The dissolution of the four-year marriage between Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner and singer-songwriter Joe Jonas has quickly devolved from a joint amicable statement on social media to Turner filing a lawsuit against her soon-to-be ex over child custody.
According to attorney Brian Karpf, who does not represent either party, Turner will need a judge to rule in her favor on one law in what he says is more than a divorce or child custody proceeding.
“This is now a jurisdictional battle,” said Karpf, who serves as American Bar Association Family Law Section Chair. “Her best path for achieving this goal is for a judge to rule on the Hague Convention Treaty. This law typically applies when a parent wrongfully removes a child from their habitual residence.”
Karpf has offices in Florida, where Jonas filed for divorce, and has extensive experience in such matters as a member of the International and American Academies of Matrimonial Lawyers. He’s handled many high-profile divorces of athletes and entertainers and understands the intricacies of these cases as they play out in the public eye.
In three weeks, the Jonas-Turner split has gone from bad to worse. Initially, Turner said she was blindsided when she learned through media reports that Jonas had officially filed for divorce in early September, claiming that the marriage had been “irretrievably broken.”
A few days later, the pair posted a joint statement on social media that was loving, respectful, and amicable, stating it was a united decision. It has been reported that a prenup was in place; it appeared to be a clean separation.
In the following weeks, tabloid headlines speculated the reasons for the sudden split after seven years together. At the heart of the divorce proceedings are their two daughters, Willa and a second child whose name has been kept private.
In addition to conflicting headlines, Jonas hinted at the split at a recent concert, both have been seen without their wedding rings, and Turner had a night out in New York City with Taylor Swift, who dated Jonas years ago.
On September 21, Turner filed a lawsuit against Jonas following allegations that he had their two daughters “wrongfully removed or wrongfully detained” since September 20.
In the case obtained by Rolling Stone, Turner claimed the couple had agreed in December of 2022 that England would be their “forever home.” She claimed Jonas had refused to return the children’s passports and send them home to England.
Per Turner, the couple was in the process of purchasing a permanent residence in England. She then spent the summer filming Joan, a television series that, in an ironic twist, seems to be mirroring her life. In the upcoming crime drama, Turner portrays a woman desperate to get her daughter back, but in the story, she’s a jewel thief trying to get her daughter back from social services.
Per the lawsuit, the couple agreed the children would stay in the U.S. with Jonas while he was on tour. When she was finished filming on September 14, she would go to New York, spend a week together as a family, and then return home to England with the children on September 20.
If you Google the Hague Convention, it is described in the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction as the main international agreement that covers international parental child abduction. It provides a process through which a parent can seek to have their child returned to their home country.
Of note, Karpf confirmed that the action for the return of a child must be brought in the country where the children are located, so the U.S. is the proper forum. He answered three specific questions regarding what Turner must prove for a judge to rule in her favor, which could be helpful to any parent in a similar circumstance.
What time limit would a parent have to file such a claim?
“The Hague Convention is an international treaty which protects children from being wrongfully removed and retained in another country. An action to have a child returned under the Hague Convention must be brought within one year of the wrongful removal or retention. If more than one year has passed, the Court must consider whether the child has become well-settled in their new home,” Karpf answered.
In this case, what supports or hurts Turner or Jonas in their claims about where the children reside?
“For the Hague to apply, the children would have to be habitually resident in England, to begin with, but were wrongfully removed or retained in the U.S. The case will be very fact-intensive. There are multiple defenses Jonas can raise,” Karpf explained. “For instance, he can argue that the children have been here for over a year and have become well-settled in the U.S. For example, where their school, friends and doctors are, their stability, etc. If Turner consented or subsequently acquiesced to the children remaining in the U.S., that would also be a defense. She would want to show that she never agreed for the children to be removed from England and that, if anything, their visit here was temporary, which would include showing the children’s ties to England.”
Is there a different legal tactic Turner could take?
“It depends upon her goal. If she wants the children to reside in England, the Hague Convention would seek their return. However, the Hague Convention does not determine any custody arrangement, just whether the children should be returned,” said Karpf. “Otherwise, the Courts here (whether in Florida, where Jonas filed for divorce, or otherwise) would determine the actual custody arrangement or where the children would live and how often with each parent.”