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International Family Law

The leading authority on international family law

01 MAY 2013

Latest Update

Edward Bennett

Barrister and General Editor

At midnight on Wednesday 1 May, the Office's Annual Report for 2012 was released. The following, is an extract from the Preface to the Report:

"The need for all involved in family law to integrate a trans-national mindset into their approach to resolving cases is self evident, especially given globalisation, increasing movement of persons across borders, and the ever rising number of family units which are truly international.

Since the Office's establishment, practitioners, judges, litigants, charities, government officials and others, from the UK and abroad, have requested its assistance year on year. 2011 saw a 96% increase in requests on 2010. 2012 continues the trend. It has seen a 40.5% rise in requests made, the numbers exceeding what was estimated in the 2011 Annual Report. This is mirrored in terms of jurisdictions the Office has dealt with. 2012 saw the Office receive requests concerning disputes relating to 71 jurisdictions, a 40% increase on 2011. Of those 71 jurisdictions, the Office was able to offer meaningful assistance in relation to 46 of them (c.65%).

The continued rise in requests to the Office for assistance is largely attributable to two factors. The first is the ever increasing number of international family cases coming before the courts, necessitating assistance from an overseas judge or vice versa. The second is the increasing awareness amongst judges and practitioners throughout the world of the service that the Office provides and the benefits it can bring. This is particularly relevant in the Office's facilitation of trans-national judicial collaboration. Baker J for example, in HSE Ireland v SF (A Minor) [2012] EWHC 1640 (Fam) (para [26]), stated that in the context of facilitating the making and enforcement of orders for the welfare of children, "Judicial cooperation is not only encouraged but essential". Such views were fortified by Prof. Gillian Douglas in her brief commentary on the case : "...Ongoing co-operation both between the care authorities and the courts hearing regular reviews of the case, facilitated by the mechanisms in place for international judicial liaison, will be an important safeguard for the child's own rights in such circumstances" (September [2012] Fam Law 1087-1088). Whilst in the process of drafting this report, the Office assisted in facilitating the personal intervention of the Attorney General of one EU Member State to guarantee that a mother who had been subject to a European Arrest Warrant, would not be subject to prosecution on her return with her child. Leading Counsel in that case, in an e-mail to the Office wrote: "The speed and effectiveness of international judicial communication as a means of securing an important trans-jurisdictional safeguard has, in my experience, never been more strikingly demonstrated".

Judicial collaboration can only be effective through the dedication of judges from around the world, members of judicial networks, both formal and informal, who strive to make themselves available to assist regardless of caseload or time constraint, ever mindful of course, of the need to maintain judicial independence and fairness to the parties at the centre of the dispute. We would like to extend our profound thanks to them for all their assistance, and to the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law whose support for direct judicial communication has been steadfast.

We acknowledge, as would all individuals concerned or involved with family justice , the additional emotional distress that is caused to any family by the inclusion of an international dimension. It is incumbent upon anyone who works in such a sensitive area to try and find ways of mitigating such stress, to the extent that it is possible to do so. The Office has proved an integral tool to assist in international family cases and we hope that this report goes in some way to highlight this."

International Family Law

International Family Law

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