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What Impact Will Brexit Have on International Family Law?

No doubt the biggest topic of 2016 was Brexit and clearly, it is going to be a topic that invades our lives for the foreseeable future. This month we have had the judgment from the Supreme Court how Article 50 will be triggered and recently Teresa May gave a speech on her initial plans for Brexit.


The question for lawyers across the European Union is: “What impact Brexit will have in family law on those cases that have an international element?”

For me, this is very important since I am part of the family law team in Cambridge, which is one the most diverse cities in the UK. I act for people both domestically, and abroad. For some of them the above question will be relevant.

What Impact Will Brexit Have on International Family Law Cases?
Despite several months passing by since the referendum result, we do not know with any certainty what will happen in international family law cases.

Issues family lawyers will have to bear in mind until we know for certain what will happen include:

  1. International Divorce Cases
    It is currently unknown if the family court would have the authority to hear an international divorce case after Brexit. One question is whether after Brexit a foreign national who wishes to divorce in England, perhaps because the law on finances in our country is more favourable, be able to do so?

  2. Maintenance
    If one ex-spouse wants to seek maintenance from the other (known as a periodical payments order) but that other person is living in another country within the European Union, will the family court still be able to enforce such an order in the event it were breached? Will EU nationals have a similar problem in enforcing foreign orders in our jurisdiction?

  3. Property
    What would happen if the family court ordered a property located in another EU state to be transferred from one person to another in a divorce in order to meet their housing needs? Will that property be enforceable in another EU state?

  4. Children Arrangements
    Nearly one in three children born in in England and Wales in 2015 had a foreign mother according to the Office of National Statistics. If it is agreed that a child will be moving to or from our jurisdiction, how will this be recognised both in this country and by another EU state?

Clearly, this topic is somewhat complex and the future is unclear. What is clear however is that family law will be impacted significantly as a result of Brexit. Therefore if you are concerned about the uncertain future the best advice I can give at this stage is to get early advice.

If you are dealing with a family issue which has an international element, it may be in your best interests to deal with the matter now rather than after Brexit. Delay in action could potentially have a negative impact on your case.

Different countries have different laws so choosing the best jurisdiction for your family law matter is an important decision. To speak with our international family law solicitors call us on freephone 0800 916 9055 or on +44 20 7657 1555 from outside of the UK.

Marc Etherington is a family and divorce solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Cambridge.

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