Perth Legal International speaks with Carolina Marin Pedreño, Partner at Dawson Cornwell (London), an International Family lawyer. Originally from Spain, she has qualified as a lawyer in both Spain and in England/Wales (the UK is divided between 3 different jurisdictions, England/Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but they all share an ultimate appeal tier which is the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom).
We wanted to know more about her route to the practice of law, more so in a different country. ‘I have always been very inquisitive about people’s lives and love reading a good interview. When I was studying law, I was fascinated by the complexities that an international element could bring to day to day life. As such, with an eye on doing some kind of international law when I qualified, I started travelling and working during school summer holidays in different countries such as Ireland, England and Germany.’ Marin Pedreño started as an intern at Dawson Cornwell Solicitors and was made a partner in 2009. She advises parents and grandparents in international family breakdowns, primarily on children issues such as relocation, child abduction, adoptions, placements and money issues. Nearly all of these cases are international as one party lives abroad and seeks seeking access rights to their children who are habitually resident in England. Child Abduction cases also regularly crop up and I deal with around 3 to 4 cases per month on this issue.
A mother of two herself, she confesses that she loves watching Spanish TV, reading Spanish magazines and books and staying in touch with my Spanish friends in Spain and England.
So, what does exactly mean international family law. A few current cases of Marin Pedreño:
– An Iranian Father who is seeking the return of his child to Spain. The Mother is Russian and they live in Spain.
– A Mexican parent who is seeking the return of his child to Mexico; the Mother is a British national and has removed the child to England.
– An American national seeking the return of his child from England to the USA.
So, has family law become more international in the recent years? ‘Yes, definitely. When I started practising Family Law, international cases were the minority, but the coin has flipped in the last 10 years.’ As the world becomes more global, couples also move around and mixed couples are formed.
As a consequence, she represents families who reside in London, but both parents work in different countries on a remote basis; or a retired couple who move to another country and end up becoming legal guardians and carers of their grandchildren because their parents are unfit to care for them. ‘That is probably what makes International Family Law so interesting, the facts differ massively from case to case and the strategy and advice involved is normally incredibly technical and can be absolutely key to winning a case. Currently, through EU legislation, a family could have litigation in one country relating to their children and another set of proceedings about their divorce and/or finances in a different country. Specialised legal advice in these cases is essential as the results obtained from divorcing in one jurisdiction rather than the other can be totally different.’
Bringing things back home to Perth, has Marin Pedreño come across Australian family lawyers? ‘The Australian Lawyers that I know well are all fellows of the International Academy of Family Lawyers (IAFL) though there are not many. I was surprised I didn’t meet more representatives from Australia in the Academy meetings, as it is a jurisdiction which has a very international society. The IAFL has three chapters, the USA Chapter, the European Chapter and the Asia Pacific Chapter. We are meeting in Melbourne in February 2019 and we are organising a Symposium in Sydney as well. Being part of these kinds of organisations really assists you in making your practice more international as they put you in touch with accessible and specialised colleagues from all over the world.’
Interestingly, she also pointed out that Australian Lawyers who were not fellows of the IAFL and truthfully, it made the whole journey a bit more difficult as their lack of specialised knowledge on International Treaties delayed the whole process and frankly did not provide a good service to their clients.
Perth Legal International wonders if Australian family lawyers should fine tune their networking skills, then. ‘I would say that Australian colleagues seem very genuine and prefer to get to know the other colleague on a more personal level, to make a friend rather than to simply make a contact. In the long term, I think this works better as you make friends who will call you if they need to check an area of law from your country or to refer a case to you, rather than a contact who you meet for a few seconds in a flurry of exchanged business cards and who might be easily replaced by the next person you meet at the next conference.’
But it is essential to participate in International conferences, attend lectures on the nuances of international law from market leading experts and of course have the opportunity to meet colleagues from other jurisdictions. Having a good network of contacts can make a massive different to an international practice.
We leave Marin Pedreño to continue on her own presentation, hoping that we might find Australian family lawyers in the public. We thank her for her honestly and insightful responses and wish her all the best.