ATLANTA - The United States Supreme Court is giving a big boost to a local soldier fighting to bring his daughter home from overseas.
Army Sgt. Jeffrey Chafin hopes to one day be reunited with his 6-year-old. His international custody case could impact countless others.
"It's real tough, just knowing where she's at and who she's with," Chafin told Channel 2’s Aaron Diamant.
Chafin is stationed at Georgia's Fort Stewart, but his daughter, Eris, is in Scotland. Chafin’s turbulent marriage led to a long battle in federal court, where a district judge gave his wife the authority to take their daughter back to the mother’s homeland in the United Kingdom.
"Once they got the order they were looking for, (they) get the little girl out of the country as quickly as possible. It happened within two hours of the order," Chafin’s attorney, Michael Manely, said.
After a brief, heartbreaking goodbye, Chafin's lawyer filed an appeal, but the appellate court refused to hear the case, saying once the child left the country, there was nothing it could do.
"I promised my little girl that I would do everything I could, and I was going to do everything and if that meant taking it to the top and losing, at least I’ve tried," Chafin said.
Late last year, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. In an opinion issued this week, the justices ruled unanimously that the appeals court in Atlanta must review the lower court's ruling.
"Finally somebody's heard us," Chafin said.
His attorney added, "It's a huge deal."
Manely said the Supreme Court opinion is a game-changer for all similar custody cases. He said the appeals court could take up the case as soon as next month.
"Every child in America can rest a little bit easier at night, because the United States courts still have power over those children. They can still order them to be brought home," Manely said.
Despite the victory, the soldier knows his battle is far from over.
"Part of me doesn't want to get my hopes up, because I don't want to go down that road again," Chafin said.
He said regardless of the outcome, his fight won’t be a total loss.
"At least we've made a change," Chafin said.