The International Family Law Group LLP (iFLG) was founded upon a belief by Ann Thomas and David Hodson OBE that a distinctive service was needed for the very many international families and their children with connections with England and Wales. Ann and David had each practised as specialist family lawyers for many years in different law firms, in England and abroad, and acted for many international clients. They were keenly aware of the particular law, practice and procedure and also distinctive requirements for international clients, which are very different to entirely national cases. Their vision was a law firm to provide high standards of advice and high quality work for international families. By focusing on the family law needs of international clients, many living abroad, the law firm would be different to other law firms, and specifically set up for this service.
So in April 2007, iFLG opened its doors in Covent Garden for worldwide business. It started small, with only four full-time partners and staff. It increased in size and we now have 24 partners, lawyers, support staff and consultants.
The choice of Covent Garden was deliberate. It is near the central London family courts and Counsels’ Chambers yet in a very attractive and accessible, non-legal area of London.
In September 2009 the entire family law team of Reynolds Porter Chamberlain joined IFLG. Lucy Greenwood and Helen Blackburn are partners. We were privileged to work with Carolynn Usher until her recent retirement. In late 2009, two leading young Surrey lawyers, Lucy Loizou and Hannah Budd, joined us, becoming partners in early 2013.
We have benefited hugely from a number of consultants who are amongst the world’s leading family law professionals. Denise Carter OBE heads up our Mediation and Arbitration Service and was formerly Chief Executive of Reunite, the world’s leading child abduction charity. Professor Patrick Parkinson AM of Sydney University is world renowned in his research and work on many family law issues. Sheela Mackintosh has run a renowned family information service and has many connections in both Westminster and in her work with Southeast Asia. Our Consultant Benjamin Fry can assist our clients, when necessary, through the separation process by providing therapeutic support.
In June 2014, David Hodson was made an OBE “for services to international family law”, in recognition of the importance of this work and our practice.
iFLG has outstanding links with many law firms abroad and we work closely with specialist foreign family lawyers in many countries within Europe and worldwide. Many English law firms refer their clients to us on the complex issues. We have been particularly pleased to have an association with Watts McCray, one of Australia’s leading family law practices, which undertakes many complex international cases from their offices in Sydney, Canberra, Parramatta and elsewhere in Australia
We have been keen to contribute to a better understanding of international family law issues. We believe that this should encourage more disputes to be resolved more quickly, more cost effectively and without unnecessary litigation. We have sponsored conferences in England and abroad. We write regular articles for the popular media and legal media, run TV, radio and web programmes and assist the media on background to particular issues affecting international families. Members of the practice have written chapters for the leading practitioners’ textbook on international family law ‘The International Family Law Practice’ published by Jordans of which David Hodson is the primary author.
Although sometimes proceedings are necessary, our Mediation and Arbitration service has been very successful, bringing together opportunities of traditional mediation, directive mediation and arbitration. We have been piloting various out of court dispute resolution methods when one party is in one country and another is elsewhere.
From the outset, iFLG was one of the few firms in central London with a contract to undertake legal aid work in respect of international children cases. The firm is one of the world’s leading child abduction specialists. In 2013 we secured a legal aid contact for our mediation service which authorises us to undertake legally aided mediation in respect of international parental cases under the 1980 Hague Convention. We undertake private children mediation in relocation and cross border contact cases and other international children cases.
A significant area of our work is in recognition of foreign marriages and divorces, and the financial consequences of relationship breakdown. This includes the choice of the best country for issuing proceedings, enforcement abroad of financial orders, locating assets and obtaining a good settlement preferably (and often) without a final court hearing. We have been involved in cases which have made new law to help international families.
We remain as committed as ever to the crucial importance of understanding the needs and requirements of international families and their children and providing the best possible service for them.