The jurisdiction of custody matters is typically an easy thing to determine. Most often, both parents at least live in the same country, so there is little issue with determining the jurisdiction and moving forward with the case. However, if spouses live in different countries, it becomes a bit more complex.
According to Quartz, international custody issues fall under the Hague Convention. This is an agreement among various countries on how to handle custody issues when parents are nationals of different countries. When it comes to jurisdiction, the Hague Convention states that the country of the child’s habitual residence should handle the case.
The U.S. Supreme Court is currently hearing a case on the Hague Convention, specifically in regards to determining the habitual residence. The decision the court makes will have a large impact on every family dealing with international custody, which is an issue unto itself.
The process for determining the habitual residence is very flexible because the intention is to make it adjust to each family’s specific needs. By making a ruling in this case, the U.S. Supreme Court will further define habitual residence, which could negatively impact other families outside of the case. This is worrisome to the justices.
In the United States’ general process when determining custody decisions, courts look to the child’s best interests. Similarly, the Hague Convention process for determining jurisdiction does the same. That means that there is no black or white definition or foolproof way to determine every case the same way.
The Supreme Court has a lot on its shoulders with this decision. Whatever the justices decide, it will affect more people than those in this specific case. It is a tricky case that anyone dealing with international custody issues should pay attention to, because it may impact them as well. Sitting down with a legal professional experienced in such cases is a good idea.