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Chafin v. Chafin

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: February 19, 2013
Case #: 11-1347
Roberts, C.J., for a unanimous Court. Ginsburg, J., filed a concurring opinion which Scalia and Breyer, JJ., joined.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/11-1347_m648.pdf

Constitutional Law: The return of a child to a foreign country under an International Convention return order does not render an appeal of that order moot.

Petitioner, Mr. Chafin, is a United States citizen who married Respondent, Ms. Chafin, a United Kingdom citizen. While the two were in Germany, they had a child together. Respondent moved to Scotland with the child while Petitioner was deployed. After his deployment, Petitioner was transferred to Alabama, and Respondent and their child joined him. Shortly after this, Petitioner filed for divorce and custody of the child. Respondent was deported, and she filed a petition under the Hague Convention and the International Child Abduction Remedies Act (ICARA), 42 U. S. C. §11601 et seq.) for the child to return to Scotland.

The District Court ordered the child returned to Scotland as the child's country of habitual residence, and Respondent promptly took her to Scotland. Petitioner appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit which held that the issue was moot because the U.S. courts no longer had the power to grant Petitioner the relief he sought since the child was in a different country.

The Supreme Court held that an appeal from an order that returns a child to a foreign country in accordance with a Convention return order is not moot. A case becomes moot only when the parties lack a legally cognizable interest (Already, LLC v. Nike, Inc., 568 U.S. ___, ___). However, Petitioner continued to seek relief in the form of a reversal of the District Court’s decision and a vacatur of the District Court’s expense orders. The Court found that although the District Court's re-return order may not actually result in the child’s return, Petitioner still has an interest in the District Court issuing a re-return order. Additionally, the fact that the vacatur of the expense order was not likely to provide relief went to the merits of the claim, not mootness. Petitioner has an existing interest in the outcome of the appeal. Therefore, the case is not moot.