Aug 13 The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Monday
to review a U.S. Army sergeant's challenge to a custody ruling
that under an international treaty his five-year-old daughter
should live with her mother in Scotland.
Jeffrey Chafin, the sergeant, is seeking to reverse a
federal appeals court decision letting his daughter Eris remain
in Scotland with her mother, Lynne Chafin, from whom he had
filed for divorce.
According to court papers, Lynne Chafin had lived with her
daughter in Scotland since 2007, apart from her husband because
of his job, and in February 2010 traveled to visit him in
Madison, Alabama, in a failed effort to save their marriage.
Lynne Chafin later returned to Scotland upon overstaying her
visa and sought the return of their daughter after an Alabama
state judge awarded custody to Jeffrey Chafin.
U.S. District Judge Inge Prytz Johnson in Huntsville,
Alabama, ruled in October 2011 that the daughter be returned to
Scotland, calling it her "habitual residence" under the Hague
Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in February dismissed
Jeffrey Chafin's appeal of Johnson's ruling, saying the issue
was moot because the girl by then was already in Scotland.
Jeffrey Chafin said this decision was at odds with other
federal appeals courts and would effectively deny custodial
rights to a parent of a child wrongfully abducted to another
Stephen Cullen, a lawyer from Scotland representing Lynne
Chafin, said the Hague Convention is often raised in
cross-border custody battles involving military service
personnel. "You've got this child who's like a ping pong ball,
and no one knows who's supposed to decide the custody question,"
Michael Manely, a lawyer for Jeffrey Chafin, was not
immediately available to comment.
A decision is expected in the Supreme Court's coming term,
which ends in June 2013.
The case is Chafin v. Chafin, U.S. Supreme Court, No.