President's Blog, January 2021
Posted: 28 Jan 2021 by Marlene Eskind Moses
To illustrate the importance of the IAFL and the loyalty of our membership, I am thrilled to report that 97 percent of our Fellows have renewed their membership for next year or have resigned due to retirement. This is a tremendous accomplishment! There are good reasons for our success.
When the pandemic hit, even though we could not have in-person meetings, Nancy Berg through the USA Chapter began weekly chats. All fellows were invited to participate. These chats have expanded into additional monthly chats for the Asia-Pacific, European and Canadian Chapters. The USA Chapter has since reduced the chat frequency to once a month. The chats have been very well received and attended.
In addition to our monthly chats, we continue to have monthly webinars. These sessions have been stellar as well. Some of the topics that have been covered include: “When Children and Adults Transition: Challenges for the Families and the Law,” “Religious Freedom to Curtail Freedom,” “Choice of Jurisdiction and Forum Shopping,” "Dispute Resolution with Focus on Arbitration,” “Surrogacy Worldwide,” “Modern Way of Dealing with Couples, Separation and Children,” "Keeping the Administration of Justice Going Remotely-Managing the Challenges,” and “What is a Career Worth?”
We also had an inaugural webinar which was a combined effort with LAWASIA/World Congress on the topic of “When Home is Where the Violence is-The Pandemic Paradox.”
The USA Chapter had a very successful breakfast and recruitment Zoom call including quiche, champagne and orange juice delivered to potential Fellows arranged and packaged by USA Chapter President, Reneaux Collins. The recruits then joined our webinar “How to Successfully Develop an International Family Law Practice with the IAFL". This was our first open webinar and the largest to date, with non-Fellow participants from 26 different jurisdictions. Many thanks to Amanda Trigg who organized and produced the seminar along with the excellent presenters.
We celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Hague with a webinar, “Hague Convention 1980 40th Anniversary.” Many thanks to Carolina Marín Pedreño for suggesting and formulating this well-received program.
Ali Massey has coordinated all of these with great skill and much patience. We are most grateful to her and all of the brilliant presenters. All of these webinars and chats have been provided free of charge to our Fellows.
We are all looking forward to the “Hot Topics in Family Law in Africa” meeting on February 5, 2021. As a result of the hard work of Jorge Cestero and Rachael Kelsey a dynamic program joining with Commonwealth Lawyers Association and including speakers from many areas of Africa will be presented.
In spite of the numerous cancelled hotel contracts, destination management contracts, and other venue cancellations, we are in sound financial shape. During 2020, IAFL has increased our operating reserves by approximately $130,000. Donna Goddard does a spectacular job balancing our budget along with the able assistance of the IAFL treasurers Heather Hostetter and Jason Naimi.
The Amicus Committee under the able leadership of Ed Freeman have been very active submitting Amicus Briefs. The most recent submissions in England and Canada provide the courts with serious issues to consider, particularly the aspect of joint parental responsibility in asylum petitions, an issue not raised by either party, the court or the other interveners.
A global survey drafted by James Carroll and the Communication with Fellows Committee was sent to our members. The response was outstanding with 283 Fellows and 48 Non-Fellows responding.
Strategic Planning Session
From the information obtained in the survey, a strategic planning session was held with members of the Executive Committee and other invited guests. Linked below are the notes from the IAFL Strategic Planning Meeting on December 1, 2021.
Tom Sasser skilfully led us through a Zoom interactive session which included four break-out sessions. Each group focused on a topic including: Increasing Fellow Involvement, Digital Communication, Chapters (new chapters and/or consolidation of existing chapters), and Meetings (location and frequency). From the discussion groups came information and an action plan. Thus, we now have a strategic plan from which we will work going forward.
One of the suggestions from the strategic plan is the formation of interest groups. We decided to start with a pilot project with three such groups. They are: Inter-Country Child Abduction and Protection Measures, Contracts in International Family Law Matters, and Taxation. Interest group leaders will be assigned and Fellows will be given the opportunity to join one or more.
New Fellow User Guide
A New Fellow User Guide is being prepared for distribution to our new Fellows. Many thanks to Nancy Berg, William Longrigg, Tom Sasser and the other contributors for making this project a reality.
Translation of our IAFL Brochure
We now have our IAFL Brochure translated into French. Thus, we have English, Spanish, Chinese and now French. These will help in our recruitment of new Fellows efforts.
Friends of the Hague Conference Foundation
It has been suggested that the IAFL have an annual Hague Webinar. The proceeds of the webinar would go to the Friends of the Hague Foundation in memory of Anne-Marie Hutchinson who was heroic in her efforts to protect her clients and was a superior advocate. IAFL Fellow, Suzanne Harris, created the Foundation to assist the Hague with its various projects including: supporting interns, updating the electronic caselaw database, updating country profile with information about their ratifications, approvals or the lack thereof, updating publications and getting publications translated. This will come before the Executive Committee for approval.
I continue to remain grateful to our most competent independent contractors who help run our organization including Donna Goddard, Ali Massey, Sarah Lenoir, Sarah Broadbent, Susan Stafford, Jennifer Dooley, and Daphne da Rosa. We have completed the yearly evaluations of all our contractors and the reviews have been excellent.
Thanks for the joy of leading this extraordinary organization. It is my honor.
Marlene Eskind Moses