Pop-singer, Joe Jonas, confirmed what fans had been suspecting when he officially filed for divorce from Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner on September 5, 2023. In the initial divorce pleadings, Jonas — who shares two young daughters with the British actress — requested “shared parental responsibility.” But that request quickly made matters contentious, owing to the parties’ current living arrangements: Jonas, who is on a world tour with his band, The Jonas Brothers, resides in Miami while Turner resides in England, where she is filming the lead role in the highly anticipated British TV drama, Joan.

In response to the initial pleadings, Turner filed a suit in New York against Jonas, claiming the girls’ “habitual residence” was in the United Kingdom, and that they were being wrongfully retained in the States by Jonas. In tandem, Turner submitted an application under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction for the children’s immediate return to England — despite an order filed in the Florida divorce court restricting both parents from relocating the children indefinitely.

The Hague Convention — recognized in the United States and across the pond — is an international anti-abduction treaty aimed to prevent parents from removing their children to another country without the consent of the other parent. The Hague Convention applies in instances where the child is under the age of 16 and has been removed from the country of their “habitual residence,” assuming both countries recognize the treaty, which many do. The Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act — applicable in both Illinois and New York — requires courts within the state to enforce Hague Convention return orders “as if it were a child custody determination.” See 750 ILCS 36/302; see also N.Y. Dom. Rel. Law §77-A.

For Turner, the pivotal issue will be establishing that the “habitual residence” of the girls — who have dual citizenship — is the United Kingdom. Because the Hague Convention does not define “habitual residence,” courts in the States have understood the task to be a “practical, flexible, factual” one “that accounts for all available relevant evidence and considers the individual circumstances of each case.” Redmond v. Redmond, 724 F.3d 729, 732 (7th Cir. 2013). Thus, Illinois courts have placed special emphasis “on the place where the child has made a home.” In re Marriage of Milne, 2018 IL App (2d) 180091 ¶ 26. New York courts, of course, avail themselves to a similar framework. Brennan v. Cibault, 227 A.D. 2d 965, 966 [4th Dept. 1996]) (habitual residence “refers to a ‘degree of settled purpose’, as evidenced by the child’s circumstances in that place”).

While Turner’s petition says the children are “fully involved and integrated” in daily life in England, with the older child attending school there, Jonas’ representatives allege the girls have spent “the vast majority of their lives” here in the United States, including this past summer while Turner was busy on set filming in the UK. Whatever the New York court decides, the implications will be far-reaching for Jonas and Turner — the Hague Convention affords jurisdiction over all custodial decisions to the country of “habitual residence.” The bottom line, then, is that this case is currently a jurisdictional battle between the two over where, minimally, the custody portion of the divorce will proceed, and it all hinges on where the stars’ children call “home.”

If you have a need to learn more about The Hague Convention or any other matrimonial matters, Beermann LLP attorneys are well versed in these areas and handle such matters routinely.

Thomas T. Field, Equity Partner
For more information on Mr. Field, please visit: www.beermannlaw.com/team/thomas-t-field.