In Abbott v Abott, decided May 17, 2010, the Supreme Court interpreted an important provision of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. At issue in Abbott was whether a non-custodial father’s ne exeat right to object to the other parent taking the child to another country was sufficient to qualify as a "right of custody" for purposes of invoking the protections of the Convention. A majority of the Supreme Court said yes, citing Professor Jana Singer's recent article, "Dispute Resolution and the Postdivorce Family: Implications of a Paradigm Shift," 47 Family Ct. Rev. 363, 366 (2009). The article analyzes recent changes in post-divorce custody arrangements and chronicles the increased prevalence of joint legal custody – an arrangement under which both divorced parents share decision-making authority, even though only one parent is the child’s primary caretaker. Professor Singer is also the co-editor of Resolving Family Conflicts (Ashgate, 2008). The Court’s full discussion of her article appears below:
That a ne exeat right does not fit within traditional notions of physical custody is beside the point. The Convention defines "rights of custody," and it is that definition that a court must consult. This uniform, text-based approach ensures international consistency in interpreting the Convention. It forecloses courts from relying on definitions of custody confined by local law usage, definitions that may undermine recognition of custodial arrangements in other countries or in different legal traditions, including the civil-law tradition. And, in any case, our own legal system has adopted conceptions of custody that accord with the Convention’s broad definition. Joint legal custody, in which one parent cares for the child while the other has joint decisionmaking authority concerning the child's welfare, has become increasingly common. See Singer, "Dispute Resolution and the Postdivorce Family: Implications of a Paradigm Shift," 47 Family Ct. Rev. 363, 366 (2009) ("[A] recent study of child custody outcomes in North Carolina indicated that almost 70% of all custody resolutions included joint legal custody, as did over 90% of all mediated custody agreements"); E. Maccoby & R. Mnookin, Dividing the Child: Social and Legal Dilemmas of Custody 107 (1992) ("[F]or 79% of our entire sample, the [California] divorce decree provided for joint legal custody"); see generally Elrod, "Reforming the System to Protect Children in High Conflict Custody Cases," 28 Wm. Mitchell L. Rev. 495, 505–508 (2001).
Professor Singer is the co-author of Family Law: Cases Materials and Problems (1998) and she has written widely on constitutional law, family law and children's issues. She is a member of the American Law Institute and a liaison member of the American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession. She is a past Chair of the Family and Juvenile Law Section of the American Association of Law Schools and a current member of the Editorial Board of the Family Court Review.
Professor Singer joined Maryland's faculty in 1985 after serving as Revson fellow in women's law and public policy and adjunct clinical professor at the Georgetown University Law Center's Sex Discrimination Clinic. Following her graduation from law school, where she was articles editor of the Yale Journal of World Public Order, she served for a year as clerk to the Honorable Richard D. Cudahy of the U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit, and then for two years as a litigation associate at the law firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering.