International Family Law

The number of international family legal disputes is on the increase. As more people choose to live and work overseas, or form relationships with partners who are not UK nationals, so the number of ‘international families’ has risen – and with it cross-border disputes relating to divorce, relationship breakdown or arrangements for children has also increased.

Where such disputes arise, it is vital to seek early advice from the team at Mackrell. Solicitors who have particular knowledge of international family law.

As the founders of Mackrell International, one of the largest international organisations of independent law firms in the world, we are also uniquely placed to be able to partner with member firms to procure immediate international legal advice for our clients and access to international jurisdictions in every corner of the globe.

We can advise on:

Recent cases and expertise

The International Family Law Team at Mackrell.Solicitors are experts in family law, in a wide range of international jurisdictions, Alison is particularly renowned for her expertise in family law issues relating to Middle Eastern countries.

Much of the case work in recent years has come from expatriates living and working in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and in particular expatriate husbands or wives who live in Dubai.

Mr X

Our International Family Law Team acted on behalf of Mr X in relation to child arrangement proceedings. Mr X who is a Swiss citizen was in a relationship with Ms Y, who is a Russian/ Swedish citizen, but lives in England. The parties were unmarried and had one child together, who was born in England, but was not a British national. Following the birth of the child, the parties’ relationship broke down and Mr X and Ms Y separated a few years later.

Ms Y moved back England with the parties’ child, who at the time was around 3 years old. Over the years the relationship between Mr X and his daughter became difficult to maintain due to Ms Y’s behaviour. In March 2023 Mr X issued an application initially for a Location Order, as Ms Y gave permission for the parties’ daughter to live with Ms Y’s nanny in Europe without the consent of Mr X.  

Following the execution of the Location Order, despite Ms Y expressing unconventional views of a number of matters, she finally confirmed the location of the child.  At a return hearing on the application, it was agreed that Mr X could collect the daughter from the nanny and she would live with Mr X in Switzerland whilst child arrangements proceedings concluded. The proceedings lasted over 7 months with various hearings taking place in the High Court. During that time Ms Y was ordered to have supervised contact with her daughter. Furthermore, during the proceedings, Ms Y agreed to engage in psychiatric assessment.

The final hearing took place over three days, whereby evidence was given by both Mr X and Ms Y as well as an independent social worker. At the end of the final hearing, the Judge concluded and found that the child had suffered emotional harm in the care of her mother and would be at risk of and likely to suffer further emotional harm if the child was to return to her care. Further the Court concluded and found that the child’s life with Mr X was stable, that she was doing well in his care and that he was well able to meet all of the child’s needs. As a consequence of the findings and conclusions, the court decided that the child should live with her father, Mr X, in Switzerland and spend supervised time with her mother, both in Switzerland and England. The Court recognised that the orders made in these proceedings constituted binding and enforceable obligations in England & Wales and it is intended that the orders should also constitute binding and enforceable obligations in Switzerland. Steps have therefore been taken with Swiss lawyers to confirm the enforceability of the orders.

Mr W

Our International Family Law Team acted on behalf of Mr W in relation to child arrangements proceedings. Mr W who is a Jamaican/US citizen was in a relationship with Ms X, who is a Jamaican/British national. The parties were unmarried and had one child together, who was born in England as Ms X’s mother worked in maternity in England and she wished to have the physical, emotional and practical support of her mother for the birth of her first child. The parties were not in a relationship when the child was born and had been friends for many years before enjoying a brief relationship, which led to the child’s conception. They never cohabited.

When the child was 3 months old, Ms X and the child travelled back to Jamaica and lived and became integrated there until August 2021.

In summer 2021 Ms X told Mr W that she planned to travel to England to receive both doses of the Covid-19 vaccination, which would mean a 2-month stay in England to allow the necessary time between the doses. Whilst confused why Ms X would travel to England for the vaccination, rather than accessing the excellent medical services in Jamaica, Mr W nonetheless agreed to the child, who was 3 years and 6 months travelling with mother for a holiday for 2 – 3 months. Ms X travelled with the child in August 2021 and stayed with the maternal grandmother.

Mr W enjoyed daily video Skype calls the child and regularly spoke to the mother about his life and hers in England. Worried that Ms X was refusing to confirm when she planned to return to Jamaica, Mr W instructed Lawyers in Jamaica to advise him generally. After 3 months, in November 2021 they wrote to the mother in England, asking her to confirm when she would return with the child to Jamaica and indicated that Mr W was open to amicably discussing her plans in mediation. Ms X replied 18 days later to the father directly confirming that her reasons for travel had been medical (vaccination) and informing him that she had, since her stay in England, decided not to return and had purchased a home in England where she planned to live with the parties’ child.

In December 2021 Mr W requested assistance for the return of the child to Jamaica from the Jamaican Central Authority for child protection based on the mother’s unlawful retention the child in England. Unfortunately they were not able to assist with a Hague application by reason that England has not accepted by Jamaica. Mr W further contacted the Jamaica High Commission in England to make a formal request to International Children Services to execute a welfare check, who advised him to instruct a lawyer in London.

Mr W instructed Mackrell. in February 2022 and in early March 2022 an ex-parte application under the Inherent Jurisdiction of the High Court of England and Wales was made applying for an order returning the child to Jamaica. Ms Y was personally served with the application, the father’s statement in support, the notice of proceedings and notice of hearing, by a process server 14 days before a Directions Appointment. A few days before the Directions hearing Ms X instructed solicitors who wrote indicating that the application was contested. At the hearing, which Mr W flew into London to attend in person, the parties agreed to consider engaging in mediation under the Child Abduction Mediation Scheme or through another non-court dispute resolution procedure. Furthermore at the hearing, interim contact arrangements were agreed.

Following the parties engaging in mediation under the Child Abduction Mediation Scheme, through Reunite, the parties via their solicitors came to an agreement that the child would remain living in England with Ms Y on the basis that the child would spend time with Mr W over four consecutive weeks during the summer school holidays in Jamaica and two consecutive weeks during the Christmas holidays in Jamaica, followed by one Christmas holiday in England. Furthermore, in years that the child was not spending Christmas with the father in Jamaica, the child would travel to Jamaica for the Easter holidays. Mr W also agreed that he would endeavour to travel to England a minimum of once a year, with each visit to be a maximum of two weeks to spend time with the child.  Indirect contact was also agreed. These arrangements were put into a binding court order and with Ms X agreeing to take steps for this order to be registered in Jamaica.

Mrs A

Our International Family Law Team at Mackrell.Solicitors acted on behalf of Mrs A in relation to divorce, children and financial issues. The parties had a short marriage; Mr & Mrs A had separated and Mrs A returned to her native New Zealand with her child in the belief that Mr A was in agreement with the relocation.

This issue triggered Hague Convention proceedings in New Zealand in which Mr A was successful in securing the return of the child to England as he argued he had not agreed with the move. With Mackrell’s help Mrs A issued an application for permission to relocation from England to New Zealand and, following a contested hearing, she has successfully relocated.

Mrs B

Our International Family Law Team acted on behalf of Mrs B who is South African but is based in Dubai. Divorce proceedings against Mr B were issued, who is a British national but is also based in Dubai. Jurisdiction was obtained in England as a result of the husband’s domicile here and after a negotiated financial settlement proved impossible, English court proceedings were issued to deal with the financial issues between the parties.. Both parties have property in England, Scotland and Dubai.

These are just a few examples of a myriad of situations which arise which the International Family Law Team can assist with.

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