Ohio mother’s international fight for her child heard in U.S. Supreme Court

Michelle Monasky

For the first time in history, the United States Supreme Court will decide a case that could define the term "habitual residence."

It's a vague term that's used in cases of international child abduction. It's also at the heart of a case involving an Ohio mother whose daughter was ordered to live with her father in Italy.

Michelle Monasky, an American citizen, met and married her Italian husband and moved to Italy.
Three years later, she gave birth to a girl.

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Shortly after, Monasky claims her husband became abusive. She lived in a safe house, then fled to her parents’ home in Ohio with her 8-week old to seek a divorce.

Andrew Zashin is her attorney.

“She was actually awarded money damages for being beaten by her husband,” he said.

The case took a turn when her ex-husband filed what's called the “Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction."

In that case, an Italian court determined the child's habitual residence was Italy, and forced the mother to return the child to the father.

“Habitual residence doesn't apply under the terms of the treaty. Therefore, the United States is where it should be had in terms of custody proceedings,” he said.

So, the case went before the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes the high court could be convinced that the treaty was misapplied and that the child's true residence is the U.S. where she is a citizen.

“For parents who move between countries, this could have tremendous impact,” Zashin said.

Today, the mother has supervised visitation of the child in Italy, but since 2015, has been fighting to bring the child home.

Monasky's attorney hopes his appeal to the high court will allow the mother and child to return to the U.S.

But after arguing the case, he left feeling the judges were confused about how to define "habitual residence.”

“They seem to be a bit flummoxed. If there is a failure of the convention, then somehow this child is left in limbo, that is absolutely not correct,” he said.

He said if the Hague convention treaty does not apply, then domestic relations law applies.

The Supreme Court could rule on the case next spring or summer.

You can read more about the case here.