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Brexit may influence Family Law matters

Whilst the news of late has been focused on all things COVID, Brexit is taking prominence again. We are still waiting with bated breath to see if last minute negotiations may result in a deal being agreed with the EU, or whether we will have a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020, but the “transition period” which has followed is expected to come to an end at 11pm on 31 December 2020.

This is relevant in relation to Family Law as any proceedings, whether divorce or relating to children if there are other jurisdictions involved, started after 11pm on 31 December 2020 in the Courts of England and Wales will no longer be governed by the current EU Regulations.

It is therefore important for someone contemplating starting proceedings to ensure that they are issued before the transition period ends, if they want to be able to rely on those Regulations.  They will be able to do so even if an issue arises years later if the proceedings have been started prior to this deadline.

An example of the possible benefits of the EU Regulations applying in relation to a divorce case include the following:

  1. Recognition of their final divorce in an EU Member State in years to come, if they wish to remarry there;

  2. The ability to enforce maintenance payments against the paying party if they were in an EU Member State;

  3. Prior to the deadline, if there are divorce proceedings started in two EU Member States, the first party to start the proceedings will be able to ensure that that country deals with them. However, from 1 January 2021, the rules will change so that if two divorce proceedings are started, which proceedings will prevail will be decided on “closest connection”.  This therefore removes the current ‘first past the post’ approach.

The question of how the end of the traditional transitional arrangements may impact each individual case is a complex one. An important initial question to consider is whether a person or their former partner contemplating divorce or proceedings regarding arrangements for their children may have links to other jurisdictions. If so, then it is likely the urgent commencement of proceedings should be considered.

Therefore, acting quickly may be necessary. The Courts will likely face an influx of cases prior to the deadline at an already very busy time of year.

If you wish to consider the benefit, or otherwise, of issuing proceedings before 31 December 2020, please do not hesitate to contact the Family Team for an initial appointment to discuss your situation in more detail.

These notes have been prepared for the purpose of articles only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice.

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