Tag: child support international

Child Abduction and the Grave Risk Exception

Few people outside of international family law attorneys know that even if a child abduction is proven, courts don’t have to return a child if the grave risk exception, or another treaty defense, is proved. The grave risk defense took center stage at a recent appeal of a child abduction case.

brazil child abduction

Garota De Ipanema

The mother, Dos Santos, and the father, Silva, met in 2011 in Brazil. They have one child together, a daughter who was born in 2012 in Brazil. The three lived together in Brazil until April 2020, when the parents separated.

In August 2021, the mother left Brazil with their daughter and traveled to the United States. The mother did so without the father’s consent to move the child permanently. to the US.

After he learned that his daughter was in the US, the father filed an application with the Brazilian central authority for the return of his child under the Hague Convention. The Brazilian government referred the matter to the United States Department of State-the United States’s central authority under the Convention.

No one disputed at trial that the mother wrongly removed her daughter from the her habitual residence in Brazil and from the lawful joint custody of her father, and abducted her to the US. Normally, that would mean the child would be promptly returned to Brazil.

But the mother claimed returning their daughter posed a grave risk that the child will be exposed to physical or psychological harm or an otherwise intolerable situation.

Hague Child Abduction Convention

I have written and spoken on international custody and child abduction under the Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

The Convention’s mission is basic: to return children to the State of their habitual residence to require any custody disputes to be resolved in that country, and to discourage parents from taking matters into their own hands by abducting or retaining a child.

The removal or the retention of a child is to be considered wrongful where it is in breach of rights of custody under the law of the State in which the child was habitually resident immediately before the removal or retention; and at the time of removal or retention those rights were actually exercised, either jointly or alone, or would have been so exercised but for the removal or retention.

While there are several defenses to a return of a child, the grave risk defense is one of the frequently relied on, and misunderstood defenses available under the Convention.

Mas que nada

Generally, the Hague Convention has six exceptions. In the recent Brazilian case, the mother alleged the grave risk defense. Under this defense, return to Brazil is not required if there is a grave risk that return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation.

However, the grave-risk exception is narrowly construed and has a higher burden of proof than most of the other defenses. At the trial, the judge found that the mother had failed to establish that the child will face a grave risk of physical or psychological harm should she be returned to Brazil.

Without an established exception, the trial court granted the father’s petition for return of the child to Brazil

The Mother appealed and the appellate court reversed. The mother described an altercation between the father and her subsequent boyfriend which may have been videotaped. But the video recording was not brought in as evidence. The court also heard from two other witnesses who saw the mother with bruises and a witness who testified about threatening social media messages.

Importantly, the trial judge didn’t believe the father’s testimony. To the appellate court, that meant the trial judge should have considered the father’s testimony as corroborating substantive evidence that the mother’s allegations were true.

Because the trial judge thought there were some issues with the father, including “anger management issues” and “making threats to people”, a majority of the appellate panel felt the trial judge mistakenly felt her hands were tied.

The appellate decision is here.

International Child Abduction Compliance Report

Each year, a country’s compliance with laws governing international child abduction is evaluated in a report issued by the U.S. Department of State. These annual reports show Congress the countries determined to have been engaged in a pattern of noncompliance. They also show if any countries cited in the past improved.

Compliance Report

2023 Report

Under the Hague Convention, the U.S. State Department is tasked as our Central Authority. The Central Authority facilitates implementation and operation of the Hague Convention on child abduction in the U.S.

After passage of the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act, the State Department was later assigned the duty of submitting annual Action Reports on International Child Abduction to Congress on the specific actions taken in response to countries determined to have been engaged in a pattern of noncompliance.

In 2022, a total of 165 abducted children were returned to the United States.

The 2023 Annual Report is an overview of the Department’s efforts to support the resolution of international parental child abduction cases.

The Department also reports on their work with foreign governments and authorities to promote procedures to encourage the prompt resolution of existing international abduction cases. The aim is that, in general, international custody disputes should be resolved in the competent court of the country of the child’s habitual residence.

Countries which don’t meet their Convention obligations, or fail to work with the U.S. to resolve child abduction cases, can face “appropriate actions.”

Florida International Child Abduction

I’ve written and spoken about international child abduction compliance under the Hague Convention before. The Hague Convention seeks to deter child abductions by a parent by eliminating their primary motivation for doing so: to “deprive the abduction parent’s actions of any practical or juridical consequences.”

The removal or the retention of a child is to be considered wrongful where it is in breach of rights of custody attributed to a person, an institution or any other body, either jointly or alone, under the law of the State in which the child was habitually resident immediately before the removal or retention; and at the time of removal or retention those rights were actually exercised, either jointly or alone, or would have been so exercised but for the removal or retention.

The Hague Convention is implemented in the United States through the International Child Abduction Remedies Act. Then in 2014, the International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act was signed into law.

Even if a country is a signatory country and treaty partners with the U.S., returning a wrongfully retained or abducted child may still be complicated because some signatory countries are not complying with the Convention. That is where the State Department’s annual reporting comes in.

ICAPRA increases the State Department’s annual reporting requirements. Each year, the Department not only submits an Annual Report on International Child Abduction to Congress, it submits another report on the actions taken towards countries determined to have been engaged in a pattern of noncompliance.

Don’t cry for me, Argentina

The State Department reports include both countries where there is a treaty relationship with the United States under the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention, and countries where no treaty relationship exists, such as Russia.

The 2023 Action Report reviews the results of cases which were resolved the previous year. Some of the countries in our hemisphere which failed to regularly implement and comply with the Hague Convention include Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Ecuador, Honduras, and Peru.

The Convention has been in force between the United States and Argentina since 1991.  In 2022, Argentina had continued to demonstrate a pattern of noncompliance.  Specifically, the Argentine judicial authorities failed to regularly implement and comply with the provisions of the Convention.

As a result of this failure, 50 percent of requests for the return of abducted children under the Convention remained unresolved for more than 12 months. Granted, there was only 2 abduction cases in Argentina. One case was resolved with the return of the child, and the other one is still unresolved after a year. Argentina was previously cited for demonstrating a pattern of noncompliance in the 2015-2022 Annual Reports.

ICAPRA also adds steps the U.S. can take when a country refuses to cooperate in the resolution of overseas abduction and access cases involving American children. The steps can include: a demarche (a petition or protest through diplomatic channels); public condemnation; delay or cancelation of official, or state visits; suspension of U.S. development assistance; and even the withdrawal or suspension of U.S. security assistance.

The 2023 Report is available here.

China’s Divorce Laws Mean Fewer Marriages

China may be learning an old lesson that strict divorce laws can mean fewer marriages. In addition to the country’s recent worries about the imminent decline in its population, the number of people in China getting married for the first time has been dropping too.

Strict Divorce Law

Hidden Dragon

Although China has 1.4 billion people, the most in the world, its births are set to fall to record lows this year, demographers say, dropping 11.5% from 2020. China’s fertility rate in 2021 was below the OECD standard for a stable population, and among the lowest in the world.

Over the past year or so, China has enacted tax deductions, longer maternity leave, enhanced medical insurance, housing subsidies, and extra money for a third child, but the desire among Chinese women to have children is the lowest in the world.

Adding to the problem is China’s diminishing marriage rate, which slumped again. The number getting married for the first time dropped to 11.6 million last year, almost 700,000 down on the previous year. This was well down on a peak of 23.9 million in 2013.

Faced with mounting fertility problems and a soaring divorce rate, the ruling Communist Party in China introduced a rule last year to keep unhappy marriages together by forcing couples to undergo a 30-day “cooling off” period before finalizing a divorce.

The new law appears to have worked, according to government officials, marriage registration authorities have seen a drop in divorces that many local governments claimed was because of the controversial measure.

But along with that decline in the divorce rate, the number of marriage registrations plunged to a 36-year low in 2021. The fall in marriages has contributed to a plummet in birthrates, a worrying sign in China’s rapidly graying society and a phenomenon more familiar in countries like Japan and South Korea.

Florida No-Fault Divorce

The official term for divorce in Florida is “dissolution of marriage”, and you don’t need fault as a ground for divorce. Florida abolished fault as a ground for divorce.

I’ve written about divorce trends before. The no-fault concept in Florida means you no longer have to prove a reason for the divorce, like your husband’s alleged infidelity with a congresswoman. Instead, you just need to state under oath that your marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

Before the no-fault divorce era, people who wanted to get divorce either had to reach agreement in advance with the other spouse that the marriage was over, or throw mud at each other and prove wrongdoing like adultery or abuse.

No-fault laws were the result of trying to change the way divorces played out in court. No fault laws have reduced the number of feuding couples who felt the need to resort to distorted facts, lies, and the need to focus the trial on who did what to whom.

The Great Wall to Marriage

Posters on social media in China have hailed the “wise” decision made by young people not marrying, and said they too would not be getting married. One user wrote:

“Marriage is like a gamble. The problem is that ordinary people can’t afford to lose, so I choose not to take part.”

The controversial measures enacted by the Chinese Communist Party have led to a dramatic fall in the divorce rate but critics have said it disadvantages women, particularly those without an independent source of income.

A divorce seeker has to wait for 30 days after making an application, and longer if the partner refuses to get divorce. Not to mention many people’s divorce requests were not approved even when they were suffering from cheating and domestic violence.

The director of the Guangdong Population Development, told Yicai news:

Young people face increasing life pressures, and cannot afford the burden of getting married, which traditionally involves buying a house and raising children. Young people prefer the freedom of single life.

The average age of people who get married for the first time also increased significantly, from 24.89 in 2010 to 28.67 in 2020, according to the China Population Census Yearbook 2020. A 2021 report published by iiMedia Research also highlighted growing numbers of people consciously identifying themselves as celibate.

Four per cent of 3,900 single respondents between the age 20 and 45 identified themselves as “steadfast celibates”, with another 21 per cent describing themselves as “less-determined celibates”.

Most of the self-declared celibates were women over 30, who were better-educated with a higher income in first-tier cities, according to the report.

The South China Morning Post article is here.

International Divorce and Comity

International divorce cases may require recognition or enforcement in your home country. But when your international divorce decree is subject to dismissal for lack of jurisdiction though, it is not a laughing matter. That is where knowing about the concept of comity may help.

Divorce Comity

Comity Hour

Carmen filed her divorce in Nebraska, claiming she and her husband Arlin were married in Omaha, had no children, that her husband was a Nebraska resident and that she is “not now a party to any other pending action for divorce, separation or dissolution of marriage.” Carmen wanted a divorce to divide their property and debts.

Carmen’s husband tried to dismiss the divorce for lack of jurisdiction. While he admitted they got married in Nebraska on March 8, 2003, he said they were also married in Venezuela on March 11, 2003.

The punchline: they were already legally divorced in Venezuela.

Since they were no longer legally married, the husband asked the court to dismiss the divorce for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and other grounds.

Florida Divorce and Comity

I have written about international divorce issues before. In Florida, a person must have resided in Florida for 6 months before the filing of the petition for the court to have jurisdiction over your divorce. The term “reside” generally means a legal residence in Florida with an intention to stay there, as opposed to a temporary residence.

However, when children are involved, or you are seeking financial assistance, such as alimony, child support, or a division of property, the court needs to have jurisdiction over your spouse too.

There are even more complex, multi-state laws which impact if a court can hear a divorce, the children’s issues, or the family support issues.

Recognizing a foreign divorce is different. In general, where courts in one country have concurrent jurisdiction over substantially similar parties and claims, the court which first exercises its jurisdiction acquires exclusive jurisdiction to proceed with that divorce. This is known as the principle of priority.

While the principle of priority is not a duty, as a matter of comity, courts may stay a pending divorce on the grounds that a case involving the same subject matter and parties is pending in the court of another U.S. state. But the principle of comity applies – not only to proceedings pending in two different U.S. state courts – but to divorce cases pending in foreign courts too.

Comity Isn’t Pretty

Back in Nebraska, the parties focused their arguments exclusively on whether the Venezuelan divorce decree should be recognized as valid in Nebraska under principles of comity.

The family court dismissed Carmen’s complaint with prejudice, stating: The question before the Court is whether the Venezuelan Decree is valid. On that issue, Carmen argued the Venezuelan decree was invalid and she was therefore entitled to seek a decree of dissolution in Nebraska.

Arlin, on the other hand, argued the Venezuelan decree was valid in Nebraska and the parties were already legally divorced, so the Nebraska dissolution action should be dismissed. The family court agreed with the husband and found the Venezuelan decree was valid in Nebraska. The Wife appealed.

The Supreme Court of Nebraska reversed. The court reasoned that the husband’s evidence did not show the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the divorce. As long as the trial court had met the basic requirements, it had jurisdiction.

The family court confused the doctrine of comity with subject matter jurisdiction. The doctrine of priority is not the same thing as subject matter jurisdiction. A subsequent court does not lack the judicial power over a divorce. The issue of whether a foreign divorce decree should be recognized, the principle of comity, is not a matter of subject matter jurisdiction – or grounds for dismissal.

Whether the Venezuelan divorce decree is entitled to recognition under principles of comity was still a contested issue in the divorce, and that issue did not impact the family court’s subject matter jurisdiction.

The Supreme Court of Nebraska opinion is here.

Speaking on International Child Custody in Morocco

Looking forward to speaking about international child custody on a panel with IAFL fellow attorneys: Sarah Hutchinson from England, Elisha D. Roy from the U.S., and Frances Goldsmith from France. We will be discussing international issues arising under the UCCJEA for non-U.S. attorneys.

UCCJEA Morocco a

Hot Child Custody Issues

From the beaches of Sarasota to the Sahara desert, international child custody today is a hot issue – and admittedly a little dry too. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (the UCCJEA) and The Hague Convention on international child abductions are two well-known laws with international importance which can impact your case.

Parents are increasingly moving from country to country for various reasons. Whether children are moved by parents wrongfully or not, that moving makes international child custody complicated.

The UCCJEA is a uniform state law regarding jurisdiction in child custody cases. It specifies which court should decide a custody case, not how the court should decide the case. The  UCCJEA and The Hague Convention on Child Abduction can overlap in certain cases, and the jurisdiction of each law can differ in important ways too.

Florida and almost all U.S. states passed the UCCJEA into law. The most fundamental aspect of the UCCJEA is the approach to the jurisdiction needed to start a case, enforce an existing child custody determination, and modify one. There are also several foreign laws which can interact with your child custody determination.

More information on the IAFL can be found here.

Presumption of Paternity is Big in Japan

In family law, the presumption of paternity is one of the strongest in Florida. Japan is about to change its 19th-century law about the paternity. The change in the law of paternity for children born after divorce will help Japanese children facing difficulties getting healthcare and education.

Paternity Japan

Spirited Away

Under a Japanese 1898 Civil Code that’s still in force, a child born to a woman within 300 days of divorce is considered to be that of her former husband, even if she has remarried.

Many women opt not to register their children rather than comply with the regulation, especially in cases of domestic abuse. The country’s practice of registering its citizens under household units has hampered attempts by campaigners to gain the right for married couples to retain separate names, as well as to introduce same-sex marriage.

Japan consistently lags other developed countries in terms of gender equality. It was ranked 116th out of 146 countries in the annual Global Gender Gap Report released by the World Economic Forum in July.

Japan is also one of 32 countries that maintain discriminatory restrictions on remarriage for women after divorce, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

According to a lawyer who succeeded in getting the remarriage ban for women shortened to 100 days from six months in a 2015 Supreme Court ruling, the amendment also indicates a belated shift toward prioritizing the rights of children.

Japan’s Cabinet approved draft legislation Friday to scrap a rule that has prevented the new husband of a woman who has remarried from assuming paternity over a child born within some 10 months of the woman’s divorce from her previous partner.

Florida Paternity Presumption

I have written about Florida family law matters, including paternity changes, before. In Florida, the law presumes that the husband of the biological mother of a child is the child’s legal father. This presumption is one of the strongest rebuttable presumptions known to law, and is based on the child’s interest in legitimacy and the public policy of protecting the welfare of the child.

Because of the strength of this presumption in Florida, many courts have held that a person claiming to be a “putative” father does not have the right to seek to establish paternity of a child who was born into an intact marriage if the married woman and her husband object.

In some courts, the presumption of legitimacy of a child is so strong, it may never be rebutted. The Florida Supreme Court, however, has reaffirmed that the presumption of legitimacy afforded to a child born within an intact marriage is exactly that: a presumption. And the presumption of legitimacy may be rebutted in certain, rare circumstances.

Big in Japan

The change in the law of Japan is aimed at addressing a problem in which some children of divorced women have been left off family registers to avoid former husbands being recognized as fathers. This has resulted in difficulties in children accessing health, education, and other services.

Under what would be the first change to the century-old Civil Code provisions regarding paternity and marriage, a rule banning women from remarrying within 100 days of a divorce, long considered discriminatory, is also set to be scrapped.

A Justice Ministry survey found about 70 percent of 793 individuals not included in family registers as of August this year had mothers who did not submit birth notifications because of the current legal paternity rule.

Many women, in addition to those who have fled from domestic violence, have opted not to submit notifications of the birth of their child with their current partners in order to avoid having their former husbands recognized as the legal father.

The Cabinet of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida also gave the nod to giving mothers and children the right to file for court arbitration with regard to paternity disputes. At present, former husbands can deny paternity over children born within 300 days of a divorce.

The period for filing for arbitration will be set at within three years of knowledge about a birth. Under the current arbitration system, which has been limited to former husbands seeking to deny paternity, the period was set at one year.

The revisions also include deleting the parental right to punish children, while clearly stating that physical punishment and verbal and physical actions that harm a child’s healthy development are not permissible.

Registration and paternity rules are particularly important in Japan, where birth out of wedlock is rare and widely frowned-upon. About 2% of children are born to unmarried parents, while the average across OECD countries is 41%.

The Japan Times article is here.

International Child Abduction Action Report

Every year international child abduction cases are reported to the Congress by the U.S. Department of State. These annual Action Reports show Congress the actions taken against countries determined to have been engaged in a pattern of noncompliance. So, which countries in our hemisphere were noncompliant?

International Abduction Action Report

2022 Action Report

Under the Hague Convention, the State Department is tasked as our Central Authority. The Central Authority facilitates implementation and operation of the Hague Convention on child abduction in the U.S.

After passage of the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act, the State Department was later assigned the duty of submitting annual Action Reports on International Child Abduction to Congress on the specific actions taken in response to countries determined to have been engaged in a pattern of noncompliance.

The 2022 Annual Report is an overview of the Department’s efforts to support the resolution of international parental child abduction cases.

The Department also reports on their work with foreign governments and authorities to promote procedures to encourage the prompt resolution of existing international abduction cases. The aim is that, in general, international custody disputes should be resolved in the competent court of the country of the child’s habitual residence.

Countries which don’t meet their Convention obligations, or fail to work with the U.S. to resolve child abduction cases, can face “appropriate actions.”

Florida International Child Abduction

I’ve written and spoken about international child abduction cases under the Hague Convention before. The Hague Convention seeks to deter child abductions by a parent by eliminating their primary motivation for doing so: to “deprive the abduction parent’s actions of any practical or juridical consequences.”

The removal or the retention of a child is to be considered wrongful where it is in breach of rights of custody attributed to a person, an institution or any other body, either jointly or alone, under the law of the State in which the child was habitually resident immediately before the removal or retention; and at the time of removal or retention those rights were actually exercised, either jointly or alone, or would have been so exercised but for the removal or retention.

The Hague Convention is implemented in the United States through the International Child Abduction Remedies Act. Then in 2014, the International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act was signed into law.

Even if a country is a signatory country and treaty partners with the U.S., returning a wrongfully retained or abducted child may still be complicated because some signatory countries are not complying with the Convention. That is where the State Department’s Action Report comes in.

ICAPRA increases the State Department’s annual reporting requirements. Each year, the Department not only submits an Annual Report on International Child Abduction to Congress, it submits another report on the actions taken towards countries determined to have been engaged in a pattern of noncompliance.

A Carnival of Noncompliance

The State Department Action Report includes both countries where there is a treaty relationship with the United States under the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention, and countries where no treaty relationship exists.

The 2022 Action Report reviews the results of cases which were resolved the previous year. Some of the countries in our hemisphere which failed to regularly implement and comply with the Hague Convention include Argentina, Belize, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Brazil.

Brazil has had the Convention in force with the U.S. since 2003. Brazil has also demonstrated a pattern of noncompliance for years. Complaints have criticized its judicial authorities for failing to regularly implement and comply with the Convention, and failing to take appropriate steps to locate children in abduction cases. Brazil has previously been cited for a pattern of noncompliance since 2006.

Brazil is also the country where David Goldman had to fight for his son Sean to be returned to the United States after his wrongful retention by his mother. Sean was only returned to the U.S. after 5 years. The Goldman’s bitter experience in Brazil led to the passage of the ICAPRA.

However, the country of Brazil is not entirely on siesta. Among other steps, Brazil increased its number of Hague Network Judges, published a manual for judges hearing Convention cases, and resolved eight U.S. cases on file – including the return of six children to the United States.

ICAPRA also adds steps the U.S. can take when a country refuses to cooperate in the resolution of overseas abduction and access cases involving American children. The steps can include: a demarche (a petition or protest through diplomatic channels); public condemnation; delay or cancelation of official, or state visits; suspension of U.S. development assistance; and even the withdrawal or suspension of U.S. security assistance.

The 2022 Action Report is available here.

Divorce Rates in the Arab World

The increase in international divorce rates, due in part to changes in the nature of family and family life, can be seen thoughout the Arab world. Lebanon, in particular, is reporting a marked jump in divorces as more statistics become available.

Arab Divorce Rates

As the Simoom Blows

The Arab world is not insulated from the profound socio-economic changes around the world, and this is evident from the rise in the number of couples choosing to separate in several Middle Eastern and North African countries.

A recent study by the Egyptian Cabinet’s Information and Decision Support Center found that Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan and Qatar are the Arab countries with the highest divorce rates.

In Kuwait, 48 percent of all marriages end in divorce, 40 percent in Egypt, 37.2 percent in Jordan, 37 percent in Qatar, and 34 percent in both the UAE and Lebanon.

Sheikh Wassim Yousef Al-Falah, a Shariah judge at Beirut’s religious court, told Arab News recently:

“On some days, we have up to 16 divorce cases in this court alone. The increasing divorce rate is a phenomenon that we have not seen before, although we do not favor divorce and focus on reconciliation.”

Experts believe this trend has been driven by a combination of economic pressures, evolving societal norms, legal reforms and, above all, the changing role of women.

Florida Divorce

I’ve written international divorce rates before. In the United States, many complained that no-fault divorce led to an increase in divorce rates here. Historically in Florida, in order to obtain a divorce one had to prove the existence of legal grounds such as adultery.

Proving fault often required additional expenses on behalf of the aggrieved party, only serving to make the divorce process more expensive and cumbersome than it already was.

In the years leading up to the enactment of “no-fault” divorce, courts often granted divorces on bases that were easier to prove, the most common being “mental cruelty.”

Over time, the “no-fault” movement expanded to other states, although interestingly it only reached the typically progressive state of New York in 2010. Whether or not it is intimacy or communication, you do not need to list a reason for a divorce other than an irretrievable break in the marriage.

Like the Cedars of Lebanon

Through much of history, especially among the more conservative cultures of the Arab world, a woman’s place was long considered to be in the home, handling the needs of the family, while male relatives studied and went to work.

Now, as Arab nations modernize their economies and reform their legal systems, women are becoming more independent, increasingly pursuing higher education, progressing in their careers, and choosing to marry and have children later in life.

As a result, Arab women have developed a keener awareness of their civil rights, personal ambitions and self-respect. They increasingly refuse to tolerate domestic violence and are capable of supporting themselves financially.

“The current statistics compiled by the religious courts that handle the personal status of Lebanese citizens and foreigners residing in Lebanon reflect an increase in divorce requests, especially those submitted by women.”

In Lebanon, where a large segment of the population has moved abroad to find jobs with better salaries, the difficulty of maintaining a long-distance relationship also appears to play a part in marriage breakdown.

Reforms to the legal status of women in Lebanon have drawn particular attention in recent years, with the introduction of a slew of legislation designed to protect them from sexual harassment and domestic abuse. However, human rights monitors say the reforms do not go far enough.

Lebanon’s 2019 financial collapse and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic appear to have piled further pressure on relationships as living standards plummeted, people lost their jobs and households were forced into long periods of constant close proximity under lockdown.

Several countries around the world reported spikes in domestic violence during the pandemic and Lebanon is no exception. The nation’s economic woes and disruption to court procedures during the health crisis appear to be making matters worse.

The figures for divorce in Lebanon might be somewhat skewed by the growing use of marriage as a means of gaining citizenship in another country, as waves of young people move abroad in search of better opportunities.

In Lebanon, where a large segment of the population has moved abroad to find jobs with better salaries, the difficulty of maintaining a long-distance relationships also appears to play a part in marriage breakdown.

Lebanese citizens will often move between sects to facilitate a divorce. Couples from the Maronite sect, for instance, the courts of which forbid the annulment of marriage in all but the most extreme circumstances, might turn instead to the Catholic or Orthodox sects, which allow the annulment of marriages.

They might even turn to the Sunni sect to access divorce procedures before converting back to their original sect. According to Shariah, divorce — known as khula — has been permitted since the time of Prophet Muhammad.

Obtaining a divorce in a Sunni religious court is considered easier than in a Shiite religious court, after these courts developed new rules that raised the age for child custody, amended the dowry and banned underage marriage.

Family values are cherished in Arab culture, and authorities — both religious and secular — tend to prefer that parents stay together for the sake of their children. Experts believe marriage counseling, better education for young couples, more open discussions about relationships, and even a relaxation of the social taboos surrounding premarital social interaction between men and women could help reduce overall divorce rates.

The Arab News article is here.

Same Sex Marriage and Divorce Fraud

Same sex marriage and divorce fraud is in the news in India. The Indian Supreme Court has just asked a woman to respond to her husband’s divorce petition in which he claims his wife defrauded him because she is not a female according to medical reports.

India Same Sex Marriage

Truth Alone Triumphs

What defines gender and sex in a marriage and does it even matter? Those questions come to mind because of an interesting case which was filed before the Supreme Court of India. A man first filed a criminal action against his wife for cheating and fraud, alleging she has “external male genital structure.” Later, he filed a civil action for divorce.

The petition, filed through advocate Praveen Swarup, said that the man and woman’s marriage was solemnized in July 2016. The petition also said that after solemnization of marriage, the wife did not consummate for a few days on the pretext that she is undergoing a menstrual cycle and thereafter she left the matrimonial house and returned after a period of 6 days.

In the following days, when the man tried to get intimate with his wife, he found that the vaginal opening was absent.

The medical report of the wife states she is biologically female, with ovaries, and identifies as a woman. It also mentions that she has “external male genitalia” such as an “imperforate hymen and penis” (a medical condition in which hymen covers the whole opening of the vagina), the petition said.

The petition further mentioned that the woman was advised to undergo surgical repair but the doctor also told the petitioner that even if an artificial vagina is created through surgery, consummation may take place but the chances of getting pregnant are close to impossible.

After this medical examination, the petitioner felt cheated and called up the father of his wife, to take his daughter back. The woman underwent surgery and then returned to her husband’s house after the woman’s father allegedly forcibly entered the man’s house threatened him to keep his daughter at his house.

Florida Same Sex Marriage

I have written about same-sex marriages in Florida before. In the federal court case of Brenner v. Scott, one the leading cases in Florida on the issue, a same-sex couple tried to have their Canadian marriage recognized in Florida.

By Florida refusing to recognize the foreign marriage certificate and designate each of the couple as spouses, the couple who were employed by the state if Florida, were not eligible for any spousal benefits in the Florida retirement benefits program.

The U.S. District Court, after finding that marriage is a fundamental right under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, held that Florida’s same-sex marriage laws must be reviewed under strict scrutiny, and are unconstitutional.

The injunction ordered the Secretary of the Florida Department of Management Services and the Florida Surgeon General to cease enforcing Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage.

In Obergefell v. Hodges the U.S. Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage is legal everywhere in the U.S., and Florida couples no longer need to worry about laws changing and can move to any U.S. state without worrying that their marriages will not be recognized.

Cry Me A Narmada River

The Indian Supreme Court initially denied the petition. However, Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MM Sundresh have now asked the woman to file a reply to her husband’s divorce petition challenging a Madhya Pradesh High Court order of last summer.

The Madhya Pradesh High Court is located in Jabalpur. Along with being located on the Narmada River,  Jabalpur is primarily known for its marble rocks. It is also the country’s 38th-largest urban agglomeration according to a recent census.

The medical history of the woman shows “penis + imperforate hymen”, so she is not a female, the Supreme Court said issuing notice to her to respond within four weeks.

The High Court had previously dismissed the man’s petition saying “only on the basis of oral evidence and without medical evidence”, a cheating charge could not be established.

The NDTV article is here.

Upcoming Speaking Engagement on Interstate and International Jurisdiction

Honored to be asked to speak on interstate and international jurisdiction at the 2022 Marital & Family Law Review Course. The program is live this year at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center from January 21, 2022 to January 22, 2022.

Limited rooms are still available and an additional block of rooms was just made available at the nearby Courtyard Orlando Lake Buena Vista. The prestigious Certification Review course is one of largest and most popular CLE presentations, and is a partnership between the Florida Bar Family Law Section and the AAML Florida Chapter.

Interstate Child Custody

Family law today frequently involves interstate child custody, interstate family support, and The Hague Convention on international child abductions.

Parents are increasingly moving from state to state and country to country for various reasons. Whether children are moved by parents wrongfully or not, that moving makes interstate and international child custody complicated. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, and The Hague Convention on Child Abduction, can work together in those cases.

Florida and almost all U.S. states passed the UCCJEA into law. The most fundamental aspect of the UCCJEA is the approach to the jurisdiction needed to start a case. In part, the UCCJEA requires a court have some jurisdiction vis-a-vis the child.

That jurisdiction is based on where the child is, and the significant connections the child has with the forum state, let’s say Florida. The ultimate determining factor in a Florida case then, is what is the “home state” of the child.

International Child Abductions

I have written about the Hague Convention before. All family lawyers have to become more familiar with the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, also known as The Hague Convention on Child Abduction. This international treaty exists to protect children from international abductions by requiring the prompt return to their habitual residence.

The issue of international child abductions is also a fast-moving area of law. The U.S. Supreme Court recently granted certiorari in a case less than two years after issuing its last Hague Convention opinion.

The Hague Convention applies only in jurisdictions that have signed the convention, and its reach is limited to children ages 16 and under. Essentially, The Hague Convention helps families more quickly revert back to the “status quo” child custody arrangement before an unlawful child abduction.

Interstate Family Support

The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act is one of the uniform acts drafted by the Uniform Law Commission. First developed in 1992, the UIFSA resolves interstate jurisdictional disputes about which states can properly establish and modify child support and spousal support orders. The UIFSA also controls the issue of enforcement of family support obligations within the United States.

In 1996, Congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, which required all U.S. states adopt UIFSA, or face loss of federal funding for child support enforcement. Every U.S. state has adopted some version of UIFSA to resolve interstate disputes about support.

Certification Review Course

It is a privilege to be asked to speak on interstate jurisdiction and international child abductions at the annual Marital & Family Law Review Course again. The annual seminar is the largest and most prestigious advanced family law course in Florida. Last year’s audience included over 1,800 attorneys and judges from around the state.

The program is live this year, will not be broadcasted, and space is limited.

Register for the remaining spaces here.