Brexit, Family Law & Divorce – March 2018 Update

Brexit, Family Law And Divorce

 

See February 2019 update, What Does Brexit No Deal Mean For Family Law 

Brexit, family law and divorce – do you think this might have relevance to you? Well, yes, if you’re part of an International Family, and you’re involved in a family law dispute.

Are You In An International Family?

If you or your ex were:

  • born in another EU country but live in the UK
  • born in the UK but live in another EU country

you’re part of an International Family.

How Do EU Rules Help Family Law?

They say:

  • Where to start Court cases. Otherwise there can be cases going on in two different countries at the same time
  • Court Orders made in this country can be enforced in other EU countries and vice versa

Do EU Rules Help Children In Family Law Disputes?

Yes.

  • They say where to start Court cases. This is the country where the children live. Otherwise there could be cases going on in two different countries at the same time
  • They tighten up the Hague Convention in child abduction cases:
    • A stricter timetable
    • The children’s home country must make the final decision
    • The Court will hear evidence from the child (a benefit shortly to be added)

What Difference Will Brexit Make?

The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will bring all EU family law rules onto our books. But we need new agreements with the remaining EU countries to ensure these rules remain reciprocal. In other words, both we and the remaining EU countries must agree to be bound by them. Because otherwise there will be confusion, delay and extra expense for families.

Why Is Reciprocity Vital?

The Government must knit our family law system and the EU family law system together

Will These Vital Reciprocal Agreements Be Made?

It’s uncertain. The Government is concentrating on trade and other important agreements.

What Will Happen Without Reciprocal Agreements?

We will lose the straightforward enforceability of orders in EU countries concerning maintenance and children.  And the question of where to start divorce cases or cases about the children will be complicated.

Is The Court Of Justice Of The European Union (CJEU) Important?

Yes. It updates and interprets EU family law rules. But the Government wants to end all links with it.

What Happens If We End All Links With The CJEU?

Changes in the interpretation of EU rules, and amendments to these rules, will apply to all the remaining EU countries, but not to us. So our rules and the remaining EU countries’ rules will not knit together.

What Should Happen?

Family law organisations such as Resolution are lobbying Parliament about Brexit, family law and divorce. They’re saying in particular we should maintain links with the CJEU. This means we’d have a say in EU family law procedure and interpretation, and keep our laws and rules up to date.

Has The Lobbying Of Parliament Had Any Effect?

Yes. Amendments have been tabled to The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill currently going through the House of Lords. These are the amendments:

  • A requirement on the Government to report every six months on the progress of negotiating new reciprocal arrangements in family law, and a specific requirement to seek ongoing reciprocal arrangements;
  • Allowing UK Courts to refer family law matters to the CJEU for eight years and, where a referral has been made, to be bound by that decision. In addition, for the English Court to have regard to other CJEU decisions; and
  • Ensuring the Hague Conventions are ratified by the UK.

Is There Anything You Can Do To Help?

But Please Remember …

If you are keen to divorce in a particular country for financial reasons you should seek legal advice without delay

Brexit, Family Law And Divorce

Contact  Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for free advice on Brexit, Family Law and Divorce. In this 20 minute session we will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family law solicitors offering personalised legal solutions. We offer collaborative law which is especially relevant in providing solutions tailored to your family’s needs. This includes same sex couples and their families. Visit our website just-family-law.com The topics covered in this blog post are complex and are provided for general guidance only. Therefore if any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog have application to you, seek expert legal advice.

 

image Happy Family by Vera Kratochvil on Wikimedia Commons

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10 Pitfalls of DIY Divorce

 

DIY Divorce1.   Family law is complicated and always changing and you’re likely to find yourself out of your depth. You may regret your DIY financial agreement for the rest of your life.

2.   You may be denied a fair share of the business as your ex has undervalued it.

3.   You might be left with your ex’s debts.

4.   When you’re older you may realise you focused on the value of the family home and not enough on a fair share of the pension. Or you might discover your share of the pension pot (even though it seemed fair at the time) doesn’t provide you with a fair share of the pension income.

5.   Your DIY financial agreement may not include all the assets or liabilities, or may not deal with them fairly, or it may be impossible to put into effect, and you may end up involved in expensive and time consuming court proceedings as a result.

6.   Your ex may not keep to the DIY agreement or may come back for more in the future as you haven’t finalised it as a court order.

7.   You might find yourself accused of child abduction (an imprisonable offence) if you’re an international family and not in agreement about where the children should live.

8.   You may find it impossible to keep things amicable which is damaging for the children.

9.   You’ll miss out on the opportunity of reaching an amicable agreement with the assistance of mediation or collaborative law.

10. You’ll miss out on the expertise and experience of a family solicitor.

Phone me on 01962 217640 for a free 20 minute consultation on these important issues.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family law solicitors offering personalised legal solutions.

Visit our website just-family-law.com

The topics covered in this blog post are complex and are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog might have application to you, you should seek expert legal advice.

photo Just Divorced? by F Tronchin on Flickr

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Need To See A Solicitor? What Can You Expect?

first meeting with solicitorThe time has come to see a solicitor. You’ve arranged a first meeting. What can you expect?

You can expect expert legal advice targeted to your particular circumstances. You can expect your questions to be answered (if you can, try and narrow down exactly what you want to find out by making a few notes beforehand).

Your solicitor will understand that difficult things may be happening in your life, and that making an appointment to see a solicitor is a big step. Your solicitor is there with all their years of experience to help you, and you are guaranteed a sympathetic and caring listener.

Choose The Right Solicitor …

One meeting with an expert family law solicitor may be all you need for now, or it might be the first step on a long journey. Whichever it is, make sure you chose the right solicitor, a member of Resolution. Check on the Resolution website.

Resolution’s 6,500 members follow a code of practice that promotes a non-confrontational approach to family problems. They encourage solutions that consider the needs of the whole family – and in particular the best interests of children.

When Making The Appointment

Make sure to say if it’s an emergency because your solicitor will try to slot you in for an early appointment. For example does it involve:

·     child abduction

·     domestic abuse

·     the risk of your partner disposing of assets to stop you making a claim against them?

Make sure you know exactly what the meeting is going to cost you – whether this is nothing in the case of a free discussion, or a fixed fee as agreed in advance.

Just Family Law offers a free 20 minutes telephone conversation. You’d be surprised the amount of ground that can be covered.

Alternatively there are fixed price meetings for half an hour or an hour. It’s up to you.

Remember your meeting with your solicitor is completely confidential. No one need ever know you’ve sought legal advice. Although you are of course welcome to bring a friend or family member with you as support.

How A Family Solicitor Can Help You …

·     Maybe you’ve decided your relationship is at an end

·     Maybe you need advice about the children, or the finances

·     Maybe you’re an older couple and worried about the affect of marriage breakdown on your pension

·     Maybe one or both of you were born abroad, settled in this country and now hope to return home. What does this mean for the children?

But it’s not all just about relationship breakdown. In the early stages of a relationship you might want a cohabitation agreement or a prenuptial agreement, as I mentioned in an earlier post.

Or perhaps your relationship broke down years ago and a query has now come up about the children. Maybe you or your partner want to take the children and relocate within the country, or abroad.

How Can I Help You? …

The guiding light of your first meeting with your solicitor is what you want to achieve from it – the advice, information and support you need. This is what your solicitor will focus on.

It could be that you’ve spent a great deal of time searching on the internet and you’re up to speed with the sorts of issues involved and you just need some fine tuning.

On the other hand you could be reeling from the breakdown of your relationship, unsure of what to do next, uncertain about what the future holds. You could have a particular and urgent concern. For example, the children. How can you tell them what’s happened? How will they cope? Where will they live? I have discussed in an earlier post how separating parents can help their children.

Or you might suspect that your partner is planning to sell or hide valuable assets so you can’t claim against them.

Or it could be that your partner is abusive and you are frightened.

So the first thing you need to do is communicate to your solicitor exactly what it is you want to achieve from this first meeting.

But before you come to the meeting please do provide any information that has been requested. Proof of identity is something that all solicitors have to ask for, just like banks and building societies. And if you’re asked to provide information about your family, or about the family finances in preparation for the meeting, or to fill in a questionnaire, this is to provide your solicitor with some background information so that the advice given you can be tailored to your needs. And remember, this is all totally in confidence.

Another way of looking at is that you’re in a maelstrom of events and you’re reaching out for help. Your solicitor will be able to give you the help you need, and it’s important that both you and your solicitor focus on what it is you need to talk about, here and now. But in the background it’s important that your solicitor has a broader view, even if at the moment it’s not possible or necessary to go into tremendous detail – that can follow.

You arrive at your solicitor’s office. A much anticipated first meeting. All your focus is on the here and now, what can your solicitor do to help you at this difficult and painful stage?

Will It Be A Load Of Confusing Legal Jargon? …

Definitely not.

If you’re feeling distressed and confused the last thing you need is great chunks of advice about issues that aren’t at the top of your list of priorities. Your solicitor will address your specific questions and answer them, and in a digestible way, and will of course understand that it’s a lot for you to take on board.

I like to make a plan at the end of a first meeting. It may be that you need to take action, gather information or documents, or talk to someone else before we meet again. If necessary these actions can be broken down into steps so that they’re easy to follow.

At the end of the meeting when all your concerns have been discussed, expect to be handed informative leaflets or fact sheets, or to be referred to helpful websites to assist you to come to terms with what is happening and what to do next.

Specialist family law firms offer solutions to assist you reach agreement with your partner without recourse to the courts such as collaborative law and mediation. They can also refer you to required and complementary services such as counselling, coaching, financial, pension advice to help with relationships and their breakdown.

Food For Thought …

Your discussions and the advice you’ve been given can be confirmed in writing – a good idea if you have decisions to make and you want to mull the whole situation over.

You may fear that your partner or family members will notice an email or a letter from a solicitor. In which case you can suggest to your solicitor another more secure postal or email address. Or alternatively you can collect the letter.

The Cost …

The all important question of the expense of any action required on your behalf will be addressed. Solicitors are bound by professional rules to tell you their hourly rate and to give you an estimate of how much the work will cost.

Often there are various options for dealing with your situation. You will be informed of all the choices open to you and how much they’re likely to cost because it’s important for you to make an informed decision before moving to the next stage.

Sometimes it’s possible to agree a fixed fee for the work required.

So that’s what you can expect from a first meeting with a solicitor

·     expert legal advice targeted to your particular circumstances

·     your questions to be answered. If you can, try and narrow down exactly what you want to find out by making a few notes beforehand

·     make sure you choose the right solicitor, a member of Resolution. Check on the Resolution website.

·     when you make the appointment make sure to say if it’s an emergency because your solicitor will try to slot you in for an early appointment.

·     your meeting with your solicitor is completely confidential. No one need ever know you’ve sought legal advice.

What do you look for when you are consulting a solicitor? We would love to hear your thoughts on this question – please do leave us a comment.

If you have found this post interesting please sign up below for new posts by email.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family law solicitors offering personalised legal solutions.

Visit our website just-family-law.com

The topics covered in this blog post are complex and are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog might have application to you, you should seek expert legal advice.

image by ORBIX on wikimedia

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What would Brexit mean for Family Law?

brexit and family law

by Joe Chahwan on flickr 

See February 2019 update, What Does Brexit No Deal Mean For Family Law 

On Thursday 23 June 2016 the UK will vote either to remain in or to leave the European Union.

What would Brexit mean for family law? Is this something we need to worry about? Will it make a difference?

      International Families and International Family Law

It may come as a surprise to you to know that EU regulations are extremely significant to families with an international element, and international families are on the increase.

What are ‘international families’ in this context? They are British families living in the EU, and EU families living in Britain. They are UK nationals and nationals of other EU countries who marry or enter into civil partnerships. The children of these international families are often born in a variety of EU countries.

And this increase in the number of international families is hardly surprising given the free movement of populations in the EU. According to a recent Parliamentary Briefing Paper, ‘Migration Statistics’ by Oliver Hawkins (no. SN06077, 26 May 2016) over a million Brits live in one of the other twenty seven EU countries, and about three million non-British EU citizens live in this country.

    How do EU regulations impact on Family Law?

These fall broadly under three headings:

They determine jurisdiction; in other words, in which court, and in which country, cases can be heard

They allow the recognition and enforcement of certain orders made in this country throughout the EU

They strengthen the Hague Convention on international child abduction

      Jurisdiction

If we leave the EU there will undoubtedly be implications for family law. The most significant aspect is likely to relate to jurisdiction. Where will divorce proceedings be issued? Where will children cases be heard?

    Why is jurisdiction significant in divorce?

The EU rule is that divorces proceed in the country where they are first issued. This means if the couple have different ideas about which country is best for them, it can turn into a ‘Divorce Race’. As jurisdiction can be based on a number of factors, including where the couple live, or where they originated, there is often a choice.

But why is this important? It’s because the court that deals with the divorce usually deals with the matrimonial finances too. London has the reputation of being the ‘Divorce Capital Of The World’ because the Judges in our courts have much more discretion to change the ownership of matrimonial assets than in other European countries.

This means that typically wives often do better in this country than elsewhere in the EU.

So you can see why it’s important to some people to issue their divorce in England and Wales (that’s the jurisdiction we live in), but for others, just about anywhere else in the EU.

    Children

The jurisdictional rule in respect of children is that the case is heard in the country in which they live.

    Recognition and enforcement of children and maintenance orders

Under EU regulation, orders concerning children, and the payment of maintenance are recognised and enforceable in all other EU countries. So if you have a maintenance order made in England and Wales against a French former spouse or civil partner, it can be enforced in France, or indeed in any other EU country that they might happen to move to.

    Hague Convention on international child abduction

EU rules tighten and improve the procedure under the Hague Convention on international child abduction.

    What will happen to family law if we leave the EU?

If we leave the EU these rules concerning jurisdiction, the recognition and enforcement of orders, and the strengthened procedure under the Hague Convention on international child abduction will no longer apply.

Assuming that we want to keep these regulations (and many family lawyers agree that we do) it is to be hoped that the government would negotiate agreements across Europe to mirror them. But the government will have its work cut out negotiating a whole raft of trade deals and you have to wonder just how high up the agenda family law will be.

The aim of any negotiation is, of course, to achieve a balanced and fair outcome. But will the outcome in terms of family law be better or worse? It is impossible to say.

    What if fresh agreements are not negotiated?

In the case of jurisdiction the rule would revert to ‘Forum Conveniens’, in other words the most convenient court would hear the case. This might be based for example on where the couple live or where their assets are.

But this approach can lead to notoriously complicated, lengthy and expensive disputes if couples have different ideas about where proceedings should be issued and courts of more than one country are involved.

    The risks

Unless the clear cut rules on jurisdiction, mutual recognition and enforceability of orders, and the strengthened procedure under the Hague Convention for international child abduction are maintained there is a risk that family law in this country could get a lot more unwieldy, costly and time consuming.

At a time when the family courts are dealing with the fall out of the changes to legal aid, and at the same time are amalgamating and closing, this would not be good news for family law.

    A period of uncertainty

Whether or not the government does negotiate fresh agreements with the EU there will be a period of uncertainty before the new procedures are in place or the old procedures are readopted. New regulations will have to be drafted, new court forms will have to be produced, and the already overloaded court system will have to get up to speed.

    The role of lawyers

There is a great deal of speculation about what might happen. In the meantime all family lawyers will be doing their utmost to reassure their international clients. If we do leave the EU and new rules are put in place, family lawyers will be making sure they and their staff are appropriately trained and that their clients are properly advised.

    Summary 

  • EU regulations are important in family law when it comes to jurisdiction, the recognition and enforcement of court orders, and the procedure under the Hague Convention for international child abduction
  • These regulations are of particular significance to international families, in other words British families living in the EU, and EU families living in Britain, and to marriages and civil partnerships involving members of different EU countries, or EU countries and non-EU countries
  • If we leave the EU these regulations will no longer apply.
  • There will be a period of uncertainty
    • Either new agreements will have to be negotiated, or the old pre-EU rules will apply
    • The old pre-EU rules, particularly those relating to jurisdiction, could lead to complicated, lengthy and expensive court cases
    • How easily will the court system cope?
  • Family solicitors will be monitoring the situation and will ensure that they are up to date at all times during this process in order to advise their international family clients

Do you think that Brexit will affect you or your family? We would love to hear from you with your opinion so please leave us a comment.

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JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family law solicitors offering personalised legal solutions.

Visit our website just-family-law.com

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