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  • International Child Maintenance and Family Obligations
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International Child Maintenance and Family Obligations

A Practical Guide


Guidance to the law and procedures that govern applications for new orders and enforcement of existing orders to and from abroad

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Listen to Melanie Barnes discuss the law and procedures that govern applications for new orders and enforcement of existing orders to and from abroad.

The growth in international mobility means that there are now significantly more child and spousal maintenance cases which include an international element. Enhanced inter-country cooperation in the processing of such applications has resulted in more effective recovery of maintenance, so that practitioners and legal advisors need to have a good grasp of the various rules and regulations in respect of jurisdiction and reciprocal enforcement in this increasingly relevant and complex area.

This book provides straightforward guidance to the law and procedures that govern applications for new orders and enforcement of existing orders to and from abroad. An overview is provided for all available applications under domestic law, in addition to procedural guides and analysis of international law (including the EU Council Maintenance Regulation 4/2009 and the implementation of the 2007 Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance). The summary of enforcement procedure will equally assist legal advisors at family proceedings courts and practitioners instructed to deal with financial orders and provide advice on reciprocal enforcement.

A comprehensive review of the new statutory regime for claims through the Child Support Agency is also provided, so that clients can be advised about the new “gross income” scheme and how decisions interact with international law.
  • Introduction
  • History of Child Support and Reciprocal Enforcement
  • The Child Support Agency and Statutory Scheme
  • The EU Regulations and Conventions
  • Financial Remedies under the Children Act 1989
  • Marriage, Divorce and Dissolution
  • Financial Provision upon Death
  • Applications for Maintenance and Enforcement between UK Countries
  • Commonwealth and Former Commonwealth Countries
  • United Nations and Hague Conventions
  • Enforcement
  • Appendix
    • Procedural Guides
    • Legislation
    • Forms
View the full contents here
The regime of reciprocal enforcement of maintenance across international borders has changed radically in recent years. Domestic applications for child maintenance face sweeping changes with the introduction of the new ‘gross income’ scheme. Keeping up with the frequent and complex changes in the legal landscape in this area is a challenge for practitioners; the ongoing shifts in that landscape have also proved challenging in the preparation of this work.

I hope that this book will be a useful guide and reference for those who need to deal with practice and procedure in maintenance cases in all tiers of court; I have tried hard to summarise tricky points of law into something accessible and practical. In doing so, every judgment, regulation and law has been read in full; from the pithy cases in the Court of Equity where the judgment and legal principle seem sometimes hard to reconcile, to the novelettes from the Chancery Court that seem to run to hundreds of pages. Everything referred to has been digested and ruminated upon, but included only where relevant. I have not sought to provide an encyclopedic work, but a guide to serve as a useful point of reference for practitioners taking their first steps through the labyrinthine rules of maintenance law.

This would not have been possible without the support and assistance of other professionals and thanks need to go out to the brave few who volunteered to help.

David Hammond’s experience of practice and procedure in the magistrates’ courts provided a resource that few others could match. I am most grateful to Emma Burgess from the Ministry of Justice who tirelessly, but invisibly, deconstructs and rebuilds all reciprocal enforcement legislation. Thanks also go to Maggie Silver for her expertise and advice in relation to enforcement within the UK and in the Commonwealth. Roger Ferguson, now retired, and Audrey Damazer of the Inner London Family Proceedings Court who have for years assisted in producing internal guides for the magistrates’ courts, together with Tracey Hammond and Cassie Gleeson.

David Hammond thanks his wife Sharon and family for their immense support to him. He has also greatly appreciated the support and interest offered by colleagues in the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire courts and Mark Andrews who organises the REMO forum for the Justices’ Clerks’ Society. I would like to express thanks, in particular, to Julia Thackray a mentor and friend who has continually encouraged my commitment to this task, which has not always been an easy one. Thanks also to Tim Amos QC and David Hodson for their kindness and time in dealing with the thorny parts of the Maintenance Regulation. To Sian Hodgson, an expert in contentious probate cases, thanks for her contribution to the chapter on inheritance claims and to Michelle Counley of NACSA, Benjamin Carter and James Pirrie for their time in looking at the new rules of the statutory scheme.

I am also grateful to Tracy Robinson who accepted continual amendments to the final draft without complaint and to Jordans for their support. Special thanks also go to Lord Justice Thorpe and his trusty assistant Edward Bennett for taking time to provide the Foreword. Lastly, thanks to my family, Rupert, Oliver and Henry, for allowing me time away to write and for living surrounded by paper mountains for over a year, and in particular to Dr Michael Stace for his careful consideration of historical context.

Melanie Barnes,
Penningtons Solicitors LLP
1 February 2013

The remedies and mechanisms for the reciprocal enforcement of maintenance orders now and in the future are likely to stem from the European Regulation and the Hague Convention. The first is already in operation and the second is likely to be brought into force for European Member States in the near future. The operation of the Regulation is under constant review by the European Judicial Network and I am always impressed by the skill and dedication of the Central Authorities of the Member States in facilitating it.

There is an obvious need for a practical guide for those lawyers who must traverse this difficult terrain. This title delivers just that and I am certain it will be received with enthusiastic acclaim, both by practitioners in England and from other jurisdictions.

When dealing with international child maintenance, working towards ever greater reciprocity between both parents who have shared care over their children, and courts in different jurisdictions is key. Improved communication and cooperation between courts not only ensures that reciprocity is supported but goes some way to making sure that children have the best chance of receiving financial support from their parents, essential given how many live below the povertyline. To this end, in this fifteenth anniversary year of the International Hague Network of Judges, it is worth considering the role that trans-national judicial collaboration might be able to play in assisting in the resolution of such issues.

Rt Hon Lord Justice Thorpe,
Head of International Family Justice for England & Wales
Hilary Term 2013

Melanie Barnes,
Penningtons Solicitors LLP

Melanie qualified as a solicitor in 2007 and works in the family department of Penningtons Solicitors LLP. Her experience includes complex ancillary relief, civil claims on behalf of unmarried couples, child maintenance claims, divorce with an international element and cross-border cases involving abduction. She is a specialist in child support law under the statutory regime and currently sits on the Resolution National Committee for Child Maintenance. She has written articles for journals including Jordans Family Law and Family Law Journal, with a particular interest in international child maintenance. She is currently studying towards a PhD in Social Policy at the University of York looking at the changing dynamic of reciprocity at separation and hopes to be involved in policy issues affecting parents in negotiating contact and maintenance in the future.

With a specialist contribution by:
David Hammond,
Mansfield Magistrates’ Court

David qualified with an LLB (Hons) from Sheffield University and has worked in the magistrates’ courts service since 1976 where he continues as a legal advisor. He has acquired considerable experience in international child maintenance and is also a member of the National REMO group through the magistrates’ court. He currently runs training courses on international child maintenance for legal advisors in the magistrates’ court and worked with Roger Ferguson to produce an internal guide to reciprocal enforcement for administrative staff.

Maggie Silver
Family Legal Services Manager
North & East Surrey Magistrates’ Court


The increase in international mobility has meant there are now significantly more cases which include an international element. Despite this, procedures for reciprocal arrangements have largely remained a mysterious process known only to a handful of experts who are familiar with the process through REMO and the magistrates’ courts.

The last few years have also seen some remarkable and far-reaching changes in the law in this area as a result of international reciprocity and co-operation in the processing of international applications. The negotiation and introduction of the EU Council Maintenance Regulation 4/2009 (Maintenance Regulation) and 23 November 2007 Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance (Hague 2007) will also mean that practitioners and advisors will need to be familiar with new rules and regulations, as well as grasp issues of jurisdiction under each different regime.
The aim of this book is to provide an overview of all maintenance provisions available under domestic law; including the statutory formula of the Child Support Agency, financial remedies during marriage, following divorce, dissolution or death and those available for the benefit of a child under the Children Act 1989 (CA 1989). Guidance will also be provided for the law and procedure that govern applications for new orders and enforcement of existing orders to and from other jurisdictions.

It is hoped that this guide will assist practitioners and legal advisors in the UK, as well as family lawyers from abroad who may benefit from a summary of our regime where the law of this jurisdiction is relevant to proceedings in their jurisdiction under the principle of ‘applicable law’.

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