Monday, May 17, 2010

Supreme Court rules in Chilean custody case

A mother illegally moved her son from the U.S. to Chile according to a Supreme Court ruling issued on Monday.

By a 6-3 vote the top tribunal overturned a lower court ruling in favor of Jacquelyn Abbott who had argued that she had exclusive custody to her 10-year-old U.S.-born son and she had the right to take him to Chile under international law. Yet the Supreme Court disagreed and the majority opinion found that the Hague Convention on child abduction- which the U.S. and Chile are signatories to- dictated that she had to consult with her estranged husband, Timothy.

Affecting the high court’s decision was that Chilean judges previously said that Timothy had visitation rights to the boy as well as the right to consent should the child be moved to another country.

The dissenting opinion penned by Justice John Paul Stevens claimed that Timothy never received custody rights and, hence, the international treaty had no bearing on the case. The verdict does have its loopholes, as Justice Anthony Kennedy mentioned in the majority opinion:
Kennedy said that an exception to the Hague Convention deals with the safety of the parent.
"If, for example, Ms. Abbott could demonstrate that returning to Chile would put her own safety at risk, the court could consider whether this is sufficient to show that the child too would suffer 'psychological harm' or be placed in an intolerable situation," Kennedy said.

Lower courts can also take into account the child's wishes if he is mature enough to express them, Kennedy said.
Image- Rainforest Coalition
Online Sources- AP, CNN, UPI

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