Penningtons Manches family partner, James Stewart, and senior associate, Edward Floyd attended the International Academy of Family Lawyers’ cross-border family conference in Moscow from Sunday, 28 February to Tuesday, 1 March. James, Parliamentarian to the IAFL, the invitation-only organisation of the world’s leading international family lawyers, co-chaired the conference while Edward presented on the treatment of spousal maintenance in England and other jurisdictions.
The ground-breaking and highly successful conference was attended by more than 80 high profile international family lawyers from around the globe. These included prominent family lawyers from Russian cities, including Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Novosibirsk, together with senior figures from the Moscow Bar and Russia’s Central Authority.
The first day of the conference focused on international child abduction, in particular, the Hague Conventions of 1980 and 1996. Speakers included Anne-Marie Hutchinson OBE QC (Hon); Rachael Kelsey, Scotland’s pre-eminent family lawyer and arbitrator; and Dr Kerstin Niethammer-Jürgens, a fellow of the IAFL and team leader of the EU- financed project on the “Implementation of the Hague Conventions in Russia”. There was a lively dialogue between those present as the 1980 Hague Convention on International Child Abduction has not yet been fully implemented between Russia and the United Kingdom.
Says James Stewart: “The connections forged at the conference between leading experts in this field from across the world will undoubtedly increase understanding of the importance of the Conventions and, hopefully, pave the way to the full implementation of treaties which have done so much to combat the scourge of international child abduction as between Russia and other Convention signatories.”
The second day of the conference focused on financial and jurisdictional issues, with an emphasis on the matrimonial aspects of wealth protection. James Stewart spoke on Russian family law in the international arena, highlighting the profound differences in the treatment of trusts, marital agreements and conflicts of jurisdiction between other countries, including England. He said that, while a move from Russia to England could be highly beneficial or necessary for tax, succession, economic or political reasons, in the absence of proper mechanisms such as marital agreements and possible business restructuring being put in place, a move to England could be expensive in the event of a divorce as London is still regarded as the “divorce capital of the world”.
The importance of the conference was such that the consular representatives from the British, French, German and US embassies in Moscow were present throughout.
In his presentation on spousal maintenance, Edward Floyd highlighted the fact that spousal maintenance could be for life in England, whereas in Russian law, awards of spousal maintenance are rare and women are expected to be self-sufficient. Those attending were also warned that it is possible for Russian wives living in London to obtain financial awards in England after a Russian divorce. Edward’s presentation sparked a lively debate among practitioners from Russia, Ukraine, Hungary and other jurisdictions where England’s approach towards spousal maintenance seems almost inconceivable.
James and Edward were joined at the conference by Tatiana Starikova, a senior partner of Penningtons Manches’ Multilaw colleagues, YUST, Moscow and Evgeny Raschevsky, head of International Arbitration and Litigation at Egorov Puginsky Afanasiev & Partners (EPAM), Moscow, both of whom gave well received papers at the conference. The Penningtons Manches family team has a long tradition of acting in Anglo-Russian and CIS cases and James has worked closely with EPAM in the past on complex financial cases with a Russian dimension.
James Stewart is the General Editor of Family Law: A Global Guide (Thomson Reuters, 3rd Edition, 2015),which includes a comprehensive guide to family law in Russia.