The number of family disputes referred to the Head of International Family Justice for England and Wales has almost quadrupled in four years, according to new figures.
Referrals increased from 65 in 2008 to 253 during 2012, the judge’s office reports.
Most of the 2012 cases (127) involved European countries, with 14 focused on Poland and 12 involving Spain. The Middle East and Asia were the source of 39 cases, with Pakistan alone accounting for 13. Thirty-five cases came from the Caribbean and the Americas, and 15 from Australia and New Zealand.
Lord Justice Thorpe was appointed Head of International Family Justice in 2005. His office provides advice and information to legal professionals involved in such cross-border issues, including parental child abduction, forced marriages and international adoption.
In the annual report, Lord Justice Thorpe attributes the rise in referrals to a both greater awareness of the services provided by this office and to the “ever rising number of family units which are truly international.”
International family disputes are even more stressful than involving a single country and they require additional sensitivity from legal professionals,, the judge believes.
“We acknowledge, as would all individuals concerned or involved with family justice, the additional emotional distress that is caused to any family by the inclusion of an international dimension. It is incumbent upon anyone who works in such a sensitive area to try and find ways of mitigating such stress, to the extent that it is possible to do so.”