Did you know that the International Day Of Families has been observed on May 15th every year since 1993, per UN General Assembly’s initiative? Having a special day to celebrate the International Day of Families shows how important is the concept of family to the international community.
In the United States, tremendous changes are happening now. The meaning of Family is forever changed after Obergefell v. Hodges – the decision that added 14 more states in the US to the list of countries and states where same sex marriage is legally recognized, the list that already contained two dozen countries like Canada, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Netherlands, Spain, South Africa, England, France, Brazil and Argentina.
Diverse cultural and social traditions, different traditional roles men and women historically play in different countries directly impact how a family is defined in these cultures and often cause significant legal consequences. How families form, what constitutes families and how families come apart can arise, occur and devolve differently for different cultures. It is a wonderful and wonderfully confusing set of shifting norms for the international family law practitioner.
For example, in many Muslim countries, Sharia divorces are at will with just a pre-set payment to the wife. Under the same law, custody rights goes to fathers most of the time. Whether or not such divorces or custody decisions could be enforced in the United Sates is a separate and complex legal issue. For example, in the U.S., we have a constitutional right to contract with each other. Should the United States honor and enforce a Muslim couple's contract to be bound by Sharia law?
Another interesting example could be child support in cases of military personal serving abroad. How national law defines “dependent” could affect the amount of child support paid. In addition, the results for child support would be different depending whether the child support was requested from an American citizen in a court abroad, for example, Germany, or, through UIFSA channels, in the United States.
Another prime example: countries vary wildly on whether and how they permit adoption. Some just won't allow their children to come to the United States. We've had a bit of bad press from time to time. Some will allow it under very stringent circumstances. Some have open arms and open bank accounts in an effort to move their abandoned children out of their borders.
One final example, alimony. Some European countries have little regard for alimony. Many argue that is because of their much larger social safety net which renders alimony far less necessary. This different approach to what might be a key issue in a divorce causes some very mobile parties within a marriage to strategize their divorce years in advance. That's long term planning.
As you can probably tell, our firm has many decades of experience handling and planning International Family Law cases. If you have any questions or concerns – let us help.