August 22, 2012
International custody case from Alabama heads to U.S. Supreme Court
An international child custody dispute that started in Alabama will be heard later this year by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that could affect when American courts have jurisdiction in such cases and when they don’t.
A federal judge in Alabama last year allowed a then-4-year-old girl to return to Scotland with her mother, where they had lived before moving to Huntsville to be with her father. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals turned down the father’s appeal, saying the issue was no longer in its jurisdiction because the girl already was living in Scotland, prompting him to ask the Supreme Court to review the case.
Pet ownership disputes can be as messy as child custody cases
How the legal system treats animals has changed dramatically in recent decades. They’re protected by anti-cruelty laws. Their owners can bequeath fortunes to them. And their fate in a divorce, with rare exception, no longer hangs on “calling contests,” in which judges gave custody to the parties who could coax Fido to their side.
For the most part, though, dogs, cats, macaws and turtles are still considered property, with few more rights than a coffee table. When ownership disputes land in court, judges have wide latitude.
Some will decide where a pet should live in the same manner they resolve custody of a child: by carefully sizing up who offers more financial security and stronger emotional ties. Other jurists consider that a waste of scarce resources and time and base their decision on other factors, such as who originally acquired the animal.