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Michael Allum: Raising awareness of international family law issues

Date:24 OCT 2012

A magazine supplement in a national newspaper recently published the story of an English mother who found herself ‘trapped’ in New Zealand following relocation with her partner. An English woman began a relationship with a New Zealand national who was resident in the UK on a working visa. The relationship developed quickly, the woman fell pregnant and upon the father’s UK visa coming to an end, they decided to start a new life in New Zealand. It was not until the relationship came into difficulty and the mother consulted a solicitor that she was advised about the implications of the Hague Convention.

Unfortunately the tale is not uncommon; many families choose to relocate, often to the home country of one of the parties, when children are born with a view to raising their young family in the best possible surroundings. As is typical, and perhaps even natural when a relationship is going well, many give little thought to the consequences of their international movements until the relationship breaks down. The story in the magazine told of a mother who discovered the Hague Convention while still in New Zealand; many remain unaware until after they have returned ‘home’ with their child and find themselves served with Hague Convention proceedings.

Prevention is better than cure. At The International Family Law Group LLP we advise individuals on the effects of relocating internationally and on ways of recording agreements in relation to habitual residence and jurisdiction. However, the problem relates to public knowledge; many simply do not consider that their current relationship may breakdown, others innocently assume that they would be allowed to return home to the security network of family and friends. It is often only when habitual residence has shifted to the new country that people become aware of the significance; having to seek either the permission of their partner or the courts of the new country to be allowed to return home with any children.

My colleague, Stuart Clark, recently wrote about the overlap between immigration and family law, advising inter alia on how a temporary visa may impact upon habitual residence in child abduction proceedings. The scenario in this article provides perhaps a further example of the ever increasing overlap between immigration and family law; cases where one party is in the UK with limited leave to remain should flag up potential international family law issues. Specialist advice should be sought whenever a family consider relocating internationally.

Michael Allum is a Trainee Solicitor at The International Family Law Group LLP (www.iflg.uk.com). He can be contacted on michael.allum@iflg.uk.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.