Supreme Court docket steps into worldwide custody dispute, giving decrease courts extra discretion

The court wiped away a federal appeals court and sent a case concerning a child born in Italy back to the lower court for further proceedings.

The ruling is a win for an American woman who fled with her Italian-born child to the US after she said they faced abuse at the hands of her Italian-born husband. She sought to keep the child in the US while the custody proceedings played out. The husband filed a criminal kidnapping complaint against his wife in both Italian and American courts.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the unanimous opinion of the court.

“As relevant here, a court is not bound to order a child’s return if it finds that return would put the child at a grave risk of physical or psychological harm,” Sotomayor wrote. “In such a circumstance, a court has discretion to determine whether to deny return.”

The ruling deals with the Hague Convention’s Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which grants parents in general a “right of custody” and a separate “right of access,” ensuring that the laws of one country are respected in the other.

This story has been updated with additional information Wednesday.

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