Resolving international family cases

Consular cases involving international families are some of the most challenging for consuls and with increasing global mobility and Brexit, these are likely to become more common, the Indonesian Ambassador Rizal Sukma told a gathering of consuls.

He was speaking at a seminar organised by staff at the Indonesian consulate and the International Family Law Group to help consuls navigate this complex area of consular work.

Legal experts from the IFLG gave consuls an overview of how the British legal system approaches the most common challenges consuls are likely to face.

Helen Blackburn, a specialist in family law related to children, gave advice on practical steps and legal avenues open to foreign nationals in cases of parental child abduction.

The recognition of foreign marriages and divorces is a common issue and Stuart Clark outlined when a foreign marriage or divorce would be considered valid in the UK. He also touched on prenuptial agreements and the recognition of religious marriages in the UK.

Improving financial settlement following a foreign divorce is also possible in the UK if one of the parties has a close connection with the UK, Michael Allum told consuls.

Prof David Hodson covered jurisdiction issues – such as where court proceedings should take place depending on “connectedness” of a person to a country, as well as so-called “forum shopping” – that is deciding where court proceedings should take place to have more a favourable outcome for the client.

The seminar closed with an outline of the possible impact of Brexit on international families and the future of international family disputes. Cooperation with EU courts was likely to continue in the short to medium term with the domestication of EU law into UK law, said Prof Hodson. But over the long term there would be a move towards more international laws and possibly even digital courts and international family courts, he added.

PHOTO: Helen Blackburn, Stuart Clark, Michael Allum and Prof David Hodson of IFLG