Article in The North East Times

The language of family law is increasingly international.  If you don’t speak it, make sure your lawyer does!

Last month Major Family law were credited as a Legal 500 first tier firm for private family work.  Recognised as family law experts in the region we increasingly receive national and international enquiries about;

  • Whether or not clients can issue divorce in England/Wales if they don’t live here
  • Whether their financial/pre-nuptial agreements are binding here
  • Whether they can enforce English orders for maintenance abroad
  • Whether they can bring their children back to the UK/move abroad

In a shrinking world of twittering classes, it’s hardly surprising that the boundaries of geography and law are blurred.  The sad death of Steve Jobs reminds us of the impact of his genius on our lives.  Look at terms bandied about, such as ‘the easyjet age’ and London as the ‘divorce capital of the world’ and ‘forum shopping’ and you get the picture.   This isn’t just big money either.  You don’t have to be a French man looking for a bigger slice of your German’s heiress’s fortune for example: Nod to Mr Granatino in the leading pre-nuptial case.  Modest income families looking to relocate in hard times are regularly caught up in these issues.  Last year in the Supreme Court, considering the French/German pre-nuptial case of Radmacher v Granatino, Leading Judge, Baroness Hale voiced this issue:

‘English family lawyers seem to have a horror of having to apply foreign law which must appear strange to European lawyers who are quite used to doing so.’

There isn’t time to discuss here whether the law is keeping up with social change, but there is time to reflect on some recent case law and examples which show that if you or anyone you know has an international family law problem, we speak the language and we’re not afraid to!

  • In August, I found myself asking do you speak family law in Chinese – 你会说家庭法incidentally!  This was to request that an order we secured in the High Court of England be mirrored in their Jurisdiction.  The order froze assets offshore and a mirror injunction order secured marital funds.  Worldwide freezing orders are an essential tool in times of internet banking. 
  • In September, it was time for “US Georgian drawl”, to enforce an order for a maintenance order we had secured some years earlier.  The order provided for monthly maintenance to benefit a disabled adult child.  The Ex Husband lives in America and stopped paying.  What was Wife to do?  She can apply under REMO, the reciprocal enforcement of maintenances orders, to ensure payment going forward and to recover the arrears. 
  • October brought us a Canadian divorce and an application to vary maintenance payments upwards.

Notably none of these clients are privileged heiresses or their partners.   They are caring parents, hardworking business men and women and homemakers looking for fairness across international boundaries.

Last month I also had the privilege of listening to leading lawyers and Judges discuss the trends in this area, including the rise of international surrogacy and the changes brought about as to procedure for relocation with a child, in the Supreme Court decision of Re E(Children) (Abduction: Custody Appeal) 2011.  

If you are considering moving nationally or internationally you should consider seeking independent advice and planning for the future, whatever it brings.  Parents relocating to New Zealand/Australia, for example, should be cautious about the presumption of shared parenting there.  Should their relationship fail and they seek to return they may be prevented from doing so! 

Answering Baroness Hale’s call is a duty all innovative family lawyers must answer to protect their client’s family life.