By Laura Ousby
Family law may not immediately spring to mind when considering the impact of Brexit. Most of the news coverage focuses on the value of the pound, businesses, the NHS, interest rates and house prices. A no-deal Brexit will, however, affect the current family legal system as we know it. The government have made a number of provisions affecting family law that are expected to come into force if we leave without a deal but just how will the one million British citizens living in EU member states and the 3 million citizens from other EU member states living in the UK be affected.
Currently, each member state has its own legal system governing family law. There are, however, EU provisions which provide every member state with a common set of rules covering the recognition and enforcement of orders as well as jurisdiction. Such provisions are overarching and are immediately enforceable in all member states. If we leave the EU with no withdrawal agreement, then from 11:00pm on “Brexit Day” (whenever that may be) these EU provisions will stop applying.
The recognition of orders between the UK and EU member states will therefore be affected. For example, under the current EU provisions injunctions and child contact orders made in one EU member state are recognised and can be enforced in another. This enables information to be shared between member states and provides protection. In addition, the provisions enable an individual entitled to maintenance payments to obtain an order in one member state that will be automatically enforceable in another. Following a no-deal Brexit, such enforcement of injunctions and orders will no longer be automatic and will therefore become more complicated, time consuming and expensive.
Jurisdiction in divorce proceedings will also become more complicated. There is much concern surrounding whether divorces granted in the UK will be automatically recognised in other EU member states.
The Brexit position is changing constantly but it is important not to forget the less obvious areas that may be affected and to seek legal advice if necessary.