A showcase of FIGT Members' written work, focusing on the issues we study, the best practices we share and the strategies we provide to support the entire expatriate family. Contributions are welcome from current members, please use our online submittal form below.

  • 29 May 2016 7:28 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Geneva Rockeman

    My siblings and I grew up knowing we were Third Culture Kids (TCKs). My parents were expats, but both had grown up in small towns in middle America and I think they spent most of their parenting energy keeping track of our weird little brains and making sure the life they’d picked for us wasn’t turning us into antisocial train wrecks. They asked a lot of questions and made us think before we answered.

    They went to seminars. My parents talked to other expats. They asked questions. We went on retreats with other TCKs. When my father retired and we moved to the US, there was a week-long re-entry camp I attended. It was wonderful! They asked us a lot of questions. I was being heard and I remembered I wasn’t alone. I knew I was one of many people who felt like I did.

    But it had been years since I attended anything similar. There was always some obstacle, and over the last few years I had forgotten what these gatherings were like. I had forgotten how it felt to be asked the right questions and have my answer be heard.

    “You lived in Ethiopia? Lucky! Was the coffee amazing?”

    Yes, random stranger, yes it was. It was actually something of a transcendent experience. Thank you for asking. I will also tell you about the way they measure time and how frankincense smells. I now feel a deep connection between our souls and I think we should be friends.

    “When you hear the call to prayer, don’t you feel homesick?”

    Yes, person I met five minutes ago. Now I’m going to cry on your shoulder a little bit, like I know you really well. Then, you’re going to cry a little too, and we’re going to never speak of this again. It’s not weird.

    The sessions were just as excellent, bright, pointed, and, sometimes, emotional.  

    I sat through hours of presentations, cramming information into my notebook, hoping I could remember it all. I often felt I hadn’t taken in enough, disappointed I couldn’t attend all of them.  Everyone asked questions. It must’ve been difficult for the presenters to answer them all. Almost every session went a little bit over time, but every question felt relevant and the presenters clearly wanted to answer them. 

    I felt wrung out when the conference was over, in a good way. I was sad to be leaving, not only because I would miss being in such positive company, but because I was reminded what it felt like to ask these questions and share information. It was a safe place. I left feeling satisfied, and heard, and like my questions had been answered.

    Geneva Rockeman has lived in many different climates and holds strong opinions on whether or not winter has ever been necessary. She writes for poetry for pleasure and prose for profit because she has been told that it is cheaper and less harmful than a drugs habit.  

  • 29 May 2016 7:19 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Meghali Pandey

    I knew next to nothing about the Families in Global Transition (FIGT) conference before someone recommended applying for the Parfitt Pascoe Writing Residency (PPWR). What an exciting experience it has been ever since.

    As an ‘untraditional’ adult Third Culture Kid (ATCK), I didn’t attend many international schools during my childhood, and I live in a country where very few know of the term Third Culture Kid. It was refreshing to encounter people who not only understood my experiences, but had similar global stories to share. The best part was many of these were friends and familiar faces from my TCK community on Twitter, where I first discovered the power in connecting and sharing stories with expats and TCKs across the world. A fitting experience indeed for #FIGT16NL, the theme of which was Moving Across Cultures: Bringing Empathy and Expertise to the Evolving Global Family.

    As a PPWR scholar, I found it particularly inspiring to meet a variety of writers at the conference this year, from bloggers and journalists to authors with multiple publications under their belt. I found great joy and relished even the little details in the making of myriad connections – like how not one person asked me that dreaded question, ‘Where are you from?’ And unlike previous international conferences I’ve attended, there was no country flag branded onto my name badge, giving me the opportunity to bring my true self to the conference and avoid yet another identity crisis.

    There were several different types of organisations and individuals attending the conference, which took place outside the USA for the first time since its inception. This year the conference was held in Amsterdam. For many like me, this was their first experience of Amsterdam, yet everybody seemed happily at home and eager to be present. It was a family reunion even for those of us who were joining the FIGT family for the first time; a homecoming truly understood when sharing individual and family tales of global transition, spanning from humorous and joyous to challenging and tragic.

    For most of us lucky ones, the journey continues. The researchers from the conference have gone back with fresh ideas for further study. All attendees have been given much food for thought through contemporary challenges and additions to old-school notions of gender and race in the evolving global family. As for us PPWR scholars, we are excitedly getting down to pooling together all the stories we told and heard about our new family.


    Meghali Pandey is an adult third culture kid (ATCK) who works in youth development and cultural diplomacy. She has written for Youth to End Sexual ViolenceOnpartu, and Use Your Difference magazine. She has worked with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (UK) on youth engagement with foreign policy, in international cultural exchange with the Cabinet Office of Japan, and on developing cross-cultural youth engagement during disaster and conflict. She is currently developing her writing as a means to explore identity and belonging as an ATCK. 

  • 16 May 2016 2:47 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    by Connla Stokes - Global Connection - Expat Partner Support

    Photo: Rennett Stowe – Flickr

    Coming up with your business name is undoubtedly a vital step for any start-up (big or small). But what if you can’t think of a good name? To avoid frustration, there are some effective ways to assist the process.

    Naming your company

    So you are about to start a company. You even have a business plan and investment. But there’s one thing holding you back: you don’t have a name. Of course, nobody has to tell you that your new company name has numerous branding, marketing, and web implications. In fact, it’s such an obviously important step that the danger is you will start to get frustrated when an ideal name proves elusive. Should this be the case, there are some techniques to make brainstorming sessions more effective.

    Write down keywords

    Rather than randomly trying to pluck the killer name from thin air, write down all the keywords associated with your product and service. Next, grab a thesaurus and write down all of the synonyms for these words. You can enter keywords on websites such as Domainr.com to generate clever abbreviations or Wordroid.com to generate derivations. By playing around with associated names, hopefully you will hit upon something that accentuates what it is you do.

    Unique (but not weird)

    When whittling down the shortlist, you will want to look for something that will set your brand apart. But be careful in how you go about picking a unique name. For example, avoid unusual spellings that will confuse customers/clients and make sure it’s easy to pronounce and therefore easy to remember. Skip acronyms and keep it short. Also forget hyphens or idiosyncratic characters. If you use a single word and it can be turned into a verb, à la Google, all the better!

    Don’t box yourself in

    Remember to consider the international implications – could the name be negatively construed elsewhere in the world? And is the name transferable? Don’t box your business in by using a geographic location or a product category in your business name. If it sounds too specific, customers will be confused if you expand your business to different locations or branch out in terms of products/services. But do give customers an inkling as to what you do or sell.

    Is it even available?

    In this digital era, your company name and internet domain name should also be the same. Most people will assume that your company name is your domain name minus the suffix ‘.com’. If in doubt, test the name out. But if possible, bypass your family and friends, who know you too well, or know too much. Ask other parents you know from your kids’ school, for example. If they are your target market all the better. As the saying goes, the customer knows best.

    Adapted and edited from an original article, in Global Connection's media for spouses (B2B subscription).

    For more information: www.global-connection.info

  • 14 May 2016 6:05 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Catarina Queiroz

    An eclectic bunch. Tears and strong emotions. Scholars and sturdy research. Great food and networking. So many interesting people to talk to. That was my first Families in Global Transition (FIGT) experience.

    All the different backgrounds

    I caught bits and pieces, glimpses of the whole story as I hopped from one session to another to keep up with my writing scholar duties. The sessions I covered were great, but I wish I could have attended the others as well. My favorite part of the conference was getting to meet people from so many different backgrounds and soak in their rich experiences.

    Hybrids and originals

    What do a missionary kid, a PhD student and a grieving mom have in common? A lot it seems, since their humanity has been shaped and reshaped by their nomadic life. Living in different countries and adjusting to several cultures changes us – body, soul and all. We become unique cultural hybrids. Amidst locals we sometimes feel lonely, misunderstood, out of place. But when we go to a conference like FIGT, it’s as if we are finally reunited with our Original family – a bit like in the TV show (minus the vampire aspect).

    Writing it down

    Now that it’s over I’m lucky I get to process it through the articles I will be writing. The beauty of writing is it’s subjective. I’m sure my view of a session is mine and only mine, but that’s what makes it interesting and shareable. It’s a gift, the writer’s life – being allowed to phrase and rephrase until you are content. You cannot truly get something out of your system until you shape it into words. In that sense writing it down is the ultimate redemption.

    The whole story

    I’m going to write about the sessions I attended – that’s my contribution to the bits and pieces of giddy exhilaration, overwhelming sadness, great sense of humor and profound reflection that were scattered in those conference rooms and the FIGT atmosphere in general. My fellow scholars will contribute with their words as well. I’m sure they saw, heard and felt a lot that I missed. They also have different filters and preconceptions, other experiences that will fit in just right, maintaining the balance of it all. Together we can maybe attempt to tell the whole story.

    Catarina Queiroz was a PPWR scholar at the FIGT 2016. conference. Catarina was born in Portugal but spent her childhood in South Africa and Botswana. She was in her early teens when her family returned to Portugal, where she went on to major in Philosophy, becoming a trained high school teacher. After getting married and having her daughter she traded teaching for freelance writing, translating and coaching, and joined her husband for a two year adventure in the Netherlands. She is now back in Portugal, enjoying reverse cultural shock yet again, writing on her blog and working as an Expat Partner Consultant. In her free time she loves reading and travelling. www.bycatarina.com 

  • 06 May 2016 8:05 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Dounia Bertuccelli

    If you’ve ever attended a Families in Global Transition (FIGT) conference, you’ve likely found yourself thinking, I wish I could attend every session! There are so many options and there is always something you’re missing out on. There are also many people who would love to attend the conference, but unfortunately cannot be there. In 2014, however, the Parfitt Pascoe Writing Residency (PPWR) was created to help solve these dilemmas as well as to to give budding writers a chance to hone their craft.

    Fulfilling a Dream

    The PPWR is named after expat authors, FIGT advocates (honored with FIGT ‘Trailblazer’ awards in 2010) and longtime friends Jo Parfitt and Robin Pascoe. Although the program carries both names, it is created and run by Jo, who is also a publisher, speaker and writers’ mentor.

    Jo’s dream was to create a program that would allow more people to have access to the wealth of knowledge and resources presented at the FIGT conferences. She also wanted to provide a platform for new and aspiring expat/ TCK writers to grow their writing career. The creation of the PPWR was the culmination of this dream.

    Four writing scholars are selected to attend the conference at a reduced fee in return for writing about the sessions they attend. Before the conference the scholars receive one-on-one mentoring from Jo on writing articles, taking notes and preparing for their writing responsibilities.

    The scholars are tasked with covering every session of the conference, conducting interviews with experts in attendance and writing reviews of expat/ TCK related books. They are also expected to publish several blog posts in the months following the conference and be active on social media before, during and after the conference. Completing all of these tasks requires motivation, organization, diligence and a passion for writing.

    Creating a Published FIGT Archive

    In addition to helping promote FIGT and the scholars, another important aspect of the PPWR is its role in providing an archive of the FIGT conferences.

    The articles from the first PPWR were compiled and published in a book (print and e-formats) in February 2015. Insights and Interviews from the 2014 FIGT Conference: The Global Family Redefined benefits FIGT, the scholars and the global community. Readers have a complete coverage of the conference readily available, with excellent resources and information on many facets of the expat, TCK and global life. Furthermore, the book helps support the Pollock Scholarship as 15% of profits from books sales go to the David Pollock Scholarship Fund.

    As a 2014 writing scholar, and 2015/ 2016 mentor and editor, I can attest to the benefits of the program and the book. In addition to the benefits for FIGT and the readers, being published in a book is also a great source of pride and career growth for the scholars. The PPWR’s hope in the future is to have enough support to publish a book every year. Until then, however, the articles will be regularly published on the FIGT blog, the scholars’ personal websites and magazines. The FIGT archive can still be created, across a vast online platform.

    In the first three years of the program, the scholars have come from a variety of backgrounds, experiences and generations. Each one has their own unique expat/ TCK story and a passion for writing. The PPWR is a program that serves its purpose well, creating great opportunities for the writers and making the FIGT content more accessible to a wider audience.


    For more information on the PPWR: www.figt.org/Parfitt-Pascoe-Writing-Residency

    Insights and Interviews from the 2014 FIGT Conference: The Global Family Redefined, Summertime Publishing, February 2015

    Dounia Bertuccelli is a TCK and freelance writer, editor, photographer and published author. She also co-hosts the monthly twitter chat #TCKchat, writes the #TCKchat column for Among Worlds magazine and is Expat Resource Manager at Global Living Magazine. Currently based in the US, Dounia grew up in France, Australia, Philippines, Mexico, USA and Cyprus, and has studied/lived in the UK, France and USA as an adult. She writes about her experiences growing up as a TCK and adjusting as an ATCK on her blog Next Stop (https://tcknextstop.wordpress.com/). 

  • 02 May 2016 5:35 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Hugo Lesser works at Bright!Tax, a leading US expat tax services provider for Americans living abroad. In this article he shares tips for US citizens abroad on filing their taxes.

    For Americans living stateside, tax season has now ended for this year. Expats however get an automatic two month filing extension until June 15th, and can extend it still further until October 15th if they choose to. So with expat tax season very much still afoot, here are our top tax season tips for Americans living abroad.

    Tip 1 – Don't hope to hide

    The US is the only developed nation that taxes on citizenship rather than residence. This means that US citizens and green card holders have to pay income tax to the IRS on their worldwide income, wherever in the world they live.

    It's a matter of public record that there are millions more Americans living abroad who are not currently filing tax returns.  Either they don't know that they have to file, or they are hoping that the IRS won't find them.

    Besides being able to request tax payer info from most foreign governments, under the FATCA law since 2014 the IRS has been collecting account data of US citizens with accounts at foreign banks. As such, the IRS knows about all income all US expats paid into foreign bank accounts in 2015. If a tax return doesn't match this info, or if there's no return filed, the IRS can simply send them a letter.

    The good news is that if you've been living abroad but weren't aware of your US filing obligations, there's a program called the IRS Streamlined Procedure that allows you to start filing without incurring any penalties for previous non-compliance. This is best done before the IRS comes knocking. To qualify, you must file your last three returns and your last six FBARS (more about FBARs to follow), and self-certify that you weren't previously wilfully avoiding tax.

    Tip 2 - Know your obligations

    The first step when filing is to know with what you have to do and by when.

    If you're a US citizen or green card holder and you earn a minimum of $10,000 anywhere in the world you have to file a form 1040.

    Expats with overseas assets worth over $200,000 also have to file form 8938 with their return.

    Americans who had at least $10,000 in aggregate  in one or more foreign financial accounts at any time during the tax year also have to declare their overseas accounts on FinCEN form 114, also known as FBAR (Foreign Bank Account Report). This year's deadline for FBARs is June 30th, however from next year it should be filed with form1040.

    Tip 3 - Plan your exclusions

    The two main ways of avoiding paying tax on foreign earned income twice (to the IRS and in another country) are the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE) and the Foreign Tax Credit.

    The FEIE allows you to exclude the first $100,800 of your foreign earned income from US tax. Once you claim the FEIE, you must keep claiming it until you let the IRS know that you no longer want to.

    The Foreign Tax Credit meanwhile lets you claim a dollar tax credit for every dollar of tax that you've paid in another country on the same foreign earned income.

    It's possible to claim both at once if you have more income than the FEIE limit, however if you live in a country with higher income tax rates than in the US, it usually makes more sense to just claim the Foreign Tax Credit, so claiming more credits than the US tax you owe and carrying the excess credits forward for future use.

    Tip 4 - Gather your paperwork

    Whether you're filing your own return or using an expat tax specialist, it's a good idea to gather all your paperwork before you begin. If you filed last year, you'll just need:

    - Last year's return

    - Statements showing your 2015 income

    - Statements showing any foreign tax paid on your 2015 income

    - Foreign account financial statements for 2015 for your FBAR

    If you haven't filed previously but you are ready to start, you'll need:

    - Income and foreign tax statements for the last three years

    - Foreign account financial statements for the last six years (for your FBARs).

    Tip 5 - if you're married to a foreigner, file separately

    If your spouse isn't an American citizen or green card holder, elect to file as 'married filing separately' on form 1040 to prevent them from having to file a federal return and pay US tax.

    Tip 6 - If in doubt, consult an expert

    Tax filing when you live abroad is typically more complex than when you live in the US. The penalties for not filing or filing incorrectly are typically steeper for expats too, so if you have any doubts or questions, get in touch with a US expat tax specialist for advice.

    For more information please see http://brighttax.com

  • 22 Apr 2016 1:01 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Culturs Global Multicultural Magazine was established specifically for a globally-mobile, diverse population.  Its articles address needs, desires and attitudes that sometimes only are understood, and certainly are appreciated, by our very unique population.  Founded by a globally-nomadic, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural TCK who identified with seven countries before adulthood, the premise is to provide community-a sense of home for those whom the answer "where is home" comes not so easily.                                                                      

    With expert contributors from around the world, and between 50 and 100 content creators - Culturs is devoted to providing content to uplift and create community and a sense of place that may not be readily available in other arenas.  Online, in print and on t.v. - turn to Culturs to get your globally-mobile TCK fix!

    Here's a sample of articles you'll find on www. Culturs.guru. Please click on the link below to find the wonderfully sensitive article "Confronting Goodbyes," by Culturs Expert Myra Dyumpais, who is head of Culturs Partner Organization TCKid.  Enjoy!


    "I only figured it out when I experienced the deepest goodbye I have ever experienced in my life thus far: the goodbye journey I had with my mother when she passed away.  It wasn’t until she passed away earlier this year that I reflected on how she said goodbye to me throughout the years."


  • 15 Apr 2016 12:46 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Vivian Chiona, founder and director of Expat Nest, is a psychologist with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degrees in both Child & Adolescent Psychology and Health Psychology. As a bi-cultural, multilingual expat with family all over the world, she is familiar with the blessings of a mobile life… as well as its challenges. As a result of both her professional and personal experience, it didn’t take her long to notice the significant need for counselling services devoted to expatriates. Vivian was inspired by this demand to create an ‘expat nest’, a comforting, empathetic environment in which expats could feel heard and understood, as well as deal with challenges specific to the expat life.

    In this two-part blog she explores the concept of the lovepat, naming 7 things to consider before moving for love and 8 top tips for ensuring a happy life in one’s new home.  

    Love-expat: How far would you go for love? (Part A)


    Love-expat: Creating a meaningful life abroad (Part B)


  • 11 Apr 2016 6:07 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    In the first of a series of profiles of FIGT members, Diane Lemieux asked Amanda Bate about her links to FIGT and her latest project, The Black Expat website.

    DL: How long have you been an FIGT member and what attracted to you the network?

    AB: I have been a member since 2014. Honestly, I knew very little about FIGT beforehand. I was doing some online research on Third Culture Kids and found a link to Ellen Mahoney’s (of Sea Change Mentoring) website. While I was reading her bio, I learned that she had been a 2013 FIGT Pollock Scholar. I was intrigued about that. I had a chance to meet David Pollock when I was a high school student at an international school many years before. So I reached out to her and she told me about both being a Pollock Scholar and subsequently the FIGT conference. She encouraged me to attend the annual conference in 2014 and I’ve been a member ever since.

    DL: You have just launched The Black Expat, an online magazine that gives voice to individuals whose life stories link globally mobility and black identities. How did this project come about?

    A myriad of factors led to the launching of the Black Expat. As the founder of Bate Consulting, I found that there was very little in general about the black Third Culture Kid experience. There seemed to be a real lack of resources about how racial identity plays a role in international living. This has been apparent as the co-founder and co-moderator of TCKchat on Twitter. I started to notice that some of the black adult TCKs were talking about specific issues related to their race that hadn’t really been discussed openly before, much less in a space that deals with the impact of an internationally mobile life.

    In addition, I mentor a number of young black adults. Many of them are considering studying abroad or an international career but they don’t know where to start or what to expect. Most of them have not necessarily been exposed to people who are living the expatriate life and so for them, there’s a lot of mystique around it. I wanted to remove the mystique and say ‘this is accessible to you to’.

    Beyond that, I wanted to reclaim the word expatriate. Many black folks do not realize that the word includes them, too. They think it’s for the glamorous and those who do jobs far more important than theirs. You’d be really surprised, especially those coming from an African or Caribbean background. I wanted members of the Black/African diaspora to understand that they are part of this migration story too.

    DL: How have you been able to accommodate this passion and desire to have an impact on this topic with your day job?

    AB: Well, anyone who knows me, also knows that I basically run around from sun up to sundown. My schedule is a bit bonkers. I work full time as a college access director. Essentially, I help first-generation and low income students in my city (Richmond, VA) figure out their post-secondary options. This is separate from my private practice (Bate Consulting), where I work with students who live abroad. I am fortunate that I have a lot of flexibility, which at this point is a priority for me. Because The Black Expat pulls stories from people who live all over the globe, its important to be accessible, and sometimes that is at 01:00 my time.

    But more importantly, my day job focuses primarily on students of color so I actually have a lot of conversations around travelling, international living, my experiences of being a third culture kid and how to find an international job. So, yes, I do end up talking about The Black Expat a lot!

    I am currently finishing a Masters in Counseling Education with a focus on College Student Development. One of my requirements is a practicum which includes facilitating a counseling group throughout. In a moment of complete providence (because they found me!)  I’m currently running a small counseling group for black female undergraduate students who have all studied abroad and are considering going back abroad once they graduate. In fact, one is going to Benin this summer with the Peace Corps. One thing they all have in common is that they want to see more of their black, undergrad peers (here in Virginia) have international experiences. The conversations and the stories shared in those sessions most certainly affirm why I launched the Black Expat.

    DL: Can you comment on diversity in FIGT and the role it could potentially play in the lives of black expats?

    AB: FIGT is a great organization. I have met some of my favorite people and love the community. That being said, I think more people have to feel like they have a place at the table.

    Perhaps, we need to think more intentionally about reaching within our networks and saying, hey, you should really be a part of this: you, your experiences and your voices are needed. We [Ellen Mahoney and I] did that really well this year with TCKchat. We put out a huge word to our network and we personally contacted our folks and told them to come out. And I think every one who did really contributed to the conversation about global mobility. I saw a lot of big and small conversations happen that I didn’t see in previous years. So I think diversity, and really I mean inclusion, is great for all of us.

    Diversity happens at so many levels. For example, as the sister of someone with significant developmental and physical disabilities, I would love to hear more about how expat families receive support for family members while abroad. I also think an even greater presence from younger expatriates is important. I think hearing the experiences of single parents and single expats is needed. I mean, we really are just scratching the service as to who could be at the table.

    For more information see:



  • 29 Mar 2016 11:13 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Lucy Greenwood, Partner, iFLG

    My Senior Partner, David Hodson, and I were very fortunate to have the opportunity to meet many of you at the FIGT 2016 Conference in Amsterdam. iFLG was delighted to be a sponsor.  We met some truly wonderful people who were very insightful and knowledgeable about issues affecting expatriates and TCKs.

    David and I were interested to hear about the legal family issues many delegates, their friends, families, and clients.

    We felt some of the sad stories we heard had often become unnecessarily complicated. However, we are aware of the long term and sometimes irreversible problems which can be created or worsened by poor or no specialist legal advice about international family law issues.

    The phrase “You just never think it is going to happen to you” is one we hear often. People just don’t talk about or even stop to consider any potential legal issues which might affect their relationships or families when they move abroad, or their spouse is moved abroad.

    Therefore I thought it might be helpful to provide an example about just one issue concerning the movement of children which most commonly arose during our FIGT conference discussions.

    Susan and Costa moved from England to Spain (to be close to his parents) about 2 years ago. They married in England in 2006 and had only lived in England.  They have two children, 2 and 6, both born in England.  Susan and Costa both had good careers in England (Susan had just returned part-time). She knew the move to Spain would impact her career but Costa had better pay in Spain.

    After the move Susan and Costa begin to argue. Susan felt Costa preferred to listen to his parents' opinions than hers. She felt isolated and unhappy. Sadly, Susan and Costa separated about two months ago and Costa moved to his parents' home. Susan longed to return to England with the children where she has a support network and can work, but Costa (and his parents) wanted them to stay in Spain.

    Costa and Susan had a very serious row and Costa hit Susan. Sadly, the children witnessed this.

    Susan immediately packed up and left Spain with the children on the next flight to England. She believed she was fully justified in going home as she was "fleeing" from Costa's harmful behaviour.

    Susan arrived in England and her family embraced her. She enquired about local schools and nurseries and began to feel comfortable and relaxed. She decided to ignore Costa's pestering text messages and calls.

    About six weeks after her return, the police arrived at her door.  The children’s and Susan's passports were seized immediately. She was served with court proceedings for civil (and possibly criminal) child abduction. She was told to appear at the Family High Court in London in a couple of days’ time and told to seek urgent legal advice.

    Susan was bewildered. What did she do wrong? It was Costa that was in the wrong.

    She called a local solicitor. Fortunately they said they were not specialist child abduction lawyers and recommended iFLG which is instructed regularly by the English Government for child abduction cases. 

    Susan was confident there must be some mistake. However, she was told child abduction proceedings are designed only to remedy and return children to their country of habitual residence. Welfare issues are not a criteria (save in the most extreme cases).

    The defences to child abduction are very limited and there were none available to Susan.  She was advised to return voluntarily rather than by court order.  But her specialist lawyers were able to negotiate safeguards/conditions prior to Susan's and the children's return; this included their living  arrangements away from Costa, interim financial support and contact arrangements pending her court application in Spain to be able to relocate legally to England with the children.  

    Susan might try to persuade Costa to agree to the move back to England, particularly if she has been advised by a Spanish lawyer, with whom she was put in touch by iFLG with their network of international contacts, that her chances of relocation via the courts are good.

    Mediation can sometimes also be very successful in resolving such issues (even after an abduction). IFLG offer international family law mediation and have a high success rate even for the seemingly most contentious international matters.  

    If Susan had taken advice earlier, she might have been able to make her difficult situation a little better.  The problems Susan faced could have been limited considerably by discussion with the other parent before any initial move abroad. She could even have had a written agreement about what both parents agree should happen if they separate whilst abroad or perhaps agree when they plan to return. Whilst such agreements might not be binding (particularly after time has lapsed) they can provide good evidence of the parents' intentions at the time of a move. Such discussion also alerts the other parent in advance of the potential difficulties. Take your advice immediately on return to England could have prevented the distress of the police arrival and service of papers at home.

    Remember, if you separate abroad you cannot return home with the children without the other parent’s consent or a court order. If a relocation is agreed, ask the other parent to confirm their consent in writing (email suffices) as evidence for border agencies and in case the other parent changes his mind

    The movement of children across national borders is one of many legal matters to consider prior to or after any move abroad.  Others include divorce, separation, related financial claims and jurisdiction/forum issues

    Lucy Greenwood is a specialist International family lawyer at The International Family Law Group LLP (www.iflg.uk.com) based in Covent Garden, London. IFLG advises about any legal aspects affecting relationships including pre-nuptial agreements, divorce, finances upon divorce or children issues. They work closely with specialist advisers in England and abroad.  If you have any questions, please contact Lucy Greenwood at lucy.greenwood@iflg.uk.com.


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