This site tracks developments in international family law from Richard Crouch and John Crouch of Crouch & Crouch in Arlington, Virginia. Our international practice has grown naturally from our location in our native Arlington, where our clients include many military, diplomatic and immigrant families, international organization employees, IT professionals, etc. This blog's purpose is to comment on the ongoing development of the law, and help other lawyers, journalists and the public understand individual cases. These postings do not provide a comprehensive description of the law. In fact, they will surely contain statements that were true at the time but have become less valid as the law continues to develop.
In this case the mother kept the child in her native Singapore after a holiday visit to her family. She complained that the husband and his parents, who the couple lived with in Germany, had been psychologically abusive to her. She had a psychlogist who claimed that the child's only feelings of security were from having his mother physically present, and therefore, being in Germany was impossible for the mother and being in Germany without the mother would be psychologically harmful for the child. The psychologist based this on observing the mother and child, not the father. The psychologist also added, after the trial court decision, that the mother was depressed, could not deal with Germany, and might kill herself there. However, she refused to take antidepressants because she chose to breastfeed her second child and she worried that they might harm that child. There was also some violence in the marriage, in which it was impossible to determine which parent was the aggressor, and the mother's reactions to it were "inconsistent."
The trial court ordered the child returned to Germany and the intermediate appeal court, after a year and a half, agreed. Neither court was very impressed with the mother's claims. However, the intermediate appeal court required the father to give an "Undertaking" that the child could visit with the mother every day while the mother was in Germany.
Singapore's highest court likewise ordered the child returned, after appointing its own mental health expert whose views differed radically from the mother's expert. It imposed "Undertakings" on both parties, ordering the mother to get psychiatric treatment in both countries and to cooperate with the father's "undertakings". It ordered the father to rent a home in Germany for the mother and children to live in, to pay a periodic amount of spousal and child support, to pay all her legal, medical, and psychiatric expenses in Germany, and to ask a German court to make all of this a binding German court order.
Essentially, the court did the right thing in the Hague case, but only on condition that the abduction victim give the abduction country complete power over many of the issues in the divorce, power which properly belonged to the country where the couple had lived, and that those issues be decided in favor of the abductor. This ensures that child abduction is still very rewarding for the abductor, and completely frustrates the Convention's purpose of having child custody disputes decided in the child's home country.
Courts in the UK and Commonwealth countries frequently impose these "undertakings" in Hague cases, and there is much criticism of the practice as going beyond what the Convention authorizes, and putting conditions on legal relief that is supposed to be unconditional and a matter of right. However, those "undertakings" are generally temporary arrangements, not final decisions on custody and economic issues.
The Court carefully reconsidered, and discusses some of the best arguments worldwide that have made the above points. The opinion is an encyclopedic collection of the best things written on the subject. But ultimately it reaffirmed its decision to impose the extensive undertakings, emphasizing that they ARE temporary, they impose substantive duties on BOTH parties, and that they are only for extreme cases where a risk of psychological harm to the child is alleged. (The flaw in that last argument is that that claim is made in a great many cases, and most cases are like this one where the claim is pretty obviously insubstantial.)
Belgium's upper and lower houses of parliament have now passed legislation extending to children the right to choose euthanasia for "constant and unbearable physical or mental suffering that cannot be alleviated." The issue has bitterly divided the country for years but 75% of the population supports the new law, USA Today reports. Opponents say children lack the maturity to make such a decision and are too often dominated by parents and caregivers. Supporters say it is not about whether, but how, to die.
The term euthanasia is used by the media and apparently by supporters, whereas in the U.S. it would probably be used only by opponents.
By Sumi Somaskanda and Jabeen Bhatti, February 14, 2014, in USA Today
Some interesting background from the article:
Belgium, one of the few countries that has allowed euthanasia, first passed legislation legalizing euthanasia in 2002 and in 2012, the number of those opting for it increased 25% to 1,432 cases. The mainly secular country, which has a strong Roman Catholic tradition, is one of just a few European countries to allow some form of assisted dying.
Euthanasia for adults is permitted in Luxembourg and in special cases for terminally ill patients age 12 or older in the Netherlands. Switzerland has allowed assisted suicide by doctors since the 1940s, offering the service in clinics such as Dignitas. Still, euthanasia remains illegal.
Under current Belgian law, parents of terminally ill children can opt for palliative sedation, where high doses of sedatives are prescribed at the end of the patient's life. Food and liquids are then withdrawn to speed up death, which normally occurs within hours or days.
This, say opponents of the current measure, is the proper way for terminally ill children to die.
CNN's treatment of the bill includes a human-interest story about a supporter motivated by the suffering not of the child, but of the parent, who
"had to watch as her baby ... slowly faded away under palliative sedation, food and liquid withheld so her suffering was not further prolonged. "That whole period of sedation, you always need to give more and more medication, and you start asking questions. And you say, 'What's the use of keeping this baby alive?' " van Roy said. She wishes she could have administered a fatal dose of medication to make the end of her daughter's short life come more quickly.
CNN also says 175 pediatricians signed a letter opposing the law, saying children have never truly freely requested euthanasia and that palliative care makes it unnecessary.
A state asset-sale program in the 1990s enriched a group of insiders at everyone else’s expense. That gap is fueling a revival of polygamy, which has become a status symbol for affluent men and a ticket out of poverty for young women. The practice flourished in this Central Asian nation for centuries. "Not having a junior wife is now shameful for wealthy men.”
41% approve legalising it ; lawmakers tried to do so at least twice since 2001, most recently in 2008 - - the measure failed after a female parliamentarian insisted on including polyandry, or multiple husbands, as well.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved a bill to require the U.S. secretary of state to reach memorandums of understanding with all nations not party to the 1980 Hague Convention, which requires the return of kidnapped children to their habitual country of residence.
The bill would seek to establish a mechanism with each country so that children would be returned within six weeks of a reported abduction. The bill also calls on the president to take one or more counteractions if abduction cases are not resolved 180 days after Washington notifies the country to which a child has been taken.
The suggested presidential actions against “a country with a pattern of noncooperation” include the delay or cancellation of scientific and cultural exchanges as well as working, official and state visits. It further orders government agencies not to approve the export of any goods and technologies to the country involved.
The materials for the International Academy's upcoming fall meeting in Buenos Aires reveal that Virginia has far more Academy "Fellows" than any state its size. Only four states, four countries, and the province of Ontario have more IAML members than Virginia.
Virginia is a leader in international family law because it is home to so many soldiers, sailors, diplomats, immigrants, and international-organization employees. My father and I developed our international family law practice over the past 45 years by helping these people with their everyday legal problems.
Countries, states and province with 10 or more Fellows of the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, from most to least: