Monasky v. Taglieri and International Custody Disputes

Factual Background

This dispute is between two parents, Michelle Monasky—a U.S. citizen—and Domenico Taglieri—an Italian citizen. Monasky and Taglieri were married in the U.S., but moved to Italy because Taglieri had trouble finding work here.

However, after moving to Italy, the relationship between the two deteriorated. Monasky alleged that she became the victim of physical abuse and sexual assault from her husband. While in Italy, Monasky became pregnant. She claims that she wanted to leave Taglieri and move back to the U.S., but could not due to health complications associated with her pregnancy.

A few months after giving birth, Monasky left her husband and brought their daughter to the United States. Meanwhile, Taglieri obtained an ex parte order from an Italian court for the termination of Monasky’s parental rights.

Subsequently, Taglieri sought an order from a federal district court requiring Monasky to return their daughter to his custody in Italy. The district court granted ruled in Taglieri’s favor based on its finding that the child’s habitual residence was in Italy.

Monasky appealed the district court’s ruling, requesting the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Sixth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the district court’s order. As a result, Monasky had to return her daughter to Italy.

The Sixth Circuit agreed to a rehearing, and the case ultimately found its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction

This case involves procedures under the federal International Child Abduction Remedies Act, 22 USC § 9001 et seq., the law that implements the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction—also known as the Hague Abduction Convention, an international treaty designed to minimize the harms of the wrongful removal of children from their country of habitual residence and provide a standardized process for courts to recognize the custody orders of other members states of the Hague Abduction Convention.

The wrongful removal of a child occurs when someone takes a child to a country that does not qualify as the child’s place of habitual residence in violation of a parent’s custody rights.

As a result, one of the central issues that determines the outcome of return cases under the Hague Abduction Convention involves figuring out what country is the child’s habitual residence.

The Shared Intent Standard for Determining Habitual Residence

According to federal courts interpreting the International Child Abduction Remedies Act, courts tasked with determining what country is a child’s habitual residence requires an assessment of factors showing that a child spent enough time in one country such that they become “acclimatized” to their environment there.

However, in situations where the child is not old enough to be acclimatized to any particular country, federal courts have held that a child’s habitual country of residence can be determined from the shared parental intent of the parties.

In the Monasky case, the district court found that the evidence presented indicated that the shared parental intent of Monasky and Taglieri was to have Italy as the child’s country of habitual residence, citing the fact that they moved to Italy where they bought their marital home.

However, Monasky argues that the abuse she allegedly suffered at Taglieri’s hands negated her initial intent to have her child be born and raised in Italy and that the Sixth Circuit should have considered her subjective intent when determining the child’s country of habitual residence.

This case has received considerable attention, with many organizations filing amicus briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court, including the UK-based International Child Abduction Centre, the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Some briefs take a neutral stance in the case, discussing the importance of clarifying the judicial approach of U.S. courts in determining issues involving a child’s habitual residence. Others argue that courts should consider circumstances connected to domestic violence in claims involving the Hague Abduction Convention. In contrast, some amicus briefs point out that the Convention was not established to resolve the underlying custody dispute as that issue is up to the court that has jurisdiction in the child’s country of habitual residence.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments from the parties on December 11, 2019. The Court is expected to issue a ruling soon.

Reach Out to DiPietro Law Group, PLLC for Legal Representation

At DiPietro Law Group, our legal team is dedicated to resolving family law disputes, including those related to international child custody disputes under the Hague Convention. We have offices located in Maryland and Virginia.

Call DiPietro Law Group, PLLC at (888) 530-4374 or contact us online to schedule a consultation today.
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