How has Brexit affected divorce & family law?

How has Brexit affected divorce & family law?
How has Brexit affected divorce and family law? Whether you’re going through divorce, civil partnership dissolution, children, finances or domestic violence proceedings we’re here for you. Make sure you contact our international family law specialist, Joanne Houston at Just Family Law.

If you’re part of an international family, 31 December 2020 is a very important date for you.

On or before 31 December 2020

Did you start your Court case on or before 31 December 2020? If you did, EU family law regulations still apply. These cover –

  • which country deals with your divorce or civil partnership dissolution
  • parallel proceedings in the UK and in EU countries
  • recognition of financial, children, domestic violence and maintenance orders made in the UK across the EU and vice versa
  • enforcement of UK orders across the EU and vice versa
  • giving a voice to the child and setting a timetable in child abduction

After 31 December 2020

Did you start your Court case after 31 December 2020? If so, make sure you take care – and please let us help you. International divorce and civil partnership dissolutions can be tricky at the best of times.

What could possibly go wrong

Although many EU regulations are now part of our law, complications can arise, for example –

  • divorces and civil partnership dissolutions can start in the UK and the EU at the same time
  • some EU countries don’t recognise maintenance orders made in the UK
  • UK domestic violence orders aren’t enforceable in the EU

Divorce and civil partnership dissolution in two different countries?

Yes – one party can start divorce or dissolution proceedings in the UK and the other party can start them in an EU country.  No rule exists to prevent this. The UK court can stay the proceedings and you and your partner can agree to pursue the case in only one country. But if there’s no agreement, two sets of proceedings continue. What does this add up to?

  • extra cost
  • frustration
  • the risk of conflicting financial orders

So make sure you take advice from an expert lawyer


“Jurisdiction” means the country in which your divorce or dissolution proceedings can start. The application asks for your habitual residence and domicile. But what does that mean? Don’t worry, we can help you with these complex terms. A significant change has arrived since Brexit – sole domicile. Prior to 1 January 2021, sole domicile was only available if no other option applied. But now you can choose it even if other grounds are available to you.

Sole domicile

Why should you care about sole domicile? You should care about it if you –

  • live abroad permanently
  • and you were born in England and Wales

AND your partner

  • lives abroad permanently
  • and wasn’t born in England and Wales

In that case you can rely on sole domicile and start your proceedings here. You might want to do this as you believe you’ll receive a better financial settlement. But take care and make sure to take legal advice. Why? Sole domicile is not recognised as a valid test of jurisdiction in some countries. This means other countries may not recognise your divorce or be able to enforce your financial order.

Recognition of UK divorces in the EU

Before Brexit, the EU recognised UK divorces and vice versa. Now only the EU countries signed up to 1970 Hague Convention on Divorce recognise UK divorces –

  • Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden.

Recognition of foreign divorces in the UK

The UK generally recognises foreign divorces under the UK’s Family Law Act.


The same complications may arise as mentioned under Divorce and civil partnership dissolution in two different countries above.

Recognition of UK maintenance orders in the EU

The UK and EU recognise and enforce each others maintenance orders under the 2007 and 1973 Hague Conventions.

Children Act jurisdiction

Children Act cases commence in the country where the child has their main home ie their “habitual residence”. Most countries recognise this rule but it’s worth checking with an expert lawyer.

International child abduction

The UK and all EU signed the 1980 Hague Convention. Child abduction is a criminal offence. If your partner doesn’t agree to you taking the children abroad, speak to us for emergency advice on your options.

Domestic violence

Although the UK recognises domestic violence orders made in the EU, the EU doesn’t recognise UK domestic violence orders. You will need proceedings in the UK and the relevant EU country to ensure your protection.

How has Brexit affected divorce & family law

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial consultation on How has Brexit affected divorce & family law. In this 20 minute session she will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family lawyers. We offer Pay as you go costs. We offer Collaborative law solutions tailored to your family’s needs.

The topics covered in this blog post How has Brexit affected divorce & family law are complex. They are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog apply to you, seek expert legal advice. This is an evolving area of the law and is current at the date of publication. 

image for How has Brexit affected divorce & family law Concerned Phone Call by Ehimetalor Unuabona on Wikimedia

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