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David Hodson on International Family Law: Cross Border All-Ireland Family Law Initiative

Date:17 NOV 2011

David HodsonAt the weekend, 11th of November 2011, there was a historic launch in Belfast of a cross-border initiative between the family lawyers of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The occasion was the annual conference of the Family Lawyers Association of Ireland, being the family law association of the Republic of Ireland which has 600 members. This year they held their annual conference in Belfast, Northern Ireland, for the launch of this initiative. At a celebration at the Royal Courts of Justice, Belfast, attended by lawyers and judges and other family law professionals from across Ireland, and specifically with The Family Law Bar Association of Northern Ireland in attendance, the All-Ireland Family Law Initiative was launched.

The experience of many countries in close geographical and historic proximity to each other is that there are very many family law links and connections. This is supremely the case within the two countries comprising Ireland. Child abductions tend to be significantly between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Many in one country own real property in the other. Some live in one country and are employed in the other. Although their laws are fairly similar, there are some very distinctive differences. Whilst the Republic is in many ways a very reformist jurisdiction, it still has some distinctively strong Catholic traditional origins within its family law especially found in connection with divorce itself. The Republic of Ireland is a sovereign state and an EU member. Northern Ireland is a country in its own right with its own Parliament however part of the UK which is a EU member state. Practitioners in both countries are regularly dealing with very many international aspects.

This Initiative has been very well received and supported from very high levels in the administration of justice. It can only be good for the families of Ireland.

The annual conference itself heard from Dr Sarah Fennell covering in considerable detail many issues concerning international children, looking at the relevant laws from both Brussels and The Hague. It prompted a lively discussion on habitual residence and its various meanings including in the context of relatively temporary moves between countries. Gerald Durcan SC explained recent developments in financial provision law on divorce, and especially the controversial recent Supreme Court decision of G v G. The Republic of Ireland has had particular litigation regarding the impact on family law settlements following the dramatic fall in property prices in the country over recent years. In circumstances where parties reach agreements with the divorce to follow several years later, the Supreme Court has had to consider matters such as the status of agreements, setting aside in the context of changes in circumstances, categorisation of assets and similar. His talk highlighted how many westernised jurisdictions are facing quite similar issues in the development of their laws

I was pleased to be the keynote speaker and took the opportunity of the 10th birthday of the introduction of Brussels II to look at the EU family laws introduced over the past decade.

The newly developed website of the Family Lawyers Association of Ireland is www.familylawyers.ie .

David Hodson is a Partner at The International Family Law Group LLP. 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 dh@davidhodson.com.

The views expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily those of Family Law or Jordan Publishing and should not be considered as legal advice.

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