Annual Review 2023

Happy New Year!

On behalf of all at Expatriate Law, I would like to wish you a healthy and prosperous 2024.

It has been another tremendous year for Expatriate Law and it is a privilege to share our news with you in this annual review.

After the tumult of the pandemic, we were thrilled to once again hold our international family law conference. We welcomed over 130 delegates from 20 jurisdictions to discuss the latest international family law landscape to Abu Dhabi, where the recent legal changes have been making headlines. It was lovely to catch up with old and meet new friends at a thought-provoking and insightful conference which 99% of attendees rated as ‘excellent’.  Watch the conference reel

We are delighted to announce our 2024 conference which will cover international family law issues in Europe including enforcement, cross border divorce, forum, maintenance and other issues. It will be held in Cascais, just outside Lisbon, Portugal at the splendid 5* Palacio Estoril hotel. We have a fantastic line-up of speakers, including Sir Nicholas Francis, Tim Amos KC, Charles Hale KC, and Samantha Hillas KC. The cost has again been kept to a minimum; don’t miss the early bird rate offer of £325 for this 1.5-day conference plus special hotel rates. This is to allow as many attendees to benefit from the insights of some of the leading experts in international family law. Find out more about the conference or book your place now on Eventbrite.

Our team was further strengthened by the arrival of leading light Eliza Hebditch, whose reputation in the international family world goes before her, and David Hansford who is experienced in guiding clients through all aspects of family law.

Expatriate Law is one of the only foreign law firms given permission to represent clients in the Abu Dhabi Civil Family Court. This includes Byron James, Head of UAE, appearing as an Advocate in Abu Dhabi Civil Family Court which is included not only regular appearance in that court matters of divorce, financial remedy and children matters, but also in the Court of Appeal in which Byron has been successful on every occasion to date.

Sonny Patel, Head of Singapore, has continued to raise the firm’s profile across Asia and beyond, attending the IAFL Asia-Pacific conference in Bangkok, and participating in the inaugural Cambridge Forum on International HNW family in Barcelona (an invitation-only event for preeminent litigators who have been identified for their experience in practicing complex family law for HNW and UHNW international families).

Hero Lomas became an accredited mediator, qualified to mediate on all issues including children and financial issues. Hero also trained with MiKK to broaden the reach of international mediation. Moreover, Hero runs ‘Family Law Live!’ with 36 Family chambers, a monthly webinar on family law matters that has run for more than two years. You can now tune in to Family Law Live! on Spotify.

The firm’s expertise is frequently sought for international conferences and commentary in the press regarding developments and changes in international family law matters, and we continue to offer accessible, good advice and free guidance through articles, webinars and videos, many in collaboration with lawyers from other jurisdictions, including our video on enforcement with Stephanie Coker of 5 St Andrew’s Hill Chambers.

As ever, thank you for taking the time to read our annual round-up. We sincerely hope to see you at our upcoming conference in Portugal.

My best wishes for the 2024,

Alexandra Tribe

International Family Law Conference 2024 – Cascais (near Lisbon), Portugal

We are excited to extend a warm welcome to family lawyers worldwide, inviting you to join our upcoming conference in Cascais, Portugal. This 1.5-day event will cover an array of international family law topics, providing invaluable insights for practitioners across jurisdictions.

Event Details:

  • Date: Friday 26 – Saturday 27 April 2024
  • Location: Cascais (near Lisbon), Portugal

Conference Highlights: Our conference will feature lectures and panel sessions led by over 15 distinguished family law solicitors, barristers, and Judges. The aim is to foster connections among family lawyers, offering a dynamic platform for learning, collaboration, and friendship.

Topics Include:

  • A comparison of maintenance provision across Europe
  • Service of international family law proceedings in Europe: tips and traps
  • The hazards of ‘Sole domicile’ petitions
  • Enforcing capital and maintenance orders across Europe
  • Prenups across Europe

Please do reach out to if you have any questions.

Book by 11 February for special early bird rate of £325. The standard conference fee is £375.

What’s included in the ticket price:

  • 1.5 days of lectures and presentations with PDF notes as appropriate
  • Networking opportunity
  • Goodie bag
  • Coffee breaks
  • 3-course buffet lunch on both days

For your diaries:

HNW and UHNW Family Law Conference – Spring 2025, Alps

Contact Anna by email on to be notified when booking opens.

New to our team in 2023

Eliza Hebditch has her shoulder length hair half pinned behind ears. She is smiling at the camera and wears a black suit and gold necklace.
David Hansford wears a charcoal suit, white shirt and maroon tie. He is looking at the camera and smiling.
Cristiana has straight, blonde, should-length hair, parted in the centre. Her hair is tucked behind her ears and she's looking at the camera with a friendly smile. She's wearing a black jacket and white buttoned shirt, with the top button undone.
Jack Mitchell wears a white shift, a red and navy patterned tie, and navy blazer. He has short, light brown hair, is wearing round tortoise shells glasses and smiling at the camera.

Awards and recognitions

Family Law Awards 2023

We were finalists in an astounding three categories for the second year running at the prestigious awards.

  • Alexandra Tribe was named ‘International Family Lawyer of the Year’ for her outstanding contribution and dedication in the field.
  • Our Supreme Court case win in the case of Ul-Hassan won ‘Family Law Case of the Year’. We had the most exceptional team of Counsel working with us: Tim Amos KC (QEB), Andrzej Bojarski KC (36 Family) and Joe Rainer (QEB).
  • Oscar Smith was shortlisted as ‘Family Law Associate of the Year’.

The awards build on last year’s recognition when we had three finalists at the Family Law Awards 2022, with Byron James and Sonny Patel shortlisted in the ‘International Family Lawyer of the Year’ category and Hero Lomas shortlisted in the ‘Family Law Commentator of the Year’ category for her work with Family Law Live! along with collaborators at 36 Family and Anthony Gold. Byron James was awarded the International Family Lawyer of the Year 2022.

Ranked in Chambers & Partners High Net Worth Guide 2023

Expatriate Law continues to be ranked Band 1 in the UAE Family/Matrimonial High Net Worth Guide, with both Alexandra Tribe and Byron James also being individually ranked in the guide.

Sonny has been individually ranked for the first time in the Chambers and Partners’ Singapore HNW 2023 Family Matrimonial guide.

Spear’s 500

Alexandra Tribe, Sonny Patel, Byron James and Eliza Hebditch have been recommended in the Spear’s 500 Family Lawyers index 2023, an annual listing of the lawyers and family practitioners who are tackling the most complex, high value divorces in the UK.

Lexis Nexis Legal Awards 2024

We are delighted that our fantastic team has been shortlisted as a finalist for International Team of the Year at the prestigious Lexis Nexis Legal Awards!

Reported and notable cases

Supreme Court: Unger and Anor v Ul-Hasan and Anor [2023] UKSC 22

This was the first financial remedy case to be determined by the English Supreme Court in the last four years. It was concerned with the question of “Can you divorce a party who has died?”. This important question raised a very serious lacuna in the law which, as a result of the Supreme Courts judgments, parliament are reviewing and it stands as the leading authority on point.

The decision under appeal from Mostyn J is here.

Huge thanks from everyone at Expatriate Law to our brilliant team of Counsel Tim Amos KC, Andrzej Bojarski, and Joseph Rainer who have been simply brilliant.

From left: Byron James, Antonia Church and Jack Mitchell are wearing dark suits, standing outside the entrance to the Supreme Court building.

S (Children: Parentage and Jurisdiction) [2023] EWCA Civ 897 (27 July 2023) EWCA Civ 897

This was one of the most complex children cases of 2023. It involved two difficult matters. Firstly, the definition of a parent under the Human Embryology and Fertilisation Act Jurisprudence and secondly, the extent of the English Courts jurisdiction over children resident abroad. We were successful in this case, and it now stands as the leading authority on both of these important issues of modern families.

AR v BR (Re Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 and Domicile and Matrimonial Proceedings Act 1973) [2023] EWFC 76 (13 March 2023)

In this case, we acted for a British expatriate in Dubai, successfully overturning the husband’s attempt to block the English divorce proceedings where there were concurrent proceedings in both jurisdictions.

SA v FA [2022] EWFC 115 (09 September 2022)

This was the first case to consider whether England should defer to the Abu Dhabi Civil Family Court on forum conveniens grounds. This case therefore involved a complex analysis of the newest family law jurisdiction in the world, i.e. Abu Dhabi. It also involved an assessment of the domicile of the parties.

GC v AS (No. 2) [2022] EWHC 310 (Fam) (09 February 2022)

This involved a highly complex appeal first instance case after we were successful in the Court of Appeal and the matter was returned to the Court of determination. It included a determination of whether the English Court should extend its jurisdiction to British children living in a war zone in Libya and an analysis of the complex legal principles involved.

Rare sole custody order in father’s favour made by Abu Dhabi Civil Family Court

In a ground-breaking legal case in Abu Dhabi Civil Family Court, a significant precedent was set as the F was granted sole custody of a child marking the first ever such ruling not only in Abu Dhabi Civil Family Court but also in the entire history of GCC countries. This historical decision unfolded in the context of a complex and cross-cultural family dynamic.

This case challenged traditional norms, emphasising the evolving role of fathers as capable and nurturing carers. The decision established a precedent that may reshape future family court cases, encouraging more nuanced consideration of parental roles with a primary focus on the child’s well-being and unique circumstances of each family.

Speaking engagements

25th Annual Family Law Conference South Africa

In March 2023, Lauren Carmichael presented in person at the 25th Annual Family Law Conference in Cape Town, hosted by Miller du Toit Cloete Inc and the University of the Western Cape.

Lauren’s presentation addressed “Changing times in the UAE”, namely the sweeping family law changes made in Abu Dhabi in 2021 and the new Civil Family Law in the UAE which introduced ground breaking amendments to the family legislation in the UAE from 1 February 2023. Given the significant number of South African expats living in the UAE, this presentation shed light on the evolving family law landscape in the UAE. The conference was attended by delegates from all over the world and in addition to offering a wide variety of fascinating topics, provided a wonderful opportunity to be back in Cape Town and to network with old and new colleagues.

American Bar Association

Byron James spoke at a American Bar Association webinar on international financial remedies, alongside Dr. Hassan Elhais, Andrzej Bojarski KC, Melissa Kucinski, sharing his insights about family law in the UAE.

Clarks Attorneys 10th Annual Family law Conference

At the Clarks Attorneys 10th Annual Family law Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, Byron talked about applications for financial remedies after foreign divorces under Part III MFPA 1984. 

The International Society of Family Law (ISFL) Conference

The International Society of Family Law hosted their 18th world conference in July 2023 in Antwerp, Belgium. For the conference’s theme ‘Rethinking Law’s Families and Family Law’, Cristiana Burger spoke in the panel ‘What is a Parent: Surrogacy’.

Cristiana presented her findings on the current state of the law around surrogacy in the UK and delivered a feminist evaluation. Cristiana had previously researched sexual harassment claims in the United States and the evolving atmosphere that surrounded those claims through the lens of Hollywood films.

Upcoming: American Bar Association’s 2024 Section of Family Law Spring CLE Conference

Eliza Hebditch will be speaking about the English Court’s approach to child relocation at the upcoming ABA conference in Boston.

1 – 4 May 2024
The Westin Copley Place, Boston

See ABA’s website for full details and how to book.

Published work and in the media

Lexis Nexis family law analysis: International family law – United Arab Emirates

Alexandra produced the UAE family law analysis for Lexis Nexis. Alexandra outlines the key principles in the UAE in relation to jurisdiction, divorce, financial provision, private children and non-court dispute resolution, as well as recent and forthcoming law reform.

Read the full analysis on Lexis Nexis – login details required.

ICFLPP Journal: Middle and far east themes in international family law

It was a tremendous privilege for Alexandra to be invited as guest editor of the International Centre for Family Law, Policy, and Practice (ICFLPP)’s Journal ‘International Family Law, Policy and Practice. The winter 2022-23 issue follows middle and far east themes in international law, an area of great interest to Alexandra.

Read the full winter 22/23 issue and others on ICFLPP’s website – free and no log-in required.

Mirror orders in children proceedings – UK and Hong Kong compared (Family Law Week)

Separated families facing international boundaries often encounter the challenge of ensuring a child’s contact with a parent residing in a different country. Alexandra Tribe and Kelly Merris compare the approach to mirror orders in England and Hong Kong, shedding light on the legal intricacies that ensure the welfare of the child is paramount.

Read the full article on Family Law Week – sign up to a free account to access the article.

Greay background with an image of Hong Kong skyline and another of London's Westminster. Text reads: Mirror Orders in Children Proceedings: UK and Hong Kong compared

Child holiday disputes for the super rich (Tatler)

The article discusses the challenges that arise for children of ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) separated couples during the summer holidays, highlighting issues such as wrongful retention of children overseas, custody disagreements, and conflicts over holiday destinations and expenses. Alexandra comments on the concerns about parental child abduction: “The summer is when we see most children being wrongfully retained overseas by a parent, with safeguards suggested for parents who suspect such risks.”

Read the full article

Prenuptial agreements: Given that 50% of marriages end in divorce, isn’t it time everyone secured a pre-nuptial agreement before tying the knot? (Harper’s Bazaar)

Alexandra and Eliza discuss the importance of international prenuptial agreements for high-net-worth and internationally mobile couples, emphasising factors to consider before entering into such agreements.

See the section on reported and notable cases above for media coverage on judgments.