Abbott v. Abbott Case Brief

Facts of the Case

Cynthia Abbott was married to Ransom Abbott. At the time of the filing of the case, the two were already divorced. During the time they were married, however, Cynthia alleged that Ramsom and other defendants forcibly carried her to an insane asylum. This incident was the subject of Cynthia’s present action. The theory upon which Cynthia sought the present action to be maintained was that coverture merely suspends and does not destroy the remedy of the wife against her husband.


Can the Supreme Court assume jurisdiction over a case that has not received final judgment?


“Yes. The Supreme Court held that a parent has a right of custody under the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction when the parent retains a ne exeat right (the right to restrain someone from leaving a country). Here, Mr. Abbott retained such a right. With Justice Anthony M. Kennedy writing for the majority, the Court first recognized that the Convention applies because the child in question is under 16 and was a habitual resident of Chile. (Chile and the U.S. are signatories to the Convention.) The Court then reasoned that the Convention’s text, the U.S. State Department’s views, signatory states’ court orders, and the Convention’s purposes all suggest that Mr. Abbott retained a ne exeat right under Article 49 of the Convention. Because Mr. Abbott possessed direct and regular visitation rights with his child, his ne exeat followed. The Court noted that Mr. Abbott’s ne exeat right gave him a right of custody to his child, so long as Ms. Abbott could not find an exception in the Convention precluding the exercise of Mr. Abbott’s right to custody.Justice John Paul Stevens, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Stephen G. Breyer, dissented. He argued that Mr. Abbott merely possessed a limited veto power over Ms. Abbott’s ability take their son from Chile, not a custody right. He went on to explain that using the Convention’s powerful return remedy under these circumstances is contrary to the Convention’s “text and purpose.””

Case Information

Citation: 560 US 1 (2010)
Granted: Jun 29, 2009
Argued: Jan 12, 2010
Decided: May 17, 2010
Case Brief: 2010