The Malta IV Conference on Cross Frontier Child Protection & Family Law

This year marks the 10th Anniversary of the Malta Process. The Malta Process is a  “dialogue involving both Contracting States to the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction  and / or the Convention of 19 October 1996 on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Co-operation in Respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children, and non-Contracting States whose legal systems are based on or influenced by Islamic law (“Shariah”).”

In May, more than 130 government officials and practitioners from more than 30 countries met in Malta for the 4th conference of the series, to discuss the importance of protecting children in international divorce and family law disputes where cases could involve parties from contracting and non contracting states. The attendees, recognizing the importance of international cooperation, sought to encourage more states to ratify all the Hague children’s  conventions  including the Child Abduction Convention and the Child Support Convention. Literature about the conference read as follows:

In the light of the hypothetical cases studied at the meeting, experts recognised the utility of finding solutions to the difficulties encountered in the area of international child protection, affecting the fundamental rights of children, through reinforced international co-operation and, in particular, through accession to or ratification of certain Hague Children’s Conventions.

The experts recognised that the 1980 Child Abduction Convention, the 1996 Child Protection Convention and the 2007 Child Support Convention support a number of key principles expressed in the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, all in the best interests of children. The experts noted that these Hague Children’s Conventions are designed to be global in reach and to be compatible with diverse legal traditions. Experts underlined the important benefits of the Hague Children’s Conventions for States Parties.

Attendees at the conference also discussed issues such as judicial communications in the context of child protection cases; the benefit of mediation in cross border cases involving children; international recovery of  child support; protecting children at risk in cross border contexts including asylum cases, human trafficking, run aways and refugees; and the need for training and technical assistance for judges, practitioners and government officials in these cross border cases involving children. There were several identified “next steps” one of which is to make more conference documents available in Arabic. This is especially important since the Conference seeks to encourage more countries that are governed by Sharia Law to accede to and ratify the key Hague Children’s conventions. According to the HCCH website:

Over the past decade, the Malta Process has played a key role in promoting ratification of / accession to the 1980 Hague Child Abduction and 1996 Hague Child Protection Conventions to  non-Contracting States whose legal systems are based on or influenced by Sharia. The Malta Process has also fostered co-operation to resolve international family disputes involving children when these Convention do not apply and contributed to a better understanding on the different legal systems’ approach to solving international child abduction, access or custody cases.

Let’s remain optimistic that these types of conferences will foster greater international cooperation which in turn will lead to fewer cross border family disputes, heightened cooperation between parents, as well as greater efficiencies on the state level with regard to implementation and enforcement of the various conventions despite the differences in legal traditions.

By Marion TD Lewis, Esq.

For Divorce Saloon  –  June 2016

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