I guess you could argue that we are to blame. We made International Family Law cool.
I must admit that our arguing and winning a United States Supreme Court case, 9-0 attracted a lot of attention, all of it overwhelmingly positive. It is certainly true that our handling cases in every corner of the globe and managing international litigation on multiple continents is a very rare thing, an extremely high level of legal practice, and therefore can cause envy among those who would love to join these ranks.
The problem is, there is only one firm that handles International Family Law matters on a full time basis and you are looking at them. There is only one Family Law firm that has made it its mission to understand and successfully navigate through all of the nuances, pitfalls and intricacies of International Law and diplomacy and you are looking at them. There is only one Family Law Firm that has won a 9-0 decision from the United States Supreme Court and you are looking at them.
What we do is really cool. What we do is extremely interesting. I readily admit that. But what we do is highly specialized and very difficult. As the saying goes, “don’t try this at home.”
But some folks in some other firms are now “trying this at home.” Their results are disastrous. Their dabbling in international family law borders on the diabolical.
Case in point, an extremely expensive firm decided to jump into the practice of Hague Convention Child Abduction law. A mother (a very nice lady) and her newborn had been literally kicked out into the snow by her abusive husband. Having no money and nowhere to go, she left the country of her husband’s origin and came home to be with her family. Her husband chased her down, seeking a return of their child by filing a Hague Convention Petition.
The very expensive firm thought that forcing the mother to return to the former country was outrageous and so advised her to fight against the Hague Convention action with every penny her family could amass. She did. She lost. Not only was the child returned to her husband’s country, but because the mother fought against the return so hard, the child was returned in the abusive father’s care.
Had this very nice mother received proper advice, she would have been told that the Hague Convention is not about who should have custody and who shouldn’t, but which country should make that decision, and that the country she had just left would have found it every bit as horrific that the abusive husband kicked her and the newborn out in the snow. The other country would have given the mother custody and happily sent her back here, to her home, to be with her family. The bad advice from the dabbling firm destroyed this very nice lady and unforgiveably altered this child’s life forever.
More recently, another, very expensive, very high profile firm advised a father to seek custody of his son in a local U.S. court, even though his son had not lived here and was living back home in the country of his birth where the mother had filed for divorce and been awarded custody of the boy. It seems that there was no analysis of how the foreign country was to be convinced to ignore its own custody order, take the child from the mother and send the child to the United States if the local, U.S. court awarded custody to the father,. Of course, the father wasn’t successful, even here. That firm’s diabolical dabbling lightened the father’s wallet of probably tens of thousands of dollars and also destroyed any chance this father had of securing any meaningful custody in the foreign country.
This diabolical dabbling doesn’t happen often because most everyone who wants to get the right international family law advice and have the best chance of succeeding will seek us out. But it happens often enough that it creates a huge and awful end for the unsuspecting client.
And, as you can probably tell, this makes me angry. Watching firms get excited about experimenting in International Family Law for their own entertainment and enrichment without concern for the lives that they devastate does not sit well with me. I take no comfort in the fact that these dabblers are horrible at their experiments and forays into International Family Law. Instead, I feel deeply for the parents who never stood a chance in the care of those who simply didn’t.
Regardless of how well funded you may be, I implore you not to have a go with the diabolical dabblers. I’m sure you feel that your children, their future and your property are far too valuable for someone else’s entertaining distraction.
Speak with someone who handles the most complex, International Family Law matters 24/7. Not someone who is trying it out because it looks cool.