This site tracks developments in international family law from Richard Crouch and John Crouch of Crouch & Crouch in Arlington, Virginia. Our international practice has grown naturally from our location in our native Arlington, where our clients include many military, diplomatic and immigrant families, international organization employees, IT professionals, etc. This blog's purpose is to comment on the ongoing development of the law, and help other lawyers, journalists and the public understand individual cases. These postings do not provide a comprehensive description of the law. In fact, they will surely contain statements that were true at the time but have become less valid as the law continues to develop.
IAML Fellow, Anne-Marie Hutchinson presented at the 18th Commonwealth Law Conference in Cape Town, South Africa earlier this month urging the international legal community provide leadership in addressing the issue of Forced Marriage.
The practice of Forced Marriage is global. It is not restricted to any one state, community or religion. It is not a practice restricted to Third-World countries, or to any one area of the world. It is happening in towns and cities in Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The practice of forcing a person, particularly a child, into marriage is a fundamental breach of human rights. The plight of young people who are subjected to such an ordeal is of concern to all who practice family law. Concomitant incidences of rape and honor killings are also a common consequence of the practice.
Many nations have, or are in the process of formulating legal responses to the practice of Forced Marriage to ensure that the practice ceases. Forced marriages occur within the dynamic of the family. The victims in almost every incidence love and trust the perpetrators -- their parents and close family. Victims may, therefore, be unwilling to seek assistance and when they do seek assistance it can be very difficult to obtain due to conflicting laws and a lack of understanding of the problem.
It has been the willingness of the world-wide community to look the other way that has allowed this deplorable practice to spread and continue. We hope to begin the dialogue that will focus attention to this human rights violation.
The International Academy of Matrimonial lawyers will concentrate on development of victim-focused remedies in all jurisdictions through the following initiatives:
Civil legislation and a victim-focused use of family law practice;
Education and awareness-raising worldwide;
The continued commitment of IAML family law specialists to ensure that victims of this practice are provided assistance so as to be able to rebuild their lives;
To support intentional standards and co-operation.
The IAML can connect interested media with Anne-Marie Hutchinson, or other experts who specialize in this area.
Contact William Longrigg or Nancy Zalusky Berg for more information.
"The House of Representatives approved Thursday a bill necessary for Japan to ratify an international treaty to help settle cross-border child custody disputes, making it certain that it will be enacted during the current Diet session through June after upper house deliberations. ... The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is aiming to join the convention early next year after completing all domestic procedures. The bill that the lower house unanimously approved stipulates the domestic process for the children to return to their habitual residence. If the consultations fail, family courts in Tokyo and Osaka will make decisions on the matter. The bill also allows a party concerned to reject the return of a child if abuse or domestic violence is feared." - "Lower house OKs bill for Japan to ratify int'l child custody pact" - Kyodo News International - May 9, 2013
Knowing what I do about Japan, I don't know if that last line is accurate or not. With practically any other country, I'd say the reporter or editor misunderstood the related provisions already in the treaty, where the decision is made by the judge, not the defendant, and requires clear and convincing evidence, not "fear".
"A presumption that the involvement of both parents in a child’s life will further that child’s welfare, unless the contrary is shown" is included in the government's new Children and Families Bill. The bill also makes it easier to move children from foster care to adoption, removes ethnic-religious adoption restrictions, and lets foster parents become the child's adoptive parents. It also regulates and restricts expert witnesses in child-related cases, and seeks to clarify when mediation is required before filing a child custody case.
It repeals divorce law provisions that let a court delay the granting of a divorce, or give only a non-absolute divorce, to accommodate the needs of a child under 16.
The Bill would also finally repeal nearly all of the landmark Family Law Act 1996, which was never implemented. The 1996 Act reduced waiting periods for no-fault divorce but also eliminated "quickie" divorce on fault grounds, replacing both with a single one-year period for reflection and consideration, during which courts would provide information sessions and mediation. It also provided for indefinitely blocking a divorce that "would result in substantial financial or other hardship" for a spouse or a child. One of the few divorce reforms in history that was a product of thorough, educated debate in which scores of legislators studied deeply and understood the magnitude of their choices, it was a model for other countries' reforms, including the U.S.'s Second Chances Act and Parental Divorce Reduction Act.
House Bill 1322 in the Virginia legislature would ban any consideration of foreign law in a family law case, IF the result would violate a person's fundamental rights, except when required by a treaty. It is currently in the House Courts of Justice Committee, and can be tracked here.
The bill would add a new chapter to the Virginia Code, as follows:
For the purposes of this chapter, unless the context requires a different meaning:
"Domestic relations" means any matter regarding the affirmance or annulment of a marriage, divorce, custody or visitation of a child, spousal or child support, control or disposition of a child, adoption under Chapter 12 (§ 63.2-1200 et seq.) of Title 63.2, or any other domestic relations matter under Title 16.1 or Title 20.
"Foreign law" means any law, legal code, or system established and used or applied in a jurisdiction outside of the states or territories of the United States.
§ 20-167. Application of foreign law by courts, etc.
It shall be considered a violation of the public policy of the Commonwealth for a court, arbitrator, administrative agency, or other adjudicative or enforcement authority in any domestic relations matter to base its ruling or decision in any matter at issue, in whole or in part, on any foreign law, including any ruling or decision to grant comity to any judgment, if the ruling or decision would violate a person's fundamental rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Constitution of Virginia. Any ruling or decision that violates this section shall be void and unenforceable.
The provisions of this chapter shall not be construed to conflict with any federal treaty or other international agreement to which the United States is a signatory to the extent that such treaty or other agreement controls over the law of the Commonwealth.