UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Supreme Court of the United States
Superior Appellate Court
Justice Sotomayor, delivering the opinion of the Court.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
15 June 2022
Grave Risk - Art. 13(1)(b)
Case remitted to lower court
Abbott v. Abbott, 560 U. S. 1, 10; Lozano v. Montoya Alvarez, 572 U. S. 1, 17
The mother, a United States citizen, married the father, an Italian citizen, in Italy, where they had a son in 2016. In 2018, the mother brought the child to the United States to attend a wedding and, instead of returning to Italy, moved into a domestic violence shelter with the child.
The father made an application under the 1980 Convention for the return of the child to Italy.
The District Court concluded that the child would face a grave risk of harm if returned to Italy, given evidence that the father had abused the mother. The Court, however, made an order for the child to be returned after concluding that ameliorative measures in Italy would make a safe return possible.
The Second Circuit vacated the return order and remitted the case to the District Court to consider whether such ameliorative measures, in fact, existed. After an examination over nine months, the District Court identified new State protection measures and again ordered the child’s return. The Second Circuit affirmed this decision.
A court is not categorically required to examine all possible ameliorative measures before denying a Hague Convention petition for return of a child to a foreign country once the court has found that return would expose the child to a grave risk of harm.
Case remanded to District Court to determine whether the measures considered are adequate to order return in light of the District Court’s factual findings concerning the risk to the child, bearing in mind that the Convention sets as a primary goal the safety of the child.
Determining whether a grave risk of harm exists is a separate question to considering whether any ameliorative measures are available. A court may find it appropriate to consider both questions at once, but this does not mean that the Convention imposes a categorical requirement on a court to consider any or all ameliorative measures before denying return based on a grave-risk determination.
The Convention does not pursue return exclusively or at all costs. Courts must remain conscious of all the Convention’s objectives and requirements, which constrain courts’ discretion to consider ameliorative measures. First, the Convention explicitly recognizes that any consideration of ameliorative measures must prioritize the child’s physical and psychological safety. Second, consideration of ameliorative measures should abide by the Convention’s requirement that courts addressing return petitions do not usurp the role of the court that will adjudicate the underlying custody dispute. Third, any consideration of ameliorative measures must accord with the Convention’s requirement that courts “act expeditiously in proceedings for the return of children.” A court therefore reasonably may decline to consider ameliorative measures that have not been raised by the parties, are unworkable, draw the court into determinations properly resolved in custodial proceedings, or risk overly prolonging return proceedings.