Determing A Child’s Country Of Residence In International Custody Disputes

Since UK actress Sophie Turner and American pop star Joe Jonas announced their divorce earlier this month, the pair have become embroiled in an international child custody dispute, spurred by Turner filing a court petition requesting the immediate return of the couple’s two young children to their home in England.  

Turner’s filing in the New York City courts alleged “wrongful retention of two children” by Jonas from “their habitual residence in England.” In public court documents, Turner states that Jonas has refused to turn over the kids’ passports. 

The claims reportedly center around plans Turner claims she and Jonas made some time ago for the children to return to England, where the couple have a home, onceTurner finished a new film project in September and Jonas headed out on tour. Her petition details that she met recently with Jonas to discuss their separation and reiterated the custody plan for the children to return to England that week. However, Jonas refused to return their passports from his possession, making travel impossible, the court filing alleged. 

Joe Jonas released a statement in response, explaining that Florida is the children’s home state and that all custody matters needed to be decided there.

It is unclear how quickly Turner’s petition will be heard in the courts and whether the two can resolve this issue amicably out of court. In the meantime, there are several key points to this matter worth considering for any parent coping with international child custody issues.

Hague Abduction Convention: Sophie Turner’s petition was filed through the Hague Abduction Convention, an international treaty that aims to give a civil solution to parents “seeking the return of a child wrongfully removed or retained across international borders.” Filing through the Hague Abduction Convention is significant. The Convention is designed to expedite the return of abducted children to their “habitual residence” and to ensure that custody battles are resolved in the child’s home country. The Convention also aims to deter international parental child abduction

Passport Control: The withholding of the children’s passports by Joe Jonas, as alleged, could be considered an act preventing the children from returning to their habitual residence, depending on the laws in question and the agreements between the parents. 

Wrongful Retention: Turner claims that Jonas has wrongfully retained the children. This term has specific implications under the Hague Convention and English law, which could weigh heavily in court proceedings in an international child custody matter. It provides a reason for the Hague Convention standards to apply. 

What happens next? 

Turner has requested the return of her children to England, has submitted her application for return with the Central Authority for England and Wales, and says that she “never consented or acquiesced to the removal of the children from England,” the court documents said.

Jonas claims the children have lived in Florida for the past six months, which would give the state jurisdiction over custody matters if it is found to be the place of the children’s “habitual residence.” The outcome of Turner’s petition would provide clarity on this. If Florida is ruled to be the country of habitual residence, all further matters would be heard there. 

The children are currently with Turner in New York, the filing said, awaiting the court’s decision or Jonas and Turner coming to their own agreement on the matter.

International child custody matters are often complex. We will update as more is learned.  

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