Between 30 June and 2 July 2010 over 150 specialists met in London at the Centre for Family Law and Practice, London Metropolitan University, to discuss the three conference themes of International Child Abduction, Relocation and Forced Marriage. It included judges, lawyers, psychologists, academics, researchers, mediators, NGOs, support groups, government representatives, and victims. It was one of the most important conferences of recent years concerning international families and especially children. The conference delegates were from 18 jurisdictions.
It has now produced its very important Conclusions and Resolutions, which can be accessed by clicking here.
In summary, in respect of international relocation it endorsed the Washington Declaration of March 2010 (also recently endorsed by Mostyn J in Re AR (A Child: Relocation)  EWHC 1346), stated that relocation outcomes should be determined without any presumption for or against relocation and accepted that an unfettered discretion in the judiciary leads to unpredictability and lack of uniformity in decision-making. It supported the development of a common international framework to guide the exercise of discretion. It asked that at the next meeting of the Special Commission of the Hague Conference there should be discussed an International Instrument for a common framework on resolving relocation disputes. (At present the domestic law of many countries differs greatly, some favouring the relocating parent and many favouring the non-relocating parent.) The London Conference wanted contact provisions made as a condition of relocation to be respected in the destination country.
In respect of child abduction, it urged countries to strive for a uniform interpretation of Hague Abduction Convention concepts, including to avoid fusing and blending those concepts and their own domestic children law. The voice of the child in Art 12 of UNCROC should be extended to abduction proceedings. It argued strongly for safeguards for the return of the child and the need for protective court orders on return. There should be greater use of mediation in both relocation and abduction work
Regarding forced marriages, the London Conference Conclusions and Resolutions dealt with this form of domestic abuse. It underlined that no State's laws nor any recognised religion's precepts condoned forced marriage. It urged governments, lawmakers, faith leaders and all relevant professionals to recognise and react to the phenomenon of forced marriage whenever and wherever encountered in their community. To this end it emphasised the need, globally and within each community, to raise awareness of forced marriages at all levels and in all contexts by implementation and pursuit of programmes and initiatives. It recognised the ground breaking work of the English legislation and invited other states to consider introducing such laws and provisions. Nevertheless action through law alone is not enough and pastoral care and after-care is key. Working with international immigration and border control agencies to protect victims was important.
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 email@example.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.