International Custody Dispute Settled by Child's Age

A child growing up as the focus of an international custody dispute between his parents was recently resolved after a 10-year battle that eventually reached the United States’ highest court. The case highlights the complexities around international custody disputes, and shows the need for parents to work together for the best interests of children.

The now-16-year-old boy lives with his mother, an American citizen, in Texas. According to the mother, the teen has no desire to see his British-born father who took his fight for child custody to the U.S. Supreme Court.

According to court records, the boy’s father — who now lives in Chile — accused the child’s mother of fleeing Chile with the child to come to the United States. A court in Chile previously ruled that neither parent could take the boy out of the country without permission from the other parent.

The couple was married in the United Kingdom, and the boy was born in Hawaii. The parents were estranged in early 2003. A Chilean court granted primary custody to the boy’s mother and “limited power” and visitation rights to the father.

The wife left Chile when the boy was 10. The father used a private investigator to track the mother and son to San Antonio.

A federal appeals court granted the father the “right of access” so visitations could continue.

Supreme Court justices heard the case in 2010 and agreed that the father could pursue the legal custody action, but denied the parent a “right of access” and remanded the case to a lower federal court.

The teen recently told a judge he wanted to stay with his mother and did not wish to see his father. The Hague Convention’s international child custody guidelines apply to children up to age 15. The boy at the heart of the dispute turned 16 recently, causing a U.S. federal judge to close the case.

Source: CNN, “Child at center of high court fight over custody gets closure,” Bill Mears, Feb. 14, 2012

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