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Joel Bernheim: International Case Brings Attention to Father's Rights, Child Custody

Despite Hague Convention guidelines on international child custody, one U.S. Army sergeant is fighting for custody of his daughter in a U.S. Supreme Court case. Father’s rights expert, Joel Bernheim explains how critical the Court’s decision will be.


Chicago, IL -- (ReleaseWire) -- 08/22/2012 --Although every divorce usually comes with complications, the decision to end a marriage can become even more complex when it involves partners who live in different countries. Under the regulations set forth by the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, it is recognized that in terms of child custody, the parent who lives in the “habitual residence” of the child is typically granted full custody. However, father’s right advocate Joel Bernheim, notes that many cases involving international divorce and child custody stem from child rearing arrangements that happen as a result of a parent’s military involvement.

According to a recent Reuter’s article, such is the case of U.S. Army sergeant Jeffrey Chafin who left his daughter in care of his ex-wife, Lynne Chafin, in Scotland while he served his term. As with many divorces, the details of the Chafin’s marriage were complicated. Their daughter has lived with Lynne Chafin overseas in Scotland since 2007. However, in 2010, they returned to Jeffrey Chafin’s home in Alabama in a failed attempt to save their relationship. Given those circumstances, “U.S. District Judge Inge Prytz Johnson in Huntsville, Alabama, ruled in October 2011 that the daughter be returned to Scotland, calling it her ‘habitual residence’.” Now, the case has been approved for review by the U.S. Supreme Court, with a decision expected in the upcoming term, which ends in June 2013.

Relating the case to domestic child custody situations, Joel Bernheim explains how sensitive the Chafin v. Chafin case is. Joel Bernheim states, “In matters where custody cases cross borders, it is even more imperative that the judicial system get it right. The U.S. judicial system is not even on the same page from State to State, so it is easy to comprehend how this child can be caught in the maelstrom that is custody battles in the modern era.”

The case was approved after Jeffrey Chafin and his attorney presented that the previous decision was “at odds with other federal appeals courts and would effectively deny custodial rights to a parent of a child wrongfully abducted to another country.” For these reasons, Joel Bernheim hopes that the U.S. Supreme Court will take the matter under careful consideration. Although Bernheim has been a key player in the recent father’s rights movement, he states that what is most paramount of these critical decisions is how it will impact the child. He agrees with sentiments expressed in the article that Chafin’s daughter should not be subjected to constant transitions between both countries in an ongoing custody dispute, and that the decision should reflect those viewpoints.

About Joel Bernheim
Stemming from his own challenges and legal experiences as a single father, Joel Bernheim is a leading voice in the fathers’ rights movement. In addition to his outspoken activism and philanthropy, Bernheim also works within the asset receivables management industry. He currently is the Executive Vice-President of Operations at the Illinois Company Asset Recovery Solutions, LLC.