Army Sgt.’s International Custody Battle for Daughter Reaches Supreme Court

WASHINGTON, D.C. — It’s an international custody battle involving a 5-year-old girl. Jeff Chafin promised his daughter Eris that he “would do everything I could to bring her back home and safe.” Eris lives in Scotland, her mother’s home country after a federal judge gave custody of the girl to Jeff’s estranged wife Lynne Chafin last year.

On Wednesday the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments over whether Jeff has the legal right to appeal the federal judge’s decision. Chafin is an Overland Park, Kan., native and is currently an Army sergeant based at Ft. Stewart, Georgia.

He says his daughter spent the majority of her life in the U.S. before she was sent to Scotland. But the Federal Judge found that under international law, Scotland was the “habitual residence” of Eris and granted custody to her mother.

Eris Chafin was born in Germany but lived in Scotland with her mom while her 42-year-old father served 15 months in Afghanistan. After his tour of duty the family moved to Alabama but the marriage quickly fell apart.

Jeff says Lynne’s alcohol troubles were largely to blame. She was arrested December 10, 2010 after she allegedly attacked a cab driver while drunk. On December 24, she was charged with domestic violence, again while she was allegedly drunk.

“I woke up with her standing over me with a knife,” Chafin said. “Personally, I don’t think someone with an alcohol issue like that can take care of a child.”

Lynne Chafin was deported in 2011 but was allowed to return long enough to convince a judge to grant her custody.

“If my daughter is returned to the United States, I believe I will never see her again,” she said.

If the Supreme Court sides with Jeff, a lower court will review on the earlier custody decision but that’s no guarantee Eris would be returned to the United States. A Supreme Court ruling is expected in the spring of 2013.

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