HCR Law Events

8 October 2020

Family law disputes: Brexit and what will change?

EU laws about family proceedings will no longer apply to the UK from the end of the transition period (11pm on 31 December 2020), and the government has just published details of the impact it will have on divorce, maintenance and matters relating to children (including on child abduction).

Brexit will affect rules on the country that family law disputes are heard in and on how decisions made in one country will be recognised and enforced in another.

Divorces

If you apply for divorce in England and Wales, or an EU country, before the end of the transition period, your divorce will continue under the current EU rules (even if the process is not finalised until after the end of the transition period). When your divorce becomes final, it will be recognised in England and Wales or an EU country under the current EU rules.

If you apply for divorce in England and Wales or an EU country after the end of the transition period, new rules will be in place. If you are applying in England & Wales you should apply in the same way.

Divorce recognition

If your divorce is granted in England and Wales, or an EU country, before the end of the transition period, it will be recognised under the current EU rules.

Getting a divorce which has been granted in England & Wales recognised in an EU country if you applied for it after the end of the transition period, may also be affected. Getting your EU divorce recognised in England and Wales if you applied for it after the end of the transition period will be subject to new rules.

Maintenance

If you have an ongoing case about maintenance payments for a child or spouse/registered partner in England, Wales or an EU country as at the end of the transition period, your case will continue unchanged.

If you make new or further applications after the end of the transition period, your application will need to be made under a different process.

However, you should still contact your nearest Maintenance Enforcement Business Centre (MEBC) for assistance with the enforcement of maintenance decisions.

Enforcement of maintenance

If you have a child maintenance decision, which you want to have recognised and enforced in an EU country from the end of the transition period, contact your nearest MEBC as soon as possible.

If your maintenance case was resolved and has been recognised by the relevant court in an EU country before the end of the transition period, you should not be affected.

Arrangements involving children

Order recognition

If you have an order in place about arrangements for your children that has been made in England or Wales or an EU country before the end of the transition period, it should not be affected. However, if you make further applications (even about the same child or children) after the end of the transition period, different rules will apply for having the order made or accepted in the other country.

Speak to a local lawyer as soon as possible to get specific advice about your case and the actions you need to take.

New cases

If you apply for new arrangements for your children in England or Wales or an EU country from the end of the transition period, including about children you already have agreed arrangements for, the new rules will be in place but you should apply in the same way.

Ongoing cases

If you have an ongoing case about arrangements for your children in England or Wales or an EU country as at the end of the transition period, your case will continue under the current rules.

International parental child abduction

From the end of the transition period, the rules about abducted or wrongfully retained children in EU countries will mostly not change.

If your child has been abducted to, or is being wrongfully kept in, another country by another parent or a relative, you should get legal advice from a specialist lawyer.

You should also, if possible, get local legal advice in the country the child has been taken to, and you should contact the Central Authority for England and Wales (ICACU) and the charity Reunite.

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About the Author
Nick Gova, Partner, Head of Family Law Team, London

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