United States Supreme Court Issues Unanimous Opinion In Hauge Convention Case Involving Domestic Violence and Child Custody

We are delighted that the United States Supreme Court unanimously held that a child’s physical and psychological safety is paramount in making decisions regarding the possible return of a child to his home country.

On Wednesday, June 15, Justice Sotomayor delivered a unanimous opinion in Golan v. Saada, finding a court is not categorically required to examine all possible ameliorative measures before denying a Hague Convention petition for return of a child to a foreign country once the court has found that return would expose the child to a grave risk of harm.

The Court further provided an important guiding principle for district courts exercising their discretion to consider ameliorative measures, noting: “A court may therefore decline to consider imposing ameliorative measures where it is clear that they would not work because the risk is so grave. Sexual abuse of a child is one example of an intolerable situation. Other physical or psychological abuse, serious neglect, and domestic violence in the home may also constitute an obvious grave risk to the child’s safety that could not readily be ameliorated. A court may also decline to consider imposing ameliorative measures where it reasonably expects that they will not be followed [e.g., a parent with a history of violating court orders].”

Child Justice, along with Prevent Child Abuse New York and Professor Jennifer Baum, joined together as amici on a supporting brief, and explained to the court that child abuse and domestic violence in the home constitute such a clear risk to a child’s safety that there is little a trial court can do to ameliorate such danger, short of simply not ordering the child’s return to that environment.

Paul Griffin, Legal Director for Child Justice says, “We are particularly pleased with the strong language of the opinion, which makes clear that a trial court may indeed refuse to issue a return order when these elements are present. We thank the law firm of Cleary Gottlieb for the incredible work they did in drafting such a strong amicus brief and we look forward to partnering with them on future, groundbreaking cases!”

To read the full opinion, visit: https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/596/20-1034/case.pdf
To read our amicus curiae brief, visit: https://bit.ly/CJI-golan