Supreme Court Hears Family Law Case

Posted on December 17th, 2019

A family law case has made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. An American woman and her estranged Italian husband are undergoing a custody battle for their child. The problem? This child was born in Italy, removed from the country with her mother, and taken to Ohio.

There are layers to this case. The mother claims she was a victim of domestic violence while she was already pregnant and after the child’s birth, had told her then-husband she wanted a divorce. The mother fled to a safe-house in Italy where she had no definitive plans of staying or going with the child. She ultimately decided to leave the country with the child, to the United States back to her family home.

The root of the problem? Determining habitual residence of the international-born child.

What is habitual residence?

Habitual residence in the simplest terms is the primary residence of an individual. According to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, a child who is wrongfully removed from his or her country of “habitual residence” is to be sent back to that country. 

But, when the child is so young, as is in this case, how can the courts determine where that habitual residence is when the child herself doesn’t really understand where she is? 

The primary caregiver comes into play.

There is also the issue that the mother has served as the child’s primary caregiver so to remove her from the mother would also be problematic. But the saga continues.

The court has gone back and forth on what the mother’s and father’s rights are. The baby was born in Italy, too, which suggests the father should have some claim to his daughter.

The topic for debate continues: does the mother leave a domestic violence situation but, in turn, hand her child over to her abuser? More is to unfold in the coming weeks and months. 

The Supreme Court is set to come to a conclusion in late June. 

What can we learn from a state-side perspective of child relocation?

In Pennsylvania, a parent who wishes to relocate their child must file a formal notice to the non-relocating parent if the move would significantly impair the ability of the non-relocating parent to exercise custodial rights. 

There is also the element of domestic violence which can also factor in divorce and custody battles. In The Keystone State, by procuring a protection from abuse petition (PFA), the abusive partner can be removed from the shared home, provide temporary custody of children and provide the victim with a court order that the abuser must stay away from the victims home, work, etc.  

Are you a victim of domestic abuse and need guidance on your custody rights and how to secure PFAs? 

Let the Scranton Lifetime Lawyers at Kalinoski Law Offices P.C. help you.

Our Scranton family law attorney is available to provide you legal representation and guidance on protecting your family. To arrange a confidential, free initial consultation with a strong family law advocate, contact us online or call (570) 207-4000.

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Craig Kalinoski
Craig Kalinoski

Craig P. Kalinoski is a respected attorney serving clients in Scranton, Pennsylvania. With a focus on Family Law, Criminal Defense, and Civil Rights, he has established himself as a top-rated legal professional. Recognized as a Rising Star and admired by peers, Craig's commitment to excellence sets him apart in the legal field.


We fight for the rights of our clients in a wide spectrum of practice areas, ranging from criminal defense to family law and personal injury.

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