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New York City, NY, United States, 2006/08/14 - International family lawyer Jeremy D. Morley announces the launch of a new service known as "Strategic International Divorce Planning" to help international clients plan for a potential divorce.
People with assets and international connections who are contemplating a divorce may benefit from the Strategic International Divorce Planning services of international family lawyer Jeremy D. Morley.
The financial consequences of being divorced in one jurisdiction rather than another might be highly significant. For example, the difference between getting divorced in London instead of in New York can be staggering. England has a well-deserved reputation as the divorce capital of the world for anyone whose spouse is well-endowed with assets. Once the English divorce courts have finished their work, and the English solicitors and barristers have collected their fees, a once-married spouse with assets will now most likely become an ex-spouse with far less assets. Such people often wonder too late why they did not seek international divorce planning advice.
Likewise, the disparity between the practices of divorce courts in Tokyo as compared to those in Sydney, and of the divorce courts in Hong Kong as compared to those in Frankfurt, are equally vast or possibly even more so.
Yet very few people do their homework on these critical issues at a time when it could really make a big difference. They simply assume that wherever they live is necessarily the jurisdiction in which they must sue or be sued. They walk in blind to what may be the most significant financial transaction of their life.
The differences between one divorce jurisdiction and another are far more than the difference between a soccer team playing at home or playing away. It is instead a difference between playing one game at home and a totally different game with totally different rules away.
Jeremy Morley handles international family law matters in New York and, with local counsel, around the world. He has taught in law schools in England, Illinois and Canada, is both English and American, has lived in Japan, has done business in more than 20 countries, has written extensively on international family law and has lectured on international family law.
The Strategic International Divorce Planning process for a motivated client is to:
1. Analyze the Family’s Entire Economic Picture, paying particular attention to any connections that the family has with other countries, to assets that are located overseas and to the possibility of moving assets or family to other jurisdictions.
2. Consult with the Client as to Goals. Divorce lawyers can easily make a bad situation very much worse. They must be extremely sensitive to a client’s real goals. For example, there is no point in advising a client to move his assets into an offshore trust if that will destroy a relationship with his soon-to-be-ex or drive an inappropriate wedge between him and other members of his family. Is the client prepared to move lock, stock and barrel to a new country for a few years? Does he believe that his wife will join him there? How about the children?
3. Provide Initial Analysis of the Law in Several Different Jurisdictions. Morley prepares an initial analysis of the most obvious possible jurisdictions, including jurisdiction of the current residency, the other jurisdictions with which the client or his spouse have substantial connections and any other jurisdictions that the client is interested in, recognizing that if a particular jurisdiction is chosen the client may well need to move there for a substantial period of time and may also be well advised to take others in his family there also.
4. Focus on a few jurisdictions. Morley then usually consults with counsel in those jurisdictions that seem to hold the most promise. They analyze for each “target jurisdiction”:
a) The jurisdictional rules. Will the courts in the target jurisdiction accept the anticipated divorce case, including all financial and child custody issues? What “facts on the ground” will need to be accomplished in order to satisfy the conditions?
b) The grounds for a divorce. What will the client need to prove in the target jurisdiction in order to be entitled to a divorce? What evidence must the client secure in order to do so?
c) The nature of the assets that are included in the target jurisdiction as property that is subject to being apportioned between the parties upon a divorce or that can be considered in making an economic apportionment between the spouses.
d) The method of asset division that is used by courts in the target jurisdiction.
e) The relevance of the conduct of the parties to the division of assets in the target jurisdiction.
f) The philosophy of the courts in the target jurisdiction.
g) Spousal maintenance. What are the rules concerning spousal maintenance (alimony). For what period of time might such payments be required? What is the likely amount of the award? Does the jurisdiction require a “clean break” whereby the spouse must receive a large lump-sum sufficient to generate the income needed to meet lifetime maintenance requirements?
h) Enforceability issues. Whether there are any specific factors which make it particularly easy or difficult to enforce an award in the target jurisdiction.
i) Particular issues. Each case raises specific matters that must be analyzed, depending on such matters as whether there are:
i. Pre-marital assets. Some jurisdictions allow and even encourage the courts to divide even a party’s premarital assets (e.g. England). Others do not (e.g. New York).
ii. Trust assets. Jurisdictions vary considerably in their treatment of assets that a spouse has placed in trust. Some jurisdictions will “pierce” the trust (e.g. Colorado). Others will not (e.g. Japan).
iii. Inherited assets. Many jurisdictions do not divide assets that a spouse has received as an inheritance. Others do (Netherlands).
iv. Gifted assets. Many jurisdictions do not divide assets that a spouse has received as a gift.
v. A pre-nuptial agreement. Some jurisdictions do not recognize prenuptial agreements as binding. (Many British Commonwealth countries). Jurisdictions vary significantly in the bases upon which prenuptial agreements may be invalidated or restricted, in the nature of the burden of proof concerning validity and on other critical factors concerning their applicability.
vi. “Bad conduct” Some jurisdictions punish adultery, criminally and by a financial award to the “innocent spouse” (e.g. Korea). Others allow a divorce for mere incompatibility (e.g. California).
5. Analyze the rules concerning children. Jurisdictions around the world vary enormously in their treatment of children upon a divorce. Issues include:
• Sole custody versus joint custody;
• Minimal visitation rights to a noncustodial parent versus liberal visitation rights;
• Male-dominated approaches versus female;
• National biases versus impartiality;
• Religious biases versus impartiality;
• Freedom to relocate versus limited relocation;
• Freedom to take children overseas versus inability to do so.
6. Select the jurisdiction. Having provided the client with the necessary information concerning each such jurisdiction, the client decides on a strategy.
7. Determine the steps needed to implement the strategy.
Strategic International Divorce Planning makes eminent sense for international clients with serious assets to protect.