By Nancy Zalusky Berg, Family Lawyer
The International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (IAML) was founded over 25 years ago by senior lawyers from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, AAML.org and fellow lawyers largely from Europe.
Since then the IAML has grown in fellowship and geographic reach. We have recently expanded the scope of our annual meetings (next year is Buenos Aires) by adding a Symposium for local lawyers on The Hauge Convention on International Child Abduction. The first in Minneapolis was known as the Japan Symposium due to the unique opportunity to engage with Japanese lawyer on the advent of Japan adopting The Hague. That was followed by the IAML annual meeting in Singapore, September 2012.
The USA Chapter of the IAML hosted a two-day Symposium for 15 delegates from the Japan Bar Association and Ministry of Foreign affairs for an informal conversation about the practicalities of handling legal proceedings under The Hague Convention on International Child Abduction.
In March of this year, the Japanese government submitted a bill to ratify the convention to the legislative body of Japan, the Diet, in response to international pressure in this industrialized nation to participate in the convention which requires children be returned to their home states for determination of their custody and parental access. The IAML is an international body of family lawyers very familiar with handling family law matter which involve utilization of the convention. We knew that once the diplomats and politicians turn to more pressing issues it will be the family law lawyers in Japan who have to figure out how to actually apply the law to their client’s individual cases.
We pulled together a panel of lawyers, judges and mental health professionals who in all cases have spent over 25 years handling these types of cases to share information and more importantly practical advice on the handling of these matters. The presenters included IAML Fellows Robert Arenstein and Larry Katz who provided in depth analysis of the history of The Hague Convention, and procedures in USA federal and state courts. USA Federal District Court Judge Anne Montgomery and retired Minnesota State Court Judge Tanja Manrique gave their views from the bench not only on Hague matters but child custody matters as well. In addition, we had two other judicial officers from Minnesota, Mary Madden and Ann Leppanen discussing these topics with the delegation as well.
Mindy Mitnick, M.A., a nationally respected child custody evaluator, gave the delegation an excellent introduction into child custody evaluations done for the court. Her presentation was complimented by the presentations of IAML Fellow Val Arnold and Minneapolis family lawyers Marian Saksena and Allison Maxim who discuss the role of a lawyer for the petitioning parent as well as the alleged abducting parent.
Perhaps most exciting was the opportunity for the Japan Delegation to interact with and inquire about jurisdictional differences with the experienced IAML Fellows who presented on the perspectives from their home states; Ian Kennedy and Geoff Wilson from Australia, Mia Reich-Sjögren from Sweden, and finally, Anne-Marie Hutchinson and David Salter from England.
Shortly before the Symposium the Delegation from Japan gave use detailed questions they hoped to see addressed in the Symposium. Those questions ranged from very technical implantation such as the role of private lawyers, case management and how the objection of the child is addressed questions, to general exploration of cultural differences in determining custody of children after divorce. Of particular concern to the Japanese delegation was how allegations of domestic abuse can be addressed as well as the concepts of shared custody.
The costs for the meeting were offset by donations from the IAML- USA Chapter and Tembua, WWW.TEMBUA.COM, who provided interpreters and equipment for simultaneous translation.
The meeting in Singapore afforded the members of the IAML and local lawyers an opportunity to discuss the approaches taken by member nations and non-member nations, such as India, to discuss the issues of child abduction and international relocation. Members from Hong Kong, Singapore, the U.S., Japan, New Zealand, England and Australia all presented papers on these topics of critical interest. The papers are available to members at the IAML.org web site.
The following are a list of topics and presenters:
The Hague Convention – International Principles: Anne-Marie Hutchinson, O.B.E., London England
International Relocations: Nancy Zalusky Berg, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Overview of Mediation Dispute Resolution in Child Abduction Cases: Geoff Wilson, Brisbane, Australia
Overview of Practice in the USA: Robert Arenstein, New York, New York
Review of Practice in England, Wales & Europe: Judge Finnerty and Judge Clive Heaton QC
Overview of Practice in Singapore: Poonam Mirchandani, Singapore
Overview of Practice in Hong Kong: Carolyn Langley, Hong Kong
Overview of Practice in New Zealand: Anita Chan, Dunedin, New Zealand
Overview of Practice in India: Pinky Anand, New Delhi, India
Update from Japan: Mikiko Otani, Tokyo, Japan
The IAML remains committed to expanding the knowledge of all family law practitioners around the world.
Nancy Zalusky Berg is a founder of Walling, Berg & Debele, P.A. She was admitted to the bar in 1980 and has limited her practice to family law since 1985. Berg is certified by the National Board of Trial Examiners as a Family Law Litigation Specialist. She is a former president of IAML.