Alabama Child Custody Case Proceeds to U.S. Supreme Court Next Year
On August 22, news sources reported that the United States Supreme Court will hear an international custody dispute that originated in Alabama (see Al.com, online home of The Huntsville times). The outcome of the case could affect when U.S. courts have jurisdiction in international custody cases.
Supreme Court review in this matter arises out of a 2011 Alabama federal court decision involving the custody of a then-four-year-old girl. In a divorce case that is still pending, an Alabama judge allowed the girl’s mother to relocate with the child to Scotland U.K. after living for a time in Huntsville. The mother and daughter had lived in Scotland prior to moving to Huntsville to be with the girl’s father, a U.S. Army sergeant.
The father sought to appeal the federal court’s decision; however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit turned down the appeal, finding the issue was no longer in its jurisdiction because the girl had already moved to Scotland with her mother. When the Supreme Court hears the case, the justices will consider whether such appeals should be considered moot after a child leaves the United States.
The father’s attorney asserts that the majority of lower courts in the United States disagree with the Eleventh Circuit, holding instead that American courts do not automatically lose jurisdiction over custody matters because a child no longer lives in the United States. The mother’s attorneys agree that there are conflicting lower court opinions regarding jurisdiction, and do not oppose the father’s petition to hear the jurisdictional issue. They do argue, however, that the ultimate outcome of the Alabama proceedings was correct, and that the father had been wrongfully keeping the daughter in the United States.
If the Supreme Court holds that U.S. courts continue to have jurisdiction over custody matters after a child has moved to another country, the Eleventh Circuit will be required to reconsider the father’s appeal, but not necessarily to modify the custody arrangement.
Talk to an Experienced Child Custody Lawyer in Alabama
If you are facing divorce and have children, or if you have already been through divorce and have a child custody concern, the advice and representation of an experienced custody attorney is necessary to protect your rights and the wellbeing of your children. In Alabama, contact Lana Hawkins at Hawkins Law, LLC. Serving in Boaz and Albertville, we represent clients throughout northern and central Alabama, including the Huntsville-Decatur metro area.