Internationalising Family Law

Internationalising Family Law

Principal speaker

Professor Mary Keyes

One of the most important effects of globalisation has been a significant increase in personal mobility. Increasing numbers of people travel for education, leisure and employment, and this has led to a substantial increase in the number of international families. The international family is not a new phenomenon, but it has become more common, and the issues that it faces have become more complex.  Following the breakdown of international families, issues may arise which have no counterparts for non-international families.

While globalisation has led to an unprecedented increase in the number of international families, private international law, the area of law which is largely responsible for regulating international families, is largely unchanged from the law developed in England in the 19th century. Private international law relevant to families suffers from serious defects, including that it facilitates forum shopping. The legal principles are internally incoherent, and have a strongly parochial tendency. The principles are based on an implicit assumption that forum law should be applied to international issues, which facilitates both forum and regime shopping. The effect of any agreement made between the parties is uncertain. The relationships between the related areas of law which regulate international families, including family law, child welfare law, criminal law, immigration law and the law of citizenship are obscure. These problems create confusion and uncertainty, making it difficult for international families to ascertain their rights and responsibilities, inhibiting amicable resolution of disputes, and increasing public and private costs of litigation. They also frustrate attempts by policy-makers to respond to existing and emerging problems.

In this presentation, I will outline some contemporary challenges for the regulation of international families, including international commercial surrogacy, and I will critically assess the suitability of the existing common law rules to respond to these challenges.


Mary Keyes is a professor at Griffith Law School. She teaches and researches in international litigation, international arbitration and contract law. Her main area of research is private international law, especially jurisdiction and international family law. Read more about Professor Mary Keyes >

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