Maurice Edwards is a Mediator and Collaborative Family Law Lawyer. He is currently President of the Western Sydney Collaborative Family Law Group. Maurice was appointed as a Public Notary in 1996 and notarises documents for one of the Government Departments on a weekly basis. He has over 28 years experience in assisting clients to resolve their Family Law issues, in both complex financial, and parenting matters. Maurice has developed a particular interest in International Family Law issues and has represented clients in matters under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in the Family Court of Australia, the Full Court of the Family Court of Australia and the High Court of Australia.
We had the pleasure of sitting down with Maurice recently to discuss key challenges and opportunities facing the industry today.
You can find the full Q&A below.
Why do international and interstate relocation cases continue to be such a big issue in family law matters? Are they getting worse? Why?
International and Interstate relocation matters have always been difficult to resolve as any resolution often involves one of the parents (either the one seeking the relocation or the one opposing it) to give in. People are travelling more and forming relationships all around the globe. People are also meeting over the internet. This is fine until the relationship breaks down and there are children involved. These relocation cases are becoming more prevalent as the world becomes a smaller place. Increased ability to communicate through skype, we-chat, face-time, and emails etc have meant the children are able to keep in touch with the "left behind" parent more easily. So although there are more relocation cases to resolve the fact that there is easier communication the trends appears to be favouring relocations in more recent times.
What’s a common mistake that you see people/practitioners make when preparing for a relocation or resisting a relocation?
Perhaps the most common mistake is people make unilateral decisions without considering the children and their relationship with the other parent and how that relationship can be maintained. If a parent relocates without reference to the other parent or to the children's best interest they may be disappointed by the outcome. Similarly if a parent or a lawyer prepares an application to the Court for relocation without reference to the relationship with the other parent or the best interest of the children, they can expect to be disappointed with the outcome.
Your presentation will touch on the ‘Hague Child Abduction ‘ and ‘Child Protection’ conventions, can you briefly explain what they are and how they work in practice?
The object of the "Child Abduction Convention" is to ensure the prompt return of children wrongfully removed to or retained in other countries. Generally it can be said that the "Child Abduction Convention" aims to restore the status quo. The approach is founded on the principle that abduction is ordinarily not in the best interests of the children and puts the "left behind parent" at a great disadvantage, and unless it is quickly restored, tends to reward the abducting parent for taking the law into his or her own hands. This 1980 Convention which was implemented in Australia in 1987 provides for a Central Authority in Australia (The Attorney General's Department) to take action to seek the return of children to their place of habitual residence provided that, there is not "a grave risk" or an "intolerable situation" for the children if they were so returned or provided that if the child is mature the child does not wish to be returned.
The 1996 Child Protection Convention in broad terms aims to provide a global system for improving the protection of children in international situations. To this end it provides for a common set of rules for the exercise of jurisdiction, applicable law and for the consequential recognition and enforcement within countries of measures directed to protect children and to establish the necessary co-operation between countries. The Child Protection Convention came into force in Australia in August 2003. The Child Protection Convention defers to the Child Abduction Convention, but can assist the Child Abduction Convention, for example by the registration of court orders in another country.
Maurice recently spoke at the Family Law Forum: Children, Parents and Domestic Violence seminar held in Sydney. Did you miss him? If so, purchase the recording!