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How would international child custody be decided in Pittsburgh?

Arrangements of child custody can be a point of contention between a lot of divorcing parents. Having to come around to the idea of sharing a child between two households, or giving up full parenting rights to a child can be a hard one to grasp. These child custody agreements can be even more difficult for parents who don’t live in the same place, like Pittsburgh, and even more still for parents who might be living in entirely different countries.

One former couple is feeling this pain as they battle between the United States and another country for custody of their 5-year-old daughter. The parents had been married for several years, though the mother has lived in abroad with their daughter since 2007 while the father served in the U.S. Army. When the couple separated, the father was granted custody of their daughter in the U.S.

However, the mother appealed, and a federal court followed The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. In interpreting this international treaty, the court determined that Scotland was the “habitual residence” of the daughter, and that she should reside there. That U.S. district judge ruled in late 2011 that the daughter must be returned to her mother’s custody in Scotland.

The father is now appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court to have the child custody agreement changed again, and a decision is expected sometime before June 2013. However, as is often found in such cases in Pittsburgh and elsewhere, the fact that Scotland is where the daughter has spent much of her life may mean it is in her best interest to remain in the culture with which she is most familiar and comfortable.

Nevertheless, there are important legal questions to be considered, particularly in view of the fact that the father is a military member whose residence has presumably changed based on his deployments. In matters of child custody, it can be easy for parents to get caught up in what they want, but in the end it the underlying issue is almost always what is best for the child and their well being.

Source: Chicago Tribune, “US Supreme Court to hear int’l child custody dispute,” Jonathan Stempel and Terry Baynes, Aug. 13, 2012