custody dispute between a U.S. Army sergeant and his Scottish wife who set up residency with their daughter in Scotland.
     At the end of a two-day trial in October 2011, a federal judge in Alabama gave Lynn Hales Chafin permission to return to Scotland with her 5-year-old daughter. The girl’s father, Sgt. Jeffrey Lee Chafin appealed to the 11th Circuit, pursuant to International Child Abduction Remedies Act and the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
     But the federal appeals court concluded in February 2012 that such issues are mooted after the child at issue returns to his country of habitual residence.
     In his petition to the Supreme Court, Sgt. Chafin noted that the circuits are split as to whether the return of the child to the country of habitual residence renders the appeal moot.
     While the 11th Circuit relied on its own precedent, a 2001 decision in the matter of Bekier v. Bekier, Chafin notes that the 4th Circuit made an alternate finding in 2003 with Fawcett v. McRoberts.
     “To consider the merits of an appeal and potentially reverse the lower court’s decision would have a considerable effect,” according to the question presented by Chafin. “In contrast, the Eleventh Circuit’s unfathomable position on this particular matter eliminates the basis and purpose of the appeal process.”
     Per its custom, the Supreme Court did not issue any comment in granting the petition for certiorari.

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