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Family and Matrimonial Law

Child Abduction and International Family Law

Families are increasingly international which can add an extra layer of complexity when a relationship breaks down. Our team is at the forefront of this complex and evolving area of law. We are recognised specialists in this field and are renowned for our work on cross-border matters.

We can comprehensively assist you with a wide range of international family law issues including child abduction, disputes about jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of foreign court orders in this country.

Time is usually of the essence in international cases and we understand the need to act quickly so that our clients receive clear and effective advice as soon as possible.

We can also advise you in respect of the breakdown of relationships where there is a cross-border element.

Advising international governments

Our expert lawyers regularly act for international governmental bodies, advising and assisting them with family law and procedure in this jurisdiction.

We have proven experience acting for international governments and organisations and our specialist lawyers can assist with a range of different issues including but not limited to the recognition and enforcement of court orders made in foreign jurisdictions and assistance in respect of care proceedings with an international element.

This area is very diverse so please do not hesitate to contact us with any queries.

Child abduction

Our specialist lawyers provide expert advice to parents who have removed their child from their home country and brought them to this jurisdiction without consent, and also to left-behind parents who are seeking their child to return to the home country following a removal.

The law surrounding child abduction is very technical and we suggest that you seek urgent legal advice from a specialist in this field if you believe your child has been abducted or consider there to be a risk of abduction.

This area is governed by a number of international conventions. The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 1980 is in force between England and number of other countries. The basic premise of this convention is that it is generally better for decisions about a child’s future to be made by the courts in their country of habitual residence (i.e. where they usually live) and that the child should be summarily returned to that country in order that such decisions can be taken. There is also an EU-wide regulation (excluding Denmark) which is similar in nature. Our lawyers have a wealth of experience in dealing with Hague Convention and European Regulation cases and are members of the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit’s panel of solicitors. The International Child Abduction and Contact Unit is a governmental body which acts as the central authority for England and Wales when a child abduction matter is referred from another convention state.

We also regularly deal with matters outside of the scope of the convention in circumstances when a child is removed from this jurisdiction to a country which is a ‘non-convention’ country or indeed when a child is brought to this jurisdiction from a ‘non-convention’ country. The law is not as clear cut in these circumstances but our lawyers are experts in this field and are able to appropriately advise and guide clients through what can often be a difficult process.

Legal Aid may be available in respect of a child abduction matter and our lawyers will discuss this with you in order to assess your eligibility and apply for funding if at all possible.

Registration and enforcement of foreign orders

People regularly move across international borders to live and work. When they do so, they are often keen to ensure that the court orders which they have obtained in one jurisdiction will be recognised and enforceable in the new jurisdiction. The family team at Bindmans have a wealth of experience in this area of law and regularly provides comprehensive and effective advice to clients who require assistance with this niche area of law.

We regularly act on behalf of both individuals and public bodies to ensure that orders made by courts in foreign countries are recognised and can be enforced in England and Wales. If such orders are not recognised and enforceable, there is a risk that steps taken in this jurisdiction under that order will be deemed to be unlawful. 

For example, if an order is made in a foreign country to place a child in foster care in this jurisdiction, we can take steps on behalf of the relevant authority in the other country to ensure that the order is recognised and enforceable and ensure that the placement proceeds on a sound footing.

Forced marriage and abandoned spouses

It is illegal to force to marry someone against their will and our specialist team can provide comprehensive advice and support if you are faced with this difficult situation.

If you believe that you are being pressured to marry someone, please contact us urgently so that we can advise you and take steps to stop any immediate plans from being put into effect. We will also put you in contact with support services who can also assist you.

Jurisdiction disputes

Whether a court has jurisdiction or not is a complex question. Our lawyers regularly act for parents who are either asserting that the English court has jurisdiction or alternatively, challenging the court’s jurisdiction and we are well placed to provide comprehensive advice.

Jurisdictional disputes need to be dealt with quickly so please contact us as soon as you become aware that there may be a dispute over which country’s courts have jurisdiction. If you are an international family, it is imperative that you take advice as soon as the relationship begins to break down.

Wardship

The wardship jurisdiction (or inherent jurisdiction) is an overarching protective jurisdiction that the High Court holds in respect of children who are habitually resident in this country. It is very relevant in cases with an international element and our team is renowned for their expertise in this specialist field.

The wardship jurisdiction is particularly useful when a child has been removed from the country and/or their whereabouts are unknown. It is not just limited to international cases however and our team will help parents explore whether the wardship jurisdiction is relevant and can be utilised in respect of their current situation.

Legal aid may be available in cases where the wardship jurisdiction is to be used and our lawyers will explore this with you at your first meeting.

International relocation – leave to remove

As families become increasingly international, where children live following a separation becomes ever more difficult to determine and can be particularly divisive for parents. The family team at Bindmans have a wealth of experience dealing with this difficult area and we ensure that our clients receive expert advice tailored to their individual circumstances when they wish to make or are faced with responding to an application for leave to remove a child from this jurisdiction.

Our lawyers understand how important cases like this are and work hard to ensure that our clients are properly advised and appropriately represented. In determining the application, the court will look at a number of factors and our lawyers will work with you to ensure your case, whether it be for or against the move, is as strong as it can possibly be as we know how important your relationship with your child is.

If you are considering removing your child from this jurisdiction to live abroad, please do seek expert legal advice from one of our team as soon as possible. Even if you are the main carer for your child, this does not necessarily mean that you can make the decision to remove them from this jurisdiction without the consent of the other parent. If you do not obtain consent, there can be disastrous consequences including allegations of child abduction being made. You can find more information about child abduction above.

Given the impact that an international relocation will have on a child’s life, the court may decide that the child can be separately represented in order that their views are fully explored. Our specialist lawyers also act for children in these situations and would be happy to meet with a child who feels that they need to have separate representation in a case involving their proposed relocation.

Meet the team

Melissa Arnold
Partner

Family and Matrimonial

Alison Leivesley
Partner

Head of Family and Matrimonial

Maud Davis
Associate

Family and Matrimonial

Hannah Marshall
Associate

Family and Matrimonial

Marianna Michaelides
Associate

Family and Matrimonial

Maeve Lucey
Solicitor

Family and Matrimonial

Safina Mitha
Solicitor

Family and Matrimonial

Megan Rothman
Solicitor

Family and Matrimonial

Shanaz Ali
Trainee solicitor

Family and Matrimonial

How can we help you?

We are here to help. If you have any questions for us, please get in touch below.