Madonna and Interstate Custody

Madonna is locked in an interstate custody battle over her son, who is refusing to leave his father’s home in London, and return to her home in New York City. Sadly, these disputes happen more frequently as people become increasingly mobile.

Madonna’s interstate custody case is interesting on several levels, because it involves domestic (meaning American) family law and international family law issues.

The complex nature of the issues are why I have previously written about the education problems in Madonna’s interstate custody disputes.

Madonna and Guy Ritchie were divorced in 2008. They have a son together. A New York court judge ordered the son to return to Madonna in New York. The 15-year-old has been living with his father at his London home.

So, what happens if Guy ignores the New York court order? Madonna may be able to rely on various international and American statutes to help resolve their interstate custody dispute.

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act

American courts are governed by the UCCJEA, a state law every U.S. State has adopted except for Massachusetts. The UCCJEA generally provides the basis for determining which state’s court should resolve custody disputes, and also governs the enforcement of other states’ custody and parenting time orders.

The UCCJEA sets out the rules for which state can establish a new custody order, enforce your rights under an existing order, or modify the terms of another state’s child custody decree. The UCCJEA also has rules for determining when a state can take Emergency Jurisdiction over an interstate custody case.

The Hague Convention

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an international treaty the U.S. turned into a U.S. federal law. The Hague Convention provides remedies for a “left-behind” parent, like Madonna.

By filing a Hague petition for return in another signatory country, a left behind parent may be able to obtain the return of a wrongfully removed child to the country of the child’s habitual residence.

The Hague Convention seeks to deter abducting parent by eliminating their primary motivation for doing so: to “deprive the abduction parent’s actions of any practical or juridical consequences.”

So, when a child under 16 who was habitually residing in one signatory country is wrongfully removed to another Hague Convention signing country, the Hague Convention provides that the other country must: “order the return of the child forthwith” and “shall not decide on the merits of rights of custody.”

The Huffington Post article is here.