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International child custody case ruled on by Supreme Court

In New Jersey, the decision of whether to award joint or sole physical custody is often highly disputed in court. The situation becomes further complicated when the parents live in different states, or even, different countries. However, the United States Supreme Court has recently issued an opinion which will make it possible for parents in the U.S. to have their day in court when dealing with a child custody dispute when the other parent lives abroad.

The case involved an Army Sergeant who married his wife in Germany back in 2006. The couple then had a child shortly after they were married. In 2009, the man was transferred back to the U.S., and his wife and daughter followed him. However, in 2010, the couple decided to get a divorce. The wife, a citizen of Scotland, took the daughter with her after she was deported.

When the man initially tried to fight for custody, U.S. courts refused to intervene, reasoning that the case was moot because the daughter had been living abroad for too long. Later, the Supreme Court reversed the decision and held that U.S. courts still have jurisdiction over the case, as well as the power to enforce a child custody order. The case was then sent back to the lower court.

This case brings up the issue of child custody, and how there are different types. For example, physical custody of a child represents where the child will live on a day-to-day basis. If both parents live close to each other, the court may award joint physical custody, which would allow for the child to spend equal amounts of time with each parent. In contrast, if the parents live far away from each other, the court may decide to award one parent primary physical custody, while awarding the other parent visitation rights.

It is generally in the best interest of the child for parents to each spend meaningful periods of time with their child. So whether parents share joint custody, or whether one has primary physical custody while the other parent has visitations rights, the time will allow parents to experience a positive relationship with their child.

Source: Fox News, "Supreme Court says Army dad must be heard in custody battle for daughter," Perry Chiaramonte, Feb. 19, 2013

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