When a relationship ends, it leaves lots of loose ends—particularly when there is a child involved. Under the best circumstances, determining child custody and visitation is difficult; when the parents have a contentious or volatile relationship, the stakes are even higher.
Such is the case for Michelle Monasky and Domenico Taglieri. The termination of their relationship was so fraught with controversy that their custody battle continues five years after it started.
After marrying in Illinois in 2011, Monasky and Taglieri relocated to Italy. Three years later, in 2014, they welcomed a daughter. Monasky alleged that Taglieri had been physically abusive to her. As a result, she left Italy and returned to Ohio with her two-week-old daughter.
Taglieri strove to protect his parenting rights, and an Ohio district court ruling sided with him. The appeals court judge noted that, in almost any situation, a baby should be a habitual resident of the country in which the matrimonial home exists.
Since then, the child has lived in Italy with her father. The mother, however, has continued exploring her legal avenues. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case and determine whether or not the mother had a right to bring her to the United States—and, consequently, where the child will live after the ruling.
What Does the Supreme Court Case Mean
According to Anthony W. Kirby, a family law attorney, the Supreme Court is analyzing two elements: how to establish habitual residence and the standard of review appellate courts should apply.
“Analyzing the first, does a child have the ability to form such a strong connection with surroundings that removal would cause harm? Or should the Court look at the shared intent of the parents on where to raise the child prior to one party absconding? Lower Courts have implemented a slew of hybrid approaches to balancing these ideologies. The Supreme Court will likely put more emphasis on shared intent while creating exceptions for intent to be overcome if enough time has elapsed or if unnecessary trauma would be caused by removal.
Analyzing the second, should they be concerned only with clearly erroneous findings of fact, or should latitude be granted to allow them a clean slate? The majority of the lower courts have decided to review habitual residence on a de novo basis. The Supreme Court will likely follow the path of the majority, stating that while the parents’ intent is a question of fact to be overturned only if clearly erroneous, the overall decision of habitual residence is a question of law to be reviewed de novo.”
Complicated Custody Cases
This international case highlights a number of issues that plague divorcing couples across the United States. While the international aspect of the custody issues are relatively uncommon, there are many other factors that can make a domestic custody dispute challenging.
When one parent wants to move with the child, they may be setting themselves up for a lengthy court battle. If the other parent agrees to allow them to move with the child, it’s usually as simple as signing some paperwork and switching the child’s legal residence. If the non-moving party disputes the other parent’s request, the court must go through the difficult process of determining what is in the child’s best interests. Laws and standards vary by state, but in general, a parent interested in relocating has an uphill battle ahead of them.
Another issue touched on in this custody case is abuse. The role of domestic abuse in custody situations varies between states. While a state cannot compel a party to interact with their abuser, the victim may still have to provide access to their shared children, unless they can demonstrate that the other party also poses a threat to the children. If the victim is required to share parenting time with the alleged abuser, the court may set up supervised visits or use a safe third location as a drop-off point. In many cases, a third party collects the children from one party and later transfers them to the care of the other party, ensuring that the ex-partners do not have to interact.
Ideally, in any custody case, both parties will be able to set aside their differences to benefit the children. That’s why many states require that divorcing couples go through a coparenting course—the communication techniques and standards needed to successfully coparent are often substantially different from those used in a romantic relationship. A lot is at stake when custody issues are up for debate; divorcing couples should make custody discussions a priority and come to a mutually beneficial agreement that serves the needs of the children.