Child abduction is one of the worst events which can occur in the life of a child. It is a criminal offence. It is treated exceptionally seriously, with combined worldwide action. The consensual flip side is child relocation. A parent wishes to move abroad permanently with a child seeks the permission of the other parent or of the court. However whereas child abduction has at least two major international conventions supported by governments of over 70 countries with relatively harmonised law and approach, child relocation has no uniformity of approach, of law and of international convention. Until now.
A conference in Washington, USA, in March 2010 held under the auspices of the Hague Conference brought together over 50 lawyers and experts from many countries and produced an agreed resolution, the Washington Declaration (see International Family Law 2 2010 at p 211). It identifies relevant factors for international relocation decisions. This is a major step forward. It is desperately needed to produce harmonisation of outcomes around the world, not least in England which has probably the world's most liberal and generous relocation law and which has attracted much criticism from English lobbying groups, family lawyers and some judges. Lord Justice Thorpe writing in June Family Law (at p 565) about the conference says that if England were to subscribe to the Declaration it would represent a significant departure from English relocation law principles. Yet he also accepts that it is not difficult to argue for a change in the law given the changes in parenting patterns over the past 40 years or so. Perhaps with a new President who has been previously critical of English relocation law, we can have a new direction very soon, giving greater weight to continuity and ongoing relationship with the so-called "left behind parent". A change is very overdue.
This makes even more vital the conference being held 30 June - 2 July 2010 in London by The Centre for Family Law and Practice, London Metropolitan University on International Child Abduction, Relocation and Forced Marriages. Over 150 of the world's leading family lawyers, academics, judges and policymakers are attending. It is to be hoped that good progress can be made towards harmonisation and mutual understanding of appropriate principles for permitting child relocation around the world. David Hodson is a Consultant at The International Family Law Group. He acts in complex family law cases, often with an international element. He is an English specialist accredited solicitor, mediator, family arbitrator, Deputy District Judge at the Principal Registry of the Family Division, High Court, London and also an Australian qualified solicitor, barrister and mediator. He is a Fellow of the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and author of A Practical Guide to International Family Law (Jordan Publishing, 2008). He is chair of the Family Law Review Group of the Centre for Social Justice. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily those of Family Law or Jordan Publishing and should not be considered as legal advice.