Posted by Jeremy Morley | Jul 07, 2024 | 0 Comments

by Jeremy D. Morley

Professional soccer teams usually win more games when they play at home than when they play away, even though the rules are the same wherever the games are played.  

But in the arena of international family law, the place of the divorce case matters far more than a mere change in the location of a sporting event.

My article, Strategic Planning For International Divorces, is now published in the Journal of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

Lawyers representing clients with significant international connections who are contemplating a divorce may have a duty to provide strategic advice about the various potential divorce forums. They may even have a duty to advise clients about how to restructure their circumstances so as to facilitate alternative divorce jurisdictions.

In the article, I contend that such duties exist and that such advice is often necessary to protect the interests of international clients. Alternatively, lawyers with internationally-connected clients may be well advised to expressly disclaim their provision of such advice.

These opinions should be of concern to family lawyers who are admitted to practice only in their local jurisdictions and who do not have expertise, experience, or knowledge concerning the laws and practices of other countries. However, it may be unethical for a lawyer to provide information and advice about the laws and practices of other jurisdictions, except to the extent expressly authorized by the rules governing the practice of law in the relevant jurisdictions and by the rules of the attorney's home jurisdiction.

 While the ethical issues may be tricky, the need for many international clients to obtain reliable, practical, and strategic advice about forum selection matters is clear.

The rules and practices governing divorce, finances, and child custody vary dramatically from forum to forum, leading to outcomes that may vary dramatically, sometimes in life-changing ways.

Yet lawyers often do not provide the advice about these issues that clients urgently require, and that many clients are entitled to expect, perhaps to the significant detriment of the clients' best interests.

The starting point in planning for an international divorce may be when a lawyer is first informed of the client's impending marriage. Lawyers representing international clients who plan to marry and who want the protection of a prenuptial agreement should always consider the international ramifications of any proposed agreement. Clients may also seek professional advice concerning premarital financial planning, which can be greatly complicated if the parties have substantial international connections.

The purpose of my article is to discuss the lawyer's role in working appropriately with clients to plan strategically for a potential divorce that has significant international elements. I discuss the premarital issues that family lawyers handling international clients may face. I then focuses on the situations that arise after the marriage when an internationally-connected client seeks advice about a potential or actual separation or divorce.

About the Author

Jeremy Morley

Jeremy D. Morley was admitted to the New York Bar in 1975 and concentrates on international family law. His firm works with clients around the world from its New York office, with a global network of local counsel. Mr. Morley is the author of "International Family Law Practice,...


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Providing wise and experienced legal counsel to international families for many years

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