U.S. Supreme Court Considers Exception to the Hague Convention

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is the multinational treaty that governs how the courts of signatory nations should treat parents who transport children across national boundaries in violation of valid custody determinations. As a treaty, it has been adopted in the United States and receives the force of any other duly enacted federal law in our courts.  

The U.S. Supreme Court recently had the opportunity to examine a particular aspect of the treaty and direct our courts in how to treat requests for the return of a child currently in the United States. On December 11, 2013, the court heard oral argument in the case of Lozano v. Alvarez. Generally, U.S. courts are obligated to respect the valid custody determinations of other signatory countries, subject to limited exceptions: 

  • If return of the child would pose a grave risk
  • If the child is of sufficient age and maturity, and objects to being returned
  • If the return of the child would violate the child’s human rights and fundamental freedoms
  • If more than one year has passed since the abduction 

In Lozano, the court was asked to determine if the “one year” exception applied given that the abducting parent took willful steps to conceal the child’s whereabouts, thereby preventing the other parent from knowing that the child had left the home country.

The district court had strictly interpreted this exception, finding that Manuel Lozano could not utilize the Hague Convention because he had waited more than one year to petition for the return of his child. Their decision was affirmed by an appellate court. Lozano then brought his case to the Supreme Court, proposing that the one year limitation period should be tolled because the mother actively concealed the fact that she had removed the child from the UK to New York. On March 5, 2014, the Supreme Court upheld the lower court's ruling and maintained that the one-year time limit cannot be extended for any petitioner.

If you face an international child custody dispute, Illinois international child abduction attorneys can help you navigate through this difficult time.

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