The custody determination case was brought to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights by a mother who believed her sexual orientation was considered a negative factor when a Chilean court awarded custody of her three daughters to their father. As an expert in the field of family law and the best interests doctrine, Professor Kohm worked with the students to develop an amicus brief focused on the children, rather than on the parents’ competing personal liberty interests.
The brief opened with a discussion of international law regarding children which was designed to protect them and their stability. It then offered an examination of passive and active parenting relating to the best interests of the children, and their need for stability. Upon a comparison of the parenting styles, each parent’s actions were individually analyzed to discover which parenting style each implemented with their children, offering eyewitness testimony in determining which parent consistently acted in the best interests of their children. Finally, the brief argued that the three young girls, ages 11, 12 and 16, should not be separated as a sibling group due to their parents’ dissolution conflict.
This case could potentially set international precedent on whether a parent’s sexual orientation should be considered as a factor in a best interests analysis. Rather than fighting on behalf of one of the parties of the case, this amicus brief sought to bring the children’s well-being to the attention of the Court.
The brief was accepted by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on September 8, 2011, thus making it the Center for Global Justice’s first foray into litigation by amicus, and their first international court appearance. It was also the first brief in which students involved in the Child Advocacy Practicum were able to advocate on behalf of children – not just the children involved in the case, but, potentially, on behalf of children everywhere around the globe.