My brother warned me that the only time he flew TAP was to South Africa in the 1980s, when they had two aborted take-off attempts after their Lisbon stop-over, the second complete with screeching fire engine support. Thankfully, as I begin this blog-post, our TAP flight is safely in the air and we’re on our way to Portugal for IAFL’s European Chapter meeting.
Day One of the IAFL (International Academy of Family Lawyers) conference kicks off with Philippe Lortie, First Secretary of the Hague Conference, introducing us to the Hague Convention on the Protection of Adults, which helps sort out jurisdiction, applicable law and enforceability when folk lose mental capacity. Currently, 3% of the world’s population lives outside their birth country and many of those have properties in both their countries of origin as well as their present countries of residence, and as the population ages, there will be ever greater numbers at risk of dementia or Alzheimer: this Convention helps resolve disputes that could otherwise easily arise in the sufferer’s family.
Later, there is discussion as to how international family law cases involving the UK will be treated after 29 March 2019, when the UK is expected to leave the EU:
- Will there be reciprocity for family law court orders?
- Will the UK – as David Cameron suggested – be able to cherry-pick the best bits and forget the rest?
- Will London continue to be “the divorce capital of the world”, a jurisdiction to which the poorer spouse races and from which the wealthier spouse flees?
Day Two: 9 million children in the USA live in family units with at least one gay parent, and it’s ever more common for families to have same sex parents. The US courts deal with children at a state not federal level, so there are some fifty different systems of laws covering children throughout the US. All food for thought…..
In Denmark, we learn from Maryla Wróblewski that spousal maintenance is capped at a very low figure in the context of high earners: Maryla had a case where a man with five children was ordered to pay an annual child maintenance figure that was less than he earned in a single week. James Freeman highlights the uncertainty that prevails in the jurisdiction of England and Wales, commenting that the best reply to clients’ questions concerning spousal maintenance there is “maybe”; that said, it remains a generous jurisdiction for the receiving spouse, especially in cases of high earners. Scotland’s Scott Cochrane confirms that, north of the border, spousal maintenance after divorce is rare and, when ordered, it’s never for more than three years – representing something of a north-south lottery when it comes to UK financial orders on divorce.
We discover more about Our Family Wizard, a child-focused web-based communications system (presently available in both English and in Spanish) which promotes positive communication between co-parents, flagging what could be aggressive or inflammatory language, and which provides space for everything from extra-curricular activities to an expenses log, from clothing sizes to homework charts. Accessed also by the parties’ lawyers, the service has taken off in the US and Canada (where judges may order parents to use the system) and is now being rolled out further afield…..
Day Three and we’re assured that the torrential afternoon rainstorms are “unusual” in Lisbon – they’re certainly not happening in London, which is enjoying three days of gorgeous, summery weather. Ho, hum…… Meanwhile, Suzanne Kingston is over from London and gives us a 10 minute trot through family dispute arbitration, a process that ends in an adjudication and thereby differs to old-fashioned mediation. Arbitration assures confidentiality (vital for celebrities at a time when there are moves afoot to open up the family courts to public scrutiny); the parties themselves agree on the identity of the arbitrator; and the process has flexibility built-in (pacing and advance being timed as the couple dictates).
It’s Friday evening, and I’ve got together eight for supper: without thinking about the mix, we have family law experts from Sweden, Australia, England, Spain, Denmark and America – now, that’s what IAFL conferences are about, just as much as the excellent educational programmes on offer…