New international family law convention proposed

New international family law convention proposed

Hague Convention
If created, the new international treaty would join the three existing Hague Conventions on family law matters – the 1980 Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction; the 1996 Convention on Parental Responsibility and Protection of Children; and the 2007 Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance.

Hague Conventions derive their name from the Dutch city of Den Haag (The Hague), where the first was signed as long ago as 1899. Since 1951 38 Conventions on different aspects of “private international law” have been created.

An expert’s group had been drawn together to explore issues surrounding the enforcement in participating countries of legal orders and agreements concerning children made in other participating states. Following their investigations they proposed the creation of the brand new Convention to facilitate this process and add value to the three earlier family law Hague Conventions.

A situation in which a family order made in one country is generally recognised and enforced in other nations was in the best interests of children they declared.

The three existing family law Conventions do not address longer term family arrangements – for example, child maintenance or contact, or other financial issues, including property. If created, the new Convention would provide an efficient and simple method for cross-border enforcement of such matters.

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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Source:  “New international family law convention proposed”, Stowe Family Law Blog, 16 July 2017

Judge writes personal letter to teen after High Court battle

BBC

Judge writes personal letter to teen after High Court battleAn envelopeImage copyright

A judge has written a personal letter to a 14-year-old boy explaining why he has rejected his request to move with his father to Scandinavia.

Mr Justice Jackson said he felt the teenager had brought the case to the High Court “as a way of showing your dad how much you love him”.

He told the boy he was “doing well in life” and did not believe that the move abroad would work.

He said: “I am confident that it is the right order for you in the long run.”

Mr Justice Jackson, who is based in the Family Division of the High Court in London, wrote the letter to the teenager which laid down his ruling after a hearing in July.

Sam, not his real name, had applied for permission to live with his father in a Scandinavian country, which his mother and step-father opposed.

The application was later taken over by his dad.

‘Duty by your dad’

In the letter, the judge told the boy he believed “that your feelings are that you love everyone in your family very much, just as they love you”.

However, he noted that Sam’s parents had “very different personalities” and the fact they found it hard to agree was “stressful for you”.

In the letter, the judge said he found Sam’s dad to be someone who was “troubled” and had a “lot of influence over you”.

“All fathers influence their sons, but your father goes a lot further than that. I’m quite clear that if he was happy with the present arrangements, you probably would be too. Because he isn’t, you aren’t.”

He questioned whether the idea for the proceedings came from Sam or his dad and said he believed the teenager had “brought the proceedings mainly as a way of showing your dad how much you love him”.

‘Lost sight’

He told the teenager: “Also, I may be wrong, but when you gave your evidence I didn’t get the feeling that you actually see your future in Scandinavia at all.

“Instead, what I saw was you doing your duty by your dad while trying not to be too unfair to your mum. But you still felt you had to boost your dad wherever you could.

“That’s how subtle and not-so-subtle pressure works. So I respect your views, but I don’t take them at face value because I think they are significantly formed by your loyalty to your father.”

The judge said Sam’s dad had a “manipulative side” and has “in some ways lost sight of what was best” for his son.

He told the boy he had no confidence that a move to Scandinavia would work and hoped his dad would decide to stay in England “for your sake”.

‘Justice was done’

The judge said the evidence showed Sam was doing well in life in England and that he “should make the most of the many opportunities that life here has to offer you”.

He went on: “If, when you finish your A-levels, you want to move to Scandinavia, you will be 18 and an adult – it will be up to you.”

Mr Justice Jackson dismissed his dad’s application to take Sam to live in Scandinavia and for Sam to apply for citizenship there.

He ruled that Sam would have contact with his dad on alternate weekends and any arrangement after he moved to Scandinavia alone would have to be agreed between both parents.

In the letter, he added: “Whatever each of your parents might think about it, I hope they have the dignity not to impose their views on you, so that you can work things out for yourself.”

The judge finished by saying he and Sam’s dad had enjoyed finding out they loved the film My Cousin Vinny – but for different reasons.

“He mentioned it as an example of a miscarriage of justice, while I remember it for the best courtroom scenes in any film, and the fact that justice was done in the end.”

Source:  “Judge writes personal letter to teen after High Court battle”, BBC News, 27 July 2017

Brexit could lead to rise in parental child abductions, warn legal experts

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Brexit could lead to rise in parental child abductions, warn legal experts

‘One year on from the referendum, it is clear it is having an impact on family life’

Brexit could lead to a rise in the number of parents abducting their children and taking them overseas, a law firm has claimed.

Lawyers said the firm had already seen a spike in inquiries from parents about disputes over travel plans and applications for dual citizenship, as well as fears their children would not be returned home from overseas visits.

Cara Nuttall, who specialises in matters relating to children, including abductions, said her firm JMW Solicitors, had received 30 per cent more inquiries in the three months to the end of June compared with the same period last year.

“One year on from the referendum, it is clear that Brexit is having an impact on family life where one or both parents is from the EU,” she said.

“We have seen a significant increase over recent weeks in the number of parents in rocky relationships or who are already separated or divorced seeking advice about their rights to relocate, or to stop the other parent from travelling because they are scared they may not come back with the children.

Ms Nuttall, a partner at the Manchester-based firm, added: ”We have also seen a rise in disputes about applications for foreign nationality and travel documents for children entitled to dual citizenship in fragile international families.

“Some foreign parents feel strongly they want to maximise their chances of being able to return home if things don’t work out, while British parents are concerned about them doing exactly that, and want to make it harder for them to take the children should they wish to do so.”

She also warned it expected to see even more of these cases over the summer months.

She said:  “It is clear that the uncertainty caused by Brexit has led to discussions in these families about the future, leaving some parents feeling extremely vulnerable when they realise they have diverging views.

“The inevitable temptation is to consider taking matters into their own hands and just go.”

Ms Nuttall said the framework in place to deal with parental abductions in Europe might not stay in place after Brexit.

She said: “We simply do not know what the replacement measures will be, nor how well they will work.”

Criminal law commissioner Professor David Ormerod QC said the laws to prevent child abductions were not “fit for purpose”.

“At least 300 British children a year are unlawfully retained overseas and the problem is growing,” he said.

“Whatever the implications of Brexit, we’d urge Parliament to consider our recommendations to double the maximum sentences for these offences to 14 years’ imprisonment and to close a legal loophole around the wrongful detention of children abroad.”

It comes as multiple reports suggested the UK would maintain free movement for EU citizens for up to four years after Brexit.

Theresa May is ready to offer free movement for two years, according to The Times, while The Guardian quoted a senior cabinet source as saying the period could last for three or even four years.

Philip Hammond was said to be confident he has won support within the Cabinet for a transition to prevent disruption to business caused by a sudden “cliff-edge” move to new arrangements on 29 March 2019, when Britain is set to leave the EU.

Additional reporting by Press Association

Source:  “Brexit could lead to rise in parental child abductions, warn legal experts”, The Independent, 25 July 2017

Letter in today’s Japan Times…

The Japan Times

Custody rights remain huge problem

Thank God for Christopher Savoie. I always remember the American father who forced Tokyo to act on the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction.

Years after Hague signing, parent who abducts still wins” in the May 1 edition and “Parental abduction victims hold rally to push for joint custody rights” in the May 6 edition are the most recent additions to my thick file of Japan Times stories on this issue which I began keeping in September 2009.

This is when Christopher Savoie famously, valiantly, virtuously and rightly tried to reclaim his kidnapped children from his Japanese ex-wife by seeking asylum inside the U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka. “Asylum” is self-evidently the right word for it. Ultimately, he failed. The consulate turned him over to Japanese authorities, but the Fukuoka police and prosecutors dropped their case and deported him instead. Prosecuting him would have been too shameful for Japan and cast the country in a humiliating bad light internationally. It was a textbook example of how it (sometimes) takes foreign pressure to move Japan forward.

More attention has been given to the plight of children and their alienated parents since then, but the application of the Hague Convention is not satisfactory. To make it satisfactory requires starting with acknowledging and treating the abducting parent (usually but not exclusively their Japanese mothers) as criminal kidnappers. Active intervention to repatriate the children followed by the prosecution and long imprisonment of the kidnapper are not excessive suggestions.

GRANT PIPER
NAKANO WARD, TOKYO

JT leading article (from Jan 2017): “Rules” on handing over a child

The Japan Times

Rules on handing over a child

Court rulings ordering a divorced parent to hand over a child to his or her former spouse are often ignored — largely because there are no specific procedures under the law governing enforcement of such a custody transfer. A revision of the relevant law is imperative to ensure that court decisions on child custody are enforced. There are two important points for consideration — creating a clear rule for the compulsory enforcement of a court order by a legally empowered official, and imposing financial penalties on the parties defying court orders to get them to comply. Either way, due consideration should be paid to the welfare of the children, including the potential psychological damage from the procedure.

In the absence of a specific legal procedure for custody transfers between divorced parents, the Civil Execution Law’s provision on the transfer of movable property is currently referred to in enforcing a court ruling ordering a divorced parent to hand over a child to the other party. But it would not stand to reason to treat children as if they were “property.”

In the case of international marriages, the compulsory execution of a court order on a custody transfer is possible under the 1980 Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, popularly known as the Hague Convention. As of November, 95 countries were parties to the convention, which Japan signed and ratified in 2014. A law setting domestic procedures needed to implement the convention has been enacted and put in force.

The law includes a detailed provision stating what an enforcement officer in charge of removing a child from a parent who abducted that child to Japan and handing that child over to the other parent should and should not do, including the need to try to persuade the abducting parent and asking for police assistance if necessary. The provision says an officer can use some form of power to restrain or make a parent who resists giving up the child comply, but prohibits the officer from using this power if it causes harmful effects on the child. The law says that if a court rules that a child must be moved back to his or her “state of habitual residence,” the parent who won the case can in principle ask for the decision to be executed by an enforcement officer after two weeks have passed. This rule leaves room for the disputing parents to agree on the transfer of the child in an amicable way without the involvement of an enforcement officer.

Last year, Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda asked the Legislative Council, an advisory body, to look into revising the Civil Execution Law to set down specific procedures to enforce court decisions ordering the handover of children between divorced parents. Based on its recommendation, the government is expected to submit a bill for the revision to the Diet as early as next year.

Setting down the relevant procedures makes sense given what is happening to divorced parents and their children. In 2015, there were 97 cases in which divorced parents with parental prerogatives or the care and custody right over their children asked that their former spouses turn the children over to them, but the children were handed over in only 27 of the cases, according to the Supreme Court.

Merely setting the procedures for a compulsory execution of the court order — which would involve an enforcement officer stepping in to physically remove a child from one parent and hand him over to the other — may be too rigid and may not serve the intended purpose of the amendment. The procedures should include an indirect approach that may seem lukewarm but will eventually lead to the transfer of a child. One option would be to fine a parent who refuses to comply with the court and, to encourage compliance, the size of the fine would rise as long as the parent keeps refusing to obey the order.

Priority should be placed on the indirect approach so that the child handover can take place in a more amicable manner. But a mechanism should also be included that will trigger a compulsory enforcement if, for example, it’s suspected that a parent ordered to give up the child is seeking to dodge the ruling by continuing to make the payments. The law to implement the Hague Convention says that the removal of a child must be carried out when the child is together with the parent who took him or her to Japan, out of consideration for the psychological effects on the child. The advisory council should take into account how to minimize the risk of trauma on children in executing court rulings.

Source:  “Rules on handing over a child”, The Japan Times (leader), 26 January 2017