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US justices wrestle with London child abduction case

Justices of the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments this week in the case of an eight year-old girl taken from London to New York by his mother.

Lozano v Alvarez concerned a Columbian couple who met in London in 2004. The woman left her partner in 2008, taking her daughter with her, reportedly without telling him where she was going. They went to live in a women’s shelter, before late4r moving to New York to live with the woman’s sister.

Eventually her ex-partner tracked them down and filed a claim for the return to the UK of his daughter, under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, in which both the UK and the US are participants. If his application was successful, contact and residence would then be assessed by the English family courts.

But by the time the man had made his application, more than a year had passed since his former partner had taken their daughter away, taking his claim past the legal deadline for immediate return. Her mother is now entitled to argue that their daughter is settled in her new environment.

His lawyers argued that the time in which his daughter’s whereabouts had been unknown to him should not be counted, and the case proceeded to the US Supreme Court.

The one-time couple’s daughter has now been in the US for four years, and has not seen her father since November 2008.

During the oral hearing this week, Justice Stephen Breyer noted:

“On the one hand, we don’t want to encourage abduction. On the other hand we don’t want to treat the child as a yo-yo.”

A ruling on the case is expected by June next year. If the court rules against the father, parenting arrangements will have to be resolved within the US legal system.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Paul says:

    The blunt reality is that unless the child comes back they are encouraging abduction.

  2. Luke says:

    “The blunt reality is that unless the child comes back they are encouraging abduction.”

    I agree Paul – and frankly I don’t think there is another reasonable way to interpret it.

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