US Supreme Court upholds Briton's custody right

18th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

The US Supreme Court has upheld the custody rights of a British father whose ex-wife moved their son to the United States from Chile without his permission.

The case pitted Timothy Abbott against his ex-wife Jacqueline, who had been granted custody of their son by a tribunal in Chile, where the couple were living when they decided to separate.

A Chilean court granted Timothy Abbott visitation rights as well as so-called ne exeat rights, obliging his ex-wife to seek his consent before taking their child out of the country.

Jacqueline Abbott, who reportedly was unable to find work in Chile, first sought to have her ex-spouse's ne exeat right annulled and then decided to move to Texas with her son without Timothy Abbott's permission.

Her husband found the pair in the United States and sought to enforce his ne exeat right and to have his son returned to Chile. Several US courts sided with Jacqueline Abbott, but the Supreme Court ruled six-to-three against her Monday.

The justices wrote that the boy's father had a "right of custody" as understood in the Hague Convention of the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

"The Convention provides a return remedy when a parent takes a child across international borders in violation of a right of custody," the majority opinion said.

But they cautioned that their decision did not mean the child would automatically be returned to Chile.

"While a parent possessing the 'ne exeat' right has a right of custody and may seek a return remedy, a return order is not automatic. Return is not required if the abducting parent can establish that a Convention exception applies," they wrote.

© 2010 AFP

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