We often hear politicians speak of our “global community” to describe the people or nations of the world being closely connected by modern telecommunications and being socially, economically, and politically interdependent.
One area where the phenomena of global connectedness is ever more apparent is in the area of family law. Only a few decades ago cases in family court typically involved a divorcing couple who lived in the same city or town and they usually remained there after their divorce was finalized.
Now it is commonplace for family law cases to involve several jurisdictions. The scenarios are varied. It may occur where a couple own real estate outside of their country of residence, or one of them wishes to move away with the children to another country. Child abduction is on the increase world-wide as couples separate and engage in high conflict litigation, sometimes marked by one parent’s non-consensual departure from the home country.
Couples that have domestic situations involving multiple jurisdictions now also analyze where the law is most favourable to them and seek to bring their court cases to that jurisdiction. It’s called forum-shopping.
Great Britain is seen as a very friendly jurisdiction for women in large property cases and there have been many recent cases where one party sought to persuade a British court to take authority over their case, while the other stridently resisted. In middle eastern countries where sharia law governs, women have few legal rights and even with the limited rights they have, they often find themselves waiting years to obtain justice, if it ever arrives. If another jurisdiction is available they will go there.
There is no doubt that family law has become more complex as a result of the global community that is now our world. In a recent case in New York City, Swiss businessman, Maurice Alain Amon and his wife, Tracey Hejailan, had homes in Manhattan and in Monte Carlo. Mr. Amon argued the Monte Carlo court was the proper jurisdiction to hear their case. Not surprisingly, Mr. Amon had received advice that the family law system in Monaco did not include a division of property based on the fact of marriage. In Monaco ownership of property is conclusive. In other words, if you own it, you keep it.
In support of his argument that the couple’s primary residence was in Monaco, Mr. Amon submitted evidence of the size of his wife’s shoe collection, along with her walk-in closet in Monte Carlo, suggesting that where she stored most of her extensive shoe collection and designer fashions is where they lived.
Mr. Amon was no doubt motivated to make his jurisdictional argument when he learned his wife was going after his valuable art collection on the walls of their New York home, property she would have no interest in under Monacan law.
Somehow I think it’s going to take more than Jimmy Choo’s and Manolo Blahnik’s for Mr. Amon to succeed.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang