European Chapter 35th Anniversary Celebrations Begin!

Posted: 14 May 2024 by Annie Dunster and Sandra Verburgt

On 25th April 2024 the European Chapter kick-started its 35th Anniversary celebrations in style and took a trip down memory lane courtesy of zoom and hosted by current Chapter President Sandra Verburgt. A total of 9 Chapter Presidents were on the call as well as about 40 Fellows both long-standing and new to the Academy with past and current officers. There was sheer delight as those on screen recognized people they had not seen for a while!

It was a pleasure to be joined by the 1st European Chapter President, Miles Preston, who while serving as the 2nd President of the then English Chapter, championed extending the Chapter’s borders to include Europe. During Miles’s Presidency the first meeting of the European Chapter took place in Paris in April 1989. The meeting followed the same format that we use today providing a mix of education, networking, camaraderie, and dancing.

Douglas Alexiou, who was Chapter President from 1998-2002 recalled chairing a meeting in Amsterdam and paid tribute to Fellow Carla Smeets who had played a key role in arrangements for the meeting including a walking tour through Amsterdam’s infamous red light district. During his presidency in 1999 the IAFL faced the untimely death of Audrey DuCroux whom the IAFL still honours with an annual eponymous lecture, Audrey was European Chapter President from 1994-1996 and at the time of her premature death was about to become the first female President of the Academy. Following his European Chapter presidency, Douglas stepped in as IAFL President.

Haroula Constandinidou’s presidency from 2004-2006 hailed the first concerted effort for expansion in under and un-represented jurisdictions as well as collaboration with other like-minded organizations. The meeting which IAFL’s Dancing Queen Mia Reich-Sjogren organized in Stockholm in 2009 provided a raft of memories including a highlight for many, dancing to an ABBA tribute band. The 2nd meeting which Mia organized in Munich kept fellows in Munich for longer than they had planned due to the ash cloud from the Icelandic volcano Eyjafallajökull which caused widespread disruption to European air traffic for several days. IAFL President Rachael Kelsey spoke briefly about her Chapter presidency which was during the pandemic. The Chapter’s zoom chats and webinars date back from that time.

Other past Chapter Presidents William Longrigg, David Salter and Mark Harper each provided memories of shared experiences at various meetings. Everyone had a different favourite meeting with often their first encounter of IAFL being a cherished memory. However, the common theme throughout was the warmth, camaraderie, collegiality and life-long friendships that have developed over the years.

What was equally clear to everyone was that while there is more fun and dancing to be done, thanks to the contributions of many Fellows, the organization has made great progress in working to improve the administration of justice in family law across the globe. Efforts continue with building representation in under and un-represented jurisdictions, IAFL has observer status at the Hague Conference and the EJN, and an impending application for the same with the Council of Europe. The work of the IAFL Amicus Committee is thriving with amicus briefs having been submitted to the UK Supreme Court, the Constitutional Court of Slovakia and the Cour de Cassation in France.  And so may the work, collegiality, professional and friendly exchanges continue well beyond the ending of the music and dancing; and hopefully well beyond the next 35 years!

Annie Dunster                                                                                                                   Sandra Verburgt
IAFL Executive Director                                                                                 European Chapter President

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