Harm v. Lake-Harm, No. 20-30488 (5th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Harm is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, currently residing in Ireland. Lake-Harm is a U.S. citizen, currently living in New Orleans. The couple was married in the U.S.; their daughter, SLH, was born in the U.S. in 2017. Lake-Harm was a musician and traveled extensively. Harm alleged that SLH was abducted by Lake-Harm from Ireland in 2019. The three had been living in Ireland to obtain European Union residency for Lake-Harm and SLH. Harm initiated a custody suit in the U.S.
Under the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the country in which a child maintains her “habitual residence” almost always has jurisdiction to decide a custody dispute between the parents. If a child moves to a new country but her presence there is deemed “transitory,” the country in which the child habitually resided before the move remains the child’s habitual residence. The district court applied the “totality-of-the-circumstances” analysis in determining that SLH’s habitual residence was in the U.S. and that her residence in Ireland was transitory. The Fifth Circuit affirmed. Despite “the increase of SLH’s parents’ center of gravity in Ireland,” the district court followed the Supreme Court’s precedent in Hague Convention cases and did not commit clear error in determining and weighing the operative facts.