The central tenant of the Hague Convention is the idea of the home state of the child. The home state is where the substantive custody determination should take place. The home state’s laws are used to decide whether the left-behind parent has a “right of custody,” which triggers the Convention, or merely a “right of access,” which does not. Retuning the child to his or her rightful home state is the goal of the Convention. But how do you determine the home state for a baby or an infant?
Some courts in the US focus on what was the parents’ last shared intention to determine habitual residence. These Courts include the First, Second, Fourth, Seventh, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits. In these courts, determining an infant’s home state requires no different analysis than for an older child.
Other courts look to more objective standards, like whether the child has enrolled in a new school, made friends in the new country, joined extracurricular activities in the home country, etc. For these courts, the determination of the home state of an infant is more difficult. In many cases, the courts in these circuits have adopted the parent intent test for very young children (typically, under 18 months), while focusing more on the child for children older than 18 months. See Delvoye v. Leem 329 F.3d 330 (3d Cir. 2003); See Whitting v. Krassner, 391 F.3d 540 (3d Cir. 2004). However, this is not a hard and fast rule, as courts have also used a blended approach, combining both the parental intent approach and the child-based approach for children of different ages. See In re Application of Adan, 437 F.3d 381 (3d Cir. 2006); See Kijowska v. Haines, 463 F.3d 583 (7th Cir. 2006).
In courts that do not strictly follow the parental-intent approach, determining the home state of an infant is much more difficult, and the cases have not produced a clear answer as to how to make this determination.