This is a report on the activities of the Office of the Head of International Family Justice for England and Wales (hereinafter “the Office”) from 1st January 2011 to 31st December 2011.
The Office functions as a centre of expertise and a help desk for general enquiries in the field of international family law for the judiciary and practitioners in this jurisdiction and overseas. Its role is to support cross border judicial collaboration and to enhance the expertise necessary for handling the large number of cases relating to aspects of private international law.
Year on year the Office has seen a significant rise in the number of requests for its liaison function, i.e. requests to establish judicial communications between an English court and a foreign court.
It has also seen a rise in the number of general enquiries, i.e. handling of requests for advice from the Family Division judges and enquiries from academics, the Ministry of Justice and foreign Ministries, the Central Authority, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and charitable organisations.
This may, in part, be as a result of the continuing growth in international family litigation. 65% of children born in London in 2010 had at least one foreign parent.These figures illustrate the potential for significant future growth in international family litigation.
We both attend national and international conferences and meetings and give lectures.The year 2011 was an important one for the Office. In addition to the large number of cases and enquiries referred to the Office, we both attended the Sixth Meeting of the Special Commission to review the practical operation of the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (hereinafter “the 1980 Convention”) and the Hague Convention of 19 October 1996 on Jurisdiction,Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Co-operation in respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children (hereinafter “the 1996 Convention”) which was staged at the Peace Palace in The Hague.
Three and a half weeks were spent debating a wide range of issues, the product of which will go to the General Affairs Committee in April 2012.
The year 2011 has also seen significant development in child abduction case law, for example the Supreme Court decision in E (Children)  UKSC 27 and the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (hereinafter “the ECtHR”) which sparked it.