Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Habitual Residence: Objective facts beat claimed agreement that residence is temporary

Maynard v. Maynard, USDC E. Mich. 3/21/07 is one of those cases where a family gave every indication of living in another country, but one spouse later claimed they were only doing so provisionally, with an agreement that they could move back to the U.S. from Australia in a year if it didn't work out. That's what the mother claimed when she took the kids back to Michigan, their former home state, after the family lived in Australia for 10 months. Federal Judge Patrick J. Duggan said that whether you look solely at the facts from the child's perspective, as in a long line of cases going back to Friedrich and Evans-Feder, or consider the parents' shared intent as in the more recent Mozes case, Australia was these children's habitual residence. As that was the only issue in the case, the children were sent back to Australia. Even if there had been an agreement to come back to the U.S. if the wife didn't like Australia, such an agreement would not have kept Australia from being the habitual residence, the judge wrote. Such a nebulous agreement "for an indefinite period" is fundamentally different from an agreement that a stay in a country is only for a certain defined time and purpose, he said. (Such as the family's earlier presence in Michigan, which was pursuant to a five-year employment contract with an Australian company.)

Source: International Family Law News and Analysis,judgment.

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