How will Brexit Day affect family law?

As the United Kingdom leaves the European Union as a member tonight at 11.00pm GMT, you might find that not much changes, at least in the short term thanks to the transition period.

From 11pm tonight until 11pm on 31st December 2020, the UK will remain bound by the EU’s rules, a transition period to allow eleven months for the two sides to agree new rules and regulations for their new relationship.

What that means is that nothing will change immediately, and the same can be said of divorces that are multinational across the European Union member states.

There are a number of considerations that will have to be made for divorces in 2021 if there is no agreement on further joint co-operation between the two sides. 

For example, the Government currently plans to repeal Bruxelles II A and Bruxelles II bis, meaning that instead of hosting divorce proceedings in one country of who files for divorce first under “Lis Pendens” rules, we are likely to go back to “forum conveniens” rules – where wrestling between countries for jurisdiction and duplicate proceedings can occur which makes the process more complex.

Maintenance orders are likely to remain similar, as the United Kingdom is an independent signatory to the 2007 Hague Convention on Maintenance which is similar to the current EU regulations. If applications have been made before today under those rules, they will remain under those rules also.

The United Kingdom is also set to fall back to other treaties, including the 1996 Hague Convention on Parental Responsibility and Protection of Children and the 1980 Hague Convention on International Child Abduction to provide a similar but not identical approach to children orders. The main difference of which being that there will be a need to request mirror orders in order to have them recognised in European member states.

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