Wednesday, February 9, 2011

International Family Law

As regular readers already know, my firm handles many International Family Law cases.  These cases most often center on the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction ("Hague Convention").  I have yet to find any firm in Georgia that handles more Hague Convention cases than we do.  We didn't start out to become an international family law behemoth, it just turned out that way.  If you read the article on the "In the News" page on the website regarding Andrew Bowey and Google the issue, you'll see the case that catapulted us into the International Family Law arena and into the international press spotlight.

Since then, we've handled cases on every continent except Antarctica.  We've developed relationships with cooperating counsel all around the world.  We've rescued children from the far reaches of the globe such as Cyprus and China and kept them from being carried off to countries such as Nigeria and Brazil.  Fortunately, now it seems that if someone is searching for an International Family Law attorney in Georgia, they will come knocking on our door.

Because of our extensive work in International Family Law and Hague Convention cases, John Marshall Law School kindly invited me to speak on the subject today at a Continuing Legal Education Seminar they presented to the State Bar.  The event was well attended.  I saw many of my present and former opposing counsels in the audience.  Joining me on the dais were Karen Brown Williams who has worked as a Guardian ad Litem on a number of International Family Law cases, Randy Kessler and Marvin Solomiany of Kessler, Schwartz, a very high end family law firm that practices downtown, and two professors from John Marshal, including Jeffrey Van Detta.

We discussed our experiences both legal and diplomatic in the international arena.  We discussed "Habitual Residence" and the substantive absence of any "Best Interest of the Child" test extensively.  I discussed the Grave Risk of Harm defense with the two prong test often overlooked by opposing counsel.  I also discussed the pleasure of trying cases in foreign countries with exceptional co-counsel.  Randy talked about acquiring a bond before a foreign spouse was allowed to travel with the children; Karen talked about Japan's hostile position to the Hague Convention. Marvin talked about the intensity demanded in a Hague Convention proceeding. We all debated whether it was best to have a speedy hearing in Hague Convention cases in which the removing party has had months if not years to plan, scheme and create evidence in order to win the case when the left-behind party is, at best, frantically reacting to the surprise abduction and not at all ready to win at what amounts to a legal ambush.  (Can you tell which side I argued?)

All in all it was an information packed event.  It was good to share observations with collegues in the hopes of raising the bar for the Bar in the presentation of International Family Law cases.

I've been asked to present on the same subject in May to a State-wide gathering of Family Law Attorneys when we convene on Amelia Island for our annual conference.  It is a great honor to be recognized as a leading advocate for such a complex, critical and growing field of law.  It is a great honor to be entrusted to ensure the return of so may abducted little children.

Michael Manely

1 comment:

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