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Brexit and Family Law implications

We are closely monitoring the implications of Brexit for divorce and family law and will help to steer you through. But what exactly is at stake for UK families in other EU countries, or for families from other EU families in the UK?

How Do EU Family Law Rules Affect Us Now?

  • Vital EU rules apply to divorce and family law.
  • These rules set out that divorce cases can only proceed in one EU country at a time. This is the country where the divorce is first issued.
  • And they decide where cases concerning children are issued, namely in their home country.
  • Otherwise you could face family law cases proceeding in two different EU countries at the same time.
  • EU rules streamline child abduction cases.
  • They ensure a Court in the child's home country can make the final decision about returning the child. This can mean the difference between a child returning home to you or not.
  • EU rules will soon be tightening up the Hague Convention by allowing the Court to hear evidence from the child.
  • New EU rules will also impose a time limit of six weeks for the Court to give its judgment. Speed is of the essence in child abduction cases.
  • EU rules allow enforcement of family orders in other EU countries. This means Court orders affecting your family are recognised across EU borders including orders concerning children, who sees them and where they are to live; maintenance orders; financial orders; and orders concerning domestic abuse.

What Will Happen When We Leave The EU?

  • The Government is presently steering the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill through Parliament.
  • When it becomes law, it will absorb all EU family law rules into our system. This means we will be bound by them.
  • So we need the remaining EU countries to be bound by them as far as we are concerned, too. This isn’t automatic because, of course, we will no longer be a member of the EU.
  • If the Government enters into agreements with the remaining EU countries this will make the rules reciprocal. This will keep family lawfully functioning for international families in this country.

Why We Need Reciprocal Agreements With The Remaining EU Countries

Without reciprocal agreements we would lose the straightforward enforceability of orders in EU countries concerning for example maintenance and children and domestic abuse. 
And the question of where to start your divorce case or the case about your children will become unnecessarily complicated. You could end up in Court proceedings in an EU country simply to decide where your divorce should be heard.

What About The Court Of Justice Of The European Union?

This Court has an important role in the interpretation of EU family law rules.
If we merge EU family law rules with our laws, but end our links with the Court of Justice, changes in the interpretation of these rules will apply to all the remaining EU countries, but not to us.
This will cause confusion for international families who may become involved in expensive and time-consuming Court cases simply to decide fine points of legal interpretation.

Next Steps – Do You Need To Know More About Brexit And Family Law?

If you are keen to divorce or issue proceedings in England you should contact us without delay.
Child abduction is a criminal offence. If your partner doesn’t agree to you taking the children abroad, you need to speak to us for emergency advice about your options.
Contact Joanne Houston, specialist family lawyer, for a free 20 minutes consultation about these or any of the other issues mentioned.

Various family law organisations are lobbying Parliament about Brexit and family law. 

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