INTERNATIONAL PRIVATE LAW
For international families, everywhere, decisions about important life transitions are often complex.Marriage, divorce, separation, adoption, retirement, estate planning, succession are each a life event which requires a fair amount of thinking and planning: Where? How?
Which law applies? Is it possible that the law of more than one country could apply to the same event?
Thus, for a French-American couple planning their marriage, more and more often the question of a Prenuptial Agreement comes up. How to decide which law should apply: French law, California law?
You may find it useful to consult an attorney with experience in international family law.
Preferably before you sign your “Prenup”.
The same issues now also would need to be addressed in the context of a domestic partnership.
Likewise, which laws (plural) will apply if you adopt a child in the U.S. together with your French spouse and you then wish for your child also to acquire French nationality?
Obtaining French nationality may also be of interest for the non-French spouse.
If you think there might, unfortunately, be a divorce coming in the near future, both spouses will likely be preoccupied with housing. Will it be necessary to sell the family home?
Regarding the increased living expenses which come with divorce, will you need some additional training to secure a high paying job?
Or, if you stayed home with the children for many years, you may be concerned about re-entry in the job market.
You may be concerned about the financing of this transition you believe is necessary for you to become self-supporting.
If you have minor children, your first question may be how to share parenting time and responsibility with the other parent.
Such decisions are seldom easy. Especially when geography is a factor.
Each family situation is a unique case. Yet, you will want to know what options California law considers to be in the best interests of minor children.
Also, you are aware that your children’s needs will change as the children grow older. This means you are looking for a parenting plan which will anticipate at least in general terms how the co-parenting schedule might need to be modified in three years, or in five years.
In our ever more mobile society, you may be concerned about having to move to another part of the U.S., for employment reasons or because you are in a new relationship. You would like to know what needs to be done so that the minor children can move with you.
Conversely, you just arrived to California with a “foreign judgment”, and you would like to know how this judgment might be modified by a California court regarding the issues of child custody and parenting, child support, or spousal support.
If you have assets both in the U.S. and abroad, at divorce time, you may have additional questions about division of the marital estate.
The marital estate often includes also debts or other financial obligations. About this also, you would like closure.
Regarding estate planning, you will also want to know what you might need to do to see that your intentions are carried out in regard to succession when you have adopted a child.
For you, estate planning may include finding out your rights about retirement benefits you have acquired in two, or more, countries, and how to collect these social benefits you have earned.
If you are concerned about one of these legal issues, or another such complex issue involving international family law, estate planning or successions, we will be happy to help you.
I have been working with international families having to consider such issues since 1993. First, as a professional mediator, and, since 1996, also as an attorney.
My services include the following: legal information and legal advice, negotiation, family mediation, collaborative family law, representation in litigated matters, and expert witness services on issues of French law, California law, and conflicts of laws.
For a consultation, please call me at 1.310.407.5410.
Joelle Stepien Bailard, J.D., PH.D.