Frequently Asked Questions and some information about the process of applying

Which category of Fellowship am I eligible to apply for?

IAFL have three classes of fellowship into which new Fellows may join:

  • Fellow is a practising lawyer who at the time of admission is in active legal practice, has a significant part of their work advising on family law and who has a substantial international component to their practice
  • Judicial Fellow is one who at the time of admission is a member of the judiciary
  • An Associate Fellow is one who is not in active legal practice but who has made, or is making, a major contribution to international family law (for example academics or individuals employed by NGOs or charities).

If you are a practising lawyer the only category of fellowship open to you is that of Fellow (so, for example, if you are a practising lawyer and a part-time Judge or Chair of a Charity involved in Family Law you cannot choose to apply for Judicial or Associate Fellowship). 

What are the specific admission criteria to be a fellow?

You can find the admission criteria here. Note that there are some general criteria that apply to all classes of Fellow and then additional criteria, dependent on the class of Fellowship that you are applying for. Note that we have no corporate membership- only individuals are eligible to apply for fellowship.   

We recognise that the practice of international family law varies considerably from place to place and that, for example, a practitioner based in London may have practised exclusively in one niche area of international family law for many years, whereas a practitioner in, say, Bulgaria may have a mixed practice and have undertaken less international work. We appreciate that “international family law” may mean different things in different places- in some jurisdictions it means only child law, or financial provision on divorce, but in others it will include, for example, succession law, surrogacy and assisted reproduction. 

How long do I need to have practised?

To be admitted as a Fellow you need to have been a practising lawyer for at least ten years. In many jurisdictions that time will start from the point at which you gain rights of audience, but if your jurisdiction is one in which you have limited rights of audience before you qualify, the ten years will start to run from qualification. The simple rule of thumb is that the ten years will start from the point that you are able to practice without restriction. For example, for barristers in England and Wales the ten years starts from the completion of pupillage, not from call or the acquisition of rights of audience.

What information do you need in the application for fellowship?

We have a form that we ask you to complete to give us basic information. There is no style for submission of the information required to satisfy the admission criteria. You should obviously make sure that you deal with each of the general, and specific, criteria and give us sufficient material to assess your eligibility. We will consider each application on its merits. 

When completing the application make sure that you give us adequate information to assess your eligibility, given that our expectation is that our fellows will be among the group of leading family practitioners in their jurisdiction, and one of the practitioners who would be regularly instructed to undertake the most significant international cases, again in their jurisdiction. To give us context you may need, or want, to tell us about the practice of family law in your own jurisdiction, if we don’t have any fellows in your jurisdiction. 

In considering your application you may want to give us information about:

  • recent international cases that you have been instructed in;
  • any professional dealings that you have had with IAFL Fellows;
  • any relevant academic prizes/awards you have received;
  • any additional relevant qualifications you have attained;
  • any specialist accreditation or board certification that you have (there is additional information on this below);
  • any other languages you speak/can communicate in;
  • membership of relevant professional organisations;
  • any positions of responsibility that you hold/have held;
  • any relevant articles or books that you have authored or contributed to;
  • any lectures or speeches on relevant topics that you have delivered;
  • any relevant teaching you provide.  

Do I need to have specialist accreditation/be board certified to be a fellow? 

We will have regard to whether you are accredited/certified in considering your application, if such a scheme(s) is available. If you practice in a jurisdiction where there is such accreditation/certification and you do not possess same, you should make sure that you make us aware of the scheme(s) that operate and provide us with commentary as to why you are not accredited/certified. In some jurisdictions our board of admissions will expect fellows to be accredited/certified as a prerequisite to Fellowship. If you are unsure if your jurisdiction is one of these please contact us before you apply so that we can let you know. In particular, if you practise in a state in the US where there is board certification available you will be expected to have certification.

What are the admission criteria to be an Associate fellow?

An associate fellow is a person who is not in active legal practice but who has made or is making a major contribution to international family law. If you are an academic we expect you to be recognised as an experienced and skilled teacher, researcher and/or writer on international family law or a related discipline. If you are an employee or officer of a Charity, Government or Non Governmental Organisation we expect you to be recognised as an individual with knowledge and authority in relation to international family law or a related area. 

What are the admission criteria to be a Judicial fellow?

A judicial fellow will have been a judge, or otherwise a practising lawyer, for at least ten years. In addition they will be recognised as an experienced and skilled family law judge and as one with experience, knowledge and competence in relation to international family law matters.

Who should I ask to be referees and what are they asked?

The references we receive carry significant weight. Please review the Admission Criteria carefully before selecting your referees- you, and your referees, need to be able to give us sufficient information to allow us to assess your application against those criteria.

For example, to be admitted as a Fellow you need to demonstrate that you are recognised by your peers as one of the most experienced and skilled family law practitioners in your jurisdiction, so we strongly recommend that your professional referees include at least one, ideally two, active, independent senior family law practitioner(s) in your jurisdiction.  Please see below for some additional guidance if you are applying to the European Chapter.

We need to be confident that your referees do not have any actual, or potential, conflict of interest. Therefore, they should not be individuals who are in a financial/business relationship with you or anyone to whom you are related. 

If you are concerned that two referees are inadequate to speak to all the admission criteria (we ask for a minimum of two, and no more than three, references), give us another referee. For example, if your peer referees cannot speak to your international practice, you may want to ask a practitioner from outside your jurisdiction to give you a reference. It is desirable, although not essential, that at least one of your referees be a Fellow of the IAFL.  Again, applicants to the European Chapter should refer to the additional guidance below.

Please do not give us testimonials or collect references yourself. All we need is the referee’s email address and we shall contact them. We send them a copy of the admission criteria that apply to you and ask them to give us their comments, and any other information that they think that we should be aware of.

Additional Guidance for Applications to the European Chapter

The European Chapter Admissions Committee will ordinarily expect that you provide three references: two that will address your standing amongst your peers and one that will address your international experience.

To satisfy the criteria that the candidate is recognised by their peers as one of the most experienced and skilled family law practitioners in the jurisdiction in which they practise, the Admissions Committee likes to see two domestic references from independent peers.

In addition to the general requirement that all referees be independent, in the case of applicants from the UK, Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland, to avoid any perception of conflict, the Admissions Committee would expect the following: if you are a Barrister/Advocate that your referees will be from chambers/stables other than your own, and not from solicitors who regularly instruct you, and if you are a solicitor that your referees will not be from counsel you regularly instruct.

To address the international experience elements of the admission criteria, the Admissions Committee would ordinarily expect an international reference from outside your own jurisdiction (and, in the case of applications from the UK, a reference from outside the UK).  The Committee is unlikely to regard the Admissions Criteria as having been met if you rely solely on domestic referees speaking to your international practice.

Will you review my draft application?

There is no process for formal review of any draft application.

Will the information I give you be shared with third parties?


When will I hear if my application has been successful?

We will acknowledge your application when it is received. We will not provide you with an anticipated decision date, which is dependent on how swiftly your references are received, how comprehensive your application is and where your application falls in our meeting cycle (see below).

When your application is received, we take up your references (see above). When they have been received a copy of them and your application is forwarded to the members of the admissions committee for your geographical area for consideration (we have USA, European, Asia Pacific and Canadian chapter admissions committees and a ‘rest of the world’ admissions committee for those applicants who fall outside chapter areas). The Committee will not consider your application until references have been received. The admissions committees generally meet three times a year. Once the admissions committee have concluded their consideration and made recommendations, the application is considered by the Board of Admissions (which comprises the IAFL Executive Committee). Again, this Board generally meets three times a year (to coincide with meetings of the Academy/Chapters in Feb/Mar, May/June and September each year).

You should be aware that it is not uncommon for the Board of Admissions to defer taking a decision and to refer applications back to the individual admissions committee for further enquiry, in which case your application will fall to be considered at the next Academy/Chapter meeting.

To maximise your chances of a swift response, make sure that your referees are ready to deal with the request that they will be sent (see above) and ensure that your application is received by us at least two months before the next Academy/Chapter meeting.

It may be some months, on occasion up to a year, until you receive a decision on your application for fellowship. Please note that the IAFL Admissions Secretary will not be able to provide you with updates as to progress, as she is not party to the deliberations of the admissions committees.

How do you assess my application?

Once references have been received the appropriate admissions committee (see above) will meet to individually review the information you have provided. They may seek information from existing fellows or others. They may investigate further themselves by considering other material, for example, peer directories, information available publicly from professional bodies, reported decisions etc. When the admissions committee meet, they will discuss matters confidentially and make recommendations to the Board of Admissions. Ultimately the decision to offer fellowship lies with the Board of Admissions.

What happens after my application has been considered?

Once your application has been considered by the Board of Admissions you will receive an email from the Admissions Secretary (this will be within a month of the Academy/Chapter meeting at which the decision was taken) advising you of the outcome of your application. 

What are the costs?

We recognise that the costs of Fellowship may be prohibitive for some. If you wish, for whatever reason, to apply for a reduction in the dues, which are set out below, such an application would be considered and dealt with confidentially at the point of accepting an invitation to join the IAFL, or at any time subsequently. 

The costs for making an application:

  • There is an administration fee of $100 for all applications. The fee is not refundable, but if your application is successful, it is credited against your initial joining fee (which is a one-off payment of $175).

The costs of becoming a Fellow:

  • If you’re invited to become a Fellow, to join you need to pay (i) a one-off, initial joining fee of $175 (this becomes $75 when account is taken of the administration fee that you will have already paid); (ii) the first year’s annual dues, currently $550 per year, and (iii) annual Chapter dues, if you practice in one of the geographical areas covered by our Chapters: currently USA Chapter $250, European Chapter $225, Asia Pacific Chapter $150 and Canadian Chapter $200. Note: Chapter membership is not optional; if you practise in a part of the world where there is a Chapter, you are required to be a member of that Chapter. Currently we have USA, European, Asia Pacific and Canadian Chapters. If you are unsure about whether your jurisdiction falls within one of the Chapters, please ask.
  • If you’re invited to become a Judicial or Associate Fellow, to join you need to pay (i) a one-off, initial joining fee of $175 (this becomes $75 when account is taken of the administration fee that you will have already paid); (ii) the first year’s annual dues, currently $80 per year.

The ongoing costs of Fellowship:

  • Each year you will need to pay IAFL annual dues (currently $550 for Fellows and $80 for Judicial and Associate Fellows). Payment is made in advance and due by the 1st of January each year.
  • Fellows who are in a Chapter, you will need to pay Chapter annual dues (currently USA Chapter $250, European Chapter $225, Asia Pacific Chapter $150 and Canadian Chapter $200). Payment is made at the same time as your IAFL annual dues.

The costs of attending meetings:

Currently there are three meetings a year- the IAFL annual meeting and AGM (this may be anywhere in the world, 2022 AGM will be held in Marrakech); the European Chapter meeting (held in Europe) and the joint USA and Canadian Chapters meeting (held in the US or Canada). From 2023, there will be a fourth meeting each year- the Asia Pacific Chapter meeting (to be held in Bangkok).

For each meeting, you need to pay a registration fee - this varies from meeting to meeting, but is generally between $350-$750. The Education and some activities, such as drinks receptions, are included in the registration fee, but the cost of most other activities is additional. The activities are optional.  Participants are encouraged to stay in the conference hotel (or hotels) which allows you to spend more time with fellow delegates. 

Again, we recognise that the costs of attending meetings can be prohibitive, and there is a fund to help with the cost, for those who wish to make use of it.  Any application for such assistance would also be dealt with confidentially.

Is there mentoring available to individuals who may want to apply in future?

We may be able to offer some informal mentoring support to individuals who are likely to apply for fellowship in future. There is no formal structure for mentoring, which varies from place to place and depends on the individuals involved.  The mentor's role is limited to giving you general thoughts on areas that you should be working on, with a view to preparing for an application in future. For most people this mentoring support would involve the occasional call or email. The ideal time for mentoring support is around two years before you anticipate making an application.

We cannot guarantee all applicants a mentor, but we do try and assist as much as possible. Priority is given to individuals who are from a part of the world where there are fewer fellows and where it may be more difficult for potential applicants to access informal support and guidance from existing fellows.

Can I come to a meeting if I am not a fellow, to see what it’s like?

If you are thinking of applying in future one of the most valuable things to do is to come to one of our meetings as a lawyer guest. You can meet fellows and get an idea of what fellowship offers. You attend as a lawyer guest (the costs of attendance at each conference vary, but you can get an idea from the Events page on our website). If you don’t know an existing fellow well enough to ask to come as their guest, do contact our Executive Director, Annie Dunster (, and she can arrange for one of our fellows to be introduced to you, so that you can come as their guest.

Note, once you are eligible to apply for fellowship you may only attend a maximum of two of our Chapter/Academy meetings before you apply for fellowship. We do periodically hold other meetings which can be attended as many times as you like- these are specifically designed for more junior, or general, practitioners.

Can I be a Fellow/listed in more than one jurisdiction?

You can be admitted as a Fellow in more than one jurisdiction if you successfully meet the admission criteria for the additional jurisdiction(s). A separate application is required for each additional jurisdiction and the same admission criteria and procedure is followed for each application (see above). Fellows who go on to be admitted in a subsequent jurisdiction(s) do not require to pay a second joining fee, nor any Chapter dues (if applicable) and only one set of annual dues are levied in respect of the additional jurisdiction(s), currently $150, per jurisdiction. NOTE: Each US state is a distinct jurisdiction and if Fellows wish to appear in our listings as a Fellow in a state that is not their admission state, a separate application will be required, as provided for here.

Although I am admitted in one jurisdiction I also practice in another/other places; where will I be listed as a Fellow?

You will be listed in the jurisdiction(s) in respect of which you have been admitted. If you work in another jurisdiction(s), in which which you have not been admitted, and want to be listed there instead of your admission jurisdiction, such requests will be considered on a case by case basis. Any such listing will make clear that you are not admitted as a fellow in that jurisdiction. In considering any such requests we will have regard to the need to ensure that the reputation of the Academy is maintained, that the general public and practitioners are able to readily ascertain who is admitted as a fellow in any given jurisdiction, and the particular circumstances in the jurisdiction in question. There may be jurisdictions in respect of which we will not allow non-admission listing. 

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IAFL is a worldwide association of practising lawyers who are recognised by their peers as the most experienced and skilled family law specialists in their respective countries.

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