Fox Rothschild LLP

An interesting case was recently decided by the United Supreme Court involving an international custody dispute, which has particular relevance for members of the military. For the case, click here. When there are allegations of parental kidnapping, or an unlawful removal of children to another country, there is an international treaty, known has the The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction which provides an expeditious method intended to return a child removed by a parent from one member nation to another.   The primary intention of the Convention is to maintain the custody arrangement which existed immediately before an alleged wrongful removal thereby deterring a parent from crossing international boundaries in search of a more sympathetic court. The Convention applies only to children under the age of 16.

Unfortunately, not all countries are signatories to the treaty (most notably, the majority of Middle Eastern countries are not). However, those that are give litigants an important process to be heard when a child is unlawfully taken. The core premise of the Hague Convention is that custody disputes should be resolved in what is known as the child’s “habitual residence.” Recently, a father who had been denied relief by an American Court when it was found that Scotland was the habitual residence of his daughter had his case reinstated by the United States Supreme Court.

The Hague Conventions requires the judicial or administrative authority of a signatory country to order a child returned to his or her country of habitual residence if the authority finds that the child has been wrongfully removed to or retained in the contracting country. The International Child Abduction Remedies Act (the name of the United States law which implements the Convention in the United States) also requires defendants to pay various expenses incurred by plaintiffs associated with the return of children. Generally, once a child has been return to his or her country of habitual residence, the case is considered concluded. However, this can, as the Supreme Court concluded, lead to inequities.

Continue Reading Parent’s rights under the Hague Convention Upheld

At the start of the week when most parents who have college students are writing that second semester check (gulp), the Appellate Division has decided a non precedential case in which a father objected to the trial court’s decision to make him pay 27% of his daughter’s college expenses at a private college. The case brings to the forefront situations in which the realities of limited available income come head to head with obligations for college expenses. Throw in a poor relationship between one parent and the college student, and you have a mess.

In the case of Caruso v. Whitlock, the father’s income was such that his basic child support obligation under the child support guidelines had been reduced as a result of the self support reserve. The self support reserve is a calculation in the child support guidelines which ensures that the obligor has sufficient income to maintain a basic subsistence level. So in other words, after child support, the obligor has to have left an amount which is 105% of the US poverty guideline.

The child in this case was enrolled in Rider University, a small private university without input from the father, with whom she did not have a good relationship. Both parents blames the other for the poor relationship.  The judge took some testimony from the parties on the issues, but there was not a formal hearing.  The daughter preferred a smaller college as opposed to Rutgers, the State University. The father stated that he wanted his daughter to go to college. The child received minimal financial assistance from the college and had some limited assets of her own.

The trial court ordered the father to pay 27% of the net college expenses which was based on the percentages from the child support worksheet that had been used the year before in an application for unreimbursed medical expenses. This came to approximately $6860 per year.  

Continue Reading Another college case: What's the actual ability to pay?