International Custody and the Hague Convention
Jack Redmond’s parents met in Ireland while his mother, Mary Redmond, a United States citizen, was studying in the country. Jack’s father was a citizen of Ireland. When the couple found out that Mary was pregnant, they moved to the United States, where Jack was born in 2007. They relocated back to Ireland when Jack was only eleven days old, giving him dual citizenship. However, shortly thereafter, when Jack was only nine months old, the couples’ relationship soured and Mary moved back to the United States with Jack. Jack’s father instituted a custody proceeding in the Irish courts and in 2011 it was ordered that the parties should share custody of Jack in Ireland. Shortly after the proceedings, Mary, who traveled to Ireland to participate in the proceedings, fled back to the United States with Jack and filed for custodial rights in the United States court system. Mary’s move resulted in her being found in contempt in Ireland. Additionally, Jack’s father filed a petition in the United States District Court alleging that Mary was in violation of international child abduction laws. The United States District Judge ordered Jack back to Ireland in the summer of 2012. Jack traveled there with his grandmother; Mary did not go as she feared being jailed as a result of disobeying the Irish custody order. Mary has not seen Jack in person since she put him on the plan almost a year and a half ago.
The story took another turn in the summer of 2013 when the U.S. appeals court reversed the District Judge’s order and ordered Jack back to the United States. The appeals court reasoned that by the time Jack was relocated back to Ireland, he had already established deep roots in the United States – he was enrolled in school here, he was involved in extracurricular activities, and he has a large extended family here – that Ireland could not be considered his home. In December of 2013, the District Judge entered a final order that Jack be returned to the United States. Right now, Mary Redmond is awaiting the return of her son, whom she has been keeping in daily contact with through telephone calls and Skype. When Jack makes it back to the United States, he might not be able to stay long, as there is currently litigation pending in the Illinois states courts, which has been put on hold pending the outcome of the federal case.
Complicated international disputes such as Mary Redmond’s are not uncommon these days. With technological advances in travel and communication, including social media, international relationships are more common than ever. When parents from different states within the United States are involved in a custodial dispute, the UCCJEA (a law that regulates child custody jurisdiction) helps to resolve many disputes. However, with international custody cases, there is no uniform mechanism of enforcement, oftentimes making international custody situations, such as the Redmond custody case, difficult to resolve.
The Hague Convention is available as a potential source of relief whenever one parent takes a child from the country without permission or in violation of the a court order. The Hague Convention came into force in 1983 and is available if a child is abducted and taken to one of the 89 ratifying nations, such as Ireland or the United States. Once a petition is filed under the Hague Convention, the abducted child would then be returned to their country of “habitual residence” and the Courts of that country would rule on the jurisdiction issue. The broad reach of the Hague Convention means that today it is harder than ever before for a parent to take their child to another country to prevent the other parent from exercising custody. Obviously, the back and forth of the child involved in the Redmond custody case shows that the process is not flawless. As the appellate ruled over the summer, the United States should have been found to be Jack’s habitual residence, however that did not stop him from being returned to Ireland. Despite its limitations, the Hague Convention does provide much needed relief to many families embroiled in these disputes.
If you are involved in an international custody dispute, or you are worried your children may be taken out of the United States without your permission, please contact the experienced international attorneys at McMorrow Law LLC today at 724-940-0100 for your free 30 minute consultation.