The number of cross-border family legal disputes where a UK judge’s team is called in have grown almost fourfold in four years, their annual report published today shows.
The team is called in to try to facilitate trans-national judicial collaboration mainly over abductions and other child custody disputes between parents living in different countries.
The report shows there were three new cases handled by the office in 2007, rising to 65 in 2008 and to 253 in 2012. [page 24]
In their preface, Lord Justice Thorpe, Head of International Family Justice for England and Wales and Edward Bennett, the lawyer who supports him, partially attribute the rise to the growing number of families where parents are of different nationalities, and point to the growing numbers of children born to foreign parents.
The report documents the growing body of international law and agreements needed to resolve these cases.
There are no published figures for the growth in international litigation overall.
Lord Justice Thorpe’s office functions as a centre of expertise and a help desk for judges and lawyers at home and abroad who have seen their cases stalled and delayed because two countries’ legal systems are involved and when international conventions guaranteeing children’s rights, are being flouted by overseas courts.
In a list of anonymised case studies [Page 37] the report cites a mother who had taken her children to France to prevent them from being taken into care, where they were found living on a waterlogged caravan site, due to close for the winter, and were not attending school.
In another case the Office obtained the personal assurances of the Cypriot Attorney General that a woman agreeing to return from Britain to Cyprus with her child would not be prosecuted by the Cypriot authorities.