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Amin v. Bakhaty

Amin v. Bakhaty, 798 So. 2d 75 (La. 2001) Court: Supreme Court of Louisiana

The Court, in favor of the Mother, affirmed that it was in the best interests of her son to remain with her. The court affirmed the lower court’s refusal to defer to the Egyptian courts in the custody matter.

The Court, in favor of the Mother, affirmed that it was in the best interests of her son to remain with her.  The court affirmed the lower court’s refusal to defer to the Egyptian courts in the custody matter.

Father and Mother were married in Egypt in 1991. The Mother was an Egyptian national living in Louisiana. The Father was an Egypt-U.S. dual citizen, and owns homes in New Jersey and Egypt. The couple had one son, born 1992. The son had lived with the Mother since his birth. For the duration of the marriage, the Mother lived with her family in Egypt, while the Father spent the majority of his time in New Jersey due to his medical practice there. When the Father visited Egypt, he stayed at his mother’s house or at a hotel. In December 1998, the Mother took her son and traveled to the U.S., and came to Louisiana where her sisters lived. She attempted to contact the Father. The Father instead went to Egypt within the month and brought criminal charges against the Mother for removing their minor child from Egypt without his permission and for fraud in procuring the son’s passport. The Mother was convicted in Egypt for these crimes.

In January 1999, the Mother filed suit in Louisiana for divorce, sole custody of the son, and child support. The day after, the Father received a certificate of divorce in Egypt, and two days later filed for permanent custody. Four months later, the Father filed a petition in Louisiana for physical custody. The Father claimed that the court in Louisiana did not have jurisdiction to decide the custody matter of his son. After several petitions, the trial court ruled for the Mother, granting her interim custody and child support. The trial court applied the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act, and held that the Louisiana court had residual jurisdiction to decide on the custody, because no other state would have jurisdiction. The only other forum, Egypt, was not compelled to consider the minor child’s best interests. Also, in Egypt, because of her criminal convictions, the Mother would likely be deprived of her basic right of a relationship with her son. It would not be in the best interest of the son to be deprived of a relationship with his Mother, whom he has lived with his entire life. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s ruling.

The case was appealed again. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Louisiana affirmed the lower courts’ rulings and agreed that the son’s best interests were served by the trial court’s exercise of jurisdiction. The Father argued that the trial court should have recognized Egypt as the child’s “home-state” and recognized Egypt’s jurisdiction in the matter. The court disagreed and stated that it was within the trial court’s discretion whether to defer to the Egyptian courts. Also, the court disagreed that the Mother wrongfully removed the child from Egypt. There were no custody proceedings pending, and she came to the U.S. with the intention of visiting the Father. The court emphasized the unique situation of this case as this was not a case of a parent taking a child away from the country where the other parent lives, but the opposite, of a parent bringing the child to the country where the other parent lives. The court also dismissed the Father’s complaint over jurisdiction in the matter of child support. The Father put himself under the court’s jurisdiction by filing the petition for physical custody.

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