Thompson v. Thompson

484 U. S. 174

January 12, 1988

In a set of facts so freakishly similar to the Smolin case that it’s spooky, Susan Thompson divorced her husband David, and moved from California to Louisiana, taking their son with her. California courts awarded child custody to David, while Louisiana awarded child custody to Susan. David asked the federal courts to serve as referee between the states, but Susan argued that no law gave him a cause of action to request for federal court intervention.

Unanimously, the Supreme Court held that no federal cause of action existed. The Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act created no such explicit right, and Justice Marshall could not find an implicit one either. He demonstrated that the Act was intended to flesh out the requirements of the Full Faith and Credit Clause, and not to give private citizens grounds for a federal case. The limited legislative history, and the goals the act was intended to accomplish were in accordance.

Scalia concurred in judgment. In a section joined by O’Connor, he took issue with Marshall’s baffling statement that Congress could potentially create a cause of action without specifically intending to. Going on alone, he said that in the interest of simplicity, the Supreme Court ought to simply announce that henceforth no implicit causes of actions would be judicially recognized. O’Connor published an utterly pointless one-sentence concurrence which stated her agreement with the first part of Scalia’s dissent.

The decision was legally correct. But the facts are just heartbreaking. Here’s a good word of advice to anyone planning to get married: never marry anyone who you do not trust 200% to always stick with you. No one ever thinks that their spouse-to-be will one day take their child and move across country, and yet it happens all the time. This savage and omnipresent destruction of families is the bitter fruit of our American obsession with “freedom” and “autonomy.” The decision to marry the wrong person can destroy your life, and your children’s lives in horrific fashion. Do not do it rashly.


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