Leaving the EU: What does this mean for family law

Leaving the EU What does this mean for family law

Leaving the EU: What does this mean for family law? Many international families are concerned they’ll lose access to justice.

Are you a cross border, UK/EU family? This blog is for you. But please remember to consult a lawyer who is an expert in international family law if you have any doubts.

When did the UK leave the EU

Friday 31st January 2020, at 11pm.

What about my child support, my divorce proceedings

Are you concerned:

  • your maintenance or child support will stop, or
  • divorce proceedings will go off the rails, or
  • children will be at a greater risk of abduction?

The answer is that all EU rules are staying firmly in place during the implementation period. So there’s really nothing to worry about – at least until the end of 2020.

How long is the implementation period

1st February 2020 to 31st December 2020. The Government will negotiate our future relationship – including whether useful EU family law rules will continue – during this period.

What are the useful EU family law rules

They cover:

  • ‘first past the post’ rule for starting divorces
  • recognition and enforcement of maintenance orders, and the recognition of divorces
  • enforcement of contact and residence orders, and orders for the return of children

‘First past the post’ rule for starting divorces

Why is this important? Because otherwise there could be proceedings going on at the same time in two different countries. 

Is family law near the top of the agenda

The Government is already working on an important piece of legislation: the Private International Law (Implementation of Agreements) Bill. This means international families will have access to justice under certain vital Hague Conventions. The Government is also aiming for us to sign up to the Lugano Convention.

What’s the Private International Law (Implementation of Agreements) Bill

The aim of this bill is to ensure three vital Hague Conventions will still apply even after the end of the implementation period.

Which Hague Conventions are covered 

The Private International Law (Implementation of Agreements) Bill covers:

  • 1996 Hague Convention – protection of children in cross-border disputes.
  • 2005 Hague Convention – ensures:
    • there’s no confusion about where a case should be heard, and
    • any resulting decision is recognised and enforced in other countries.
  • 2007 Hague Convention – the international recovery of child support. And makes it harder for parents who live abroad to avoid their maintenance obligations.

See page 28 of The Queen’s Speech of December 2019.

See my comments about these Hague Conventions in Brexit, Divorce and Family Law – what if there’s no dealIn this blog I make the point that we will still need to incorporate EU regulations into our family law system – we can’t just rely on Hague Conventions.

What’s the Lugano Convention

The Ministry of Justice reports that there is support for the UK to join the Lugano Convention. Why is this important? The Ministry of Justice says:

‘The agreement protects the rights of 17,000 UK nationals living in the EEA EFTA states and 15,000 EEA EFTA nationals living in the UK, ensuring that at the end of the transition period they will be able to enjoy broadly the same rights as they do now.’

But the Lugano Convention is by no means perfect. See my explanation of the Lugano Convention in Brexit White Paper – what you need to know.

What are the EEA EFTA states

Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, and the EU.

Leaving the EU: What does this mean for family law

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial consultation on Leaving the EU: What does this mean for 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 Leaving the EU: What does this mean for 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.

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Brexit White Paper and Family Law – What You Need To Know

Brexit White Paper and Family LawWhat is the Significance of the Brexit White Paper for Family Law?

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

Few will have missed that the Brexit white paper published 12 July 2018. But what does it mean for family law?

The European Union (Withdrawal) Act became law on 26 June. This means that although the EU will no longer legislate for the UK, we retain all the helpful EU regulations which apply to family law. But there’s a problem.

On 29 March 2019 we leave the Court of Justice of the European Union (the ECJ) and we will no longer be bound by ECJ decisions. So even though we have all the EU rules for family law, these will gradually move out of sync as the ECJ will make law we do not recognise.

This could affect key areas such as the recognition and enforcement of family law judgments. See my earlier post Brexit, Family Law & Divorce – March 2018 Update

What Does Family Law Need From Brexit?

We need our rules to stay in line with the remaining EU countries in vital areas of family law. These rules relate to:

  • The country in which divorces, matrimonial financial cases, and children cases must start. Otherwise cases can be started in two different countries at the same time. At the moment, for example, cases about children start in the country where they live.
  • The recognition and enforcement of UK orders in remaining EU countries and vice versa.
  • The Hague Convention in relation to child abduction cases. EU rules impose the following rules:
    • A stricter timetable
    • The children’s home country must make the final decision
    • The Court will hear evidence from the child.

The Brexit White Paper And Family Law

The white paper proposes we sign up to the Lugano Convention. But because the Convention is old and out of date, the white paper also proposes we reach a deal with the EU to bring it up to date.

What Is The Lugano Convention?

The Lugano Convention originated in 1988 as an agreement between the EU and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). Its current incarnation dates to 2007 and its signatories are:

  • The EU
  • Iceland
  • Switzerland
  • Norway
  • Denmark

All the members must agree to new states joining.

What Does The Lugano Convention Do?

It ensures members apply the same rules and pay regard to how each other’s Courts interpret these rules. But even the white paper acknowledges some of the Lugano Convention’s provisions have been “overtaken” and are “limited in scope”.

This is because under the Convention there is no guarantee case law on regulation will be aligned between the signatories. All it requires is for the signatories to “pay due account” to each other’s case law (including the EU’s ECJ). So we could still fall out of sync.

It’s possible of course for the EU to revise the Lugano Convention to make sure it does its best for international families but of course all the signatories will need to agree.

Brexit White Paper And Family Law – What Is Needed

Specific proposals for making the Lugano Convention fit for purpose are required. But with the Government dealing with trouble in the ranks, negotiations with Brussels, and balancing all of this with trying to make new trade deals, it’s anybody’s guess if and when this might happen.

What Is The Brexit Timetable?

The EU target date for agreeing Brexit terms is 30 September. It’s probably quite important the Government sticks to this timetable as it will need to start post-Brexit trade talks in the autumn prior to making new trade deals before we leave the EU on 29 March 2019. Unless of course there is an agreement between the UK and the EU to extend the period for negotiations.

Does The White Paper Recognise The Difficulties International Families Face?

Yes, to a certain extent.

“Cross-border families benefit from clear rules to resolve disputes in sensitive matters quickly and efficiently.”

(Paragraph 1.7.7 sub paragraph 145).

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  Servizio fotografico by Paolo Monti on Wikimedia

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