When the transition period came to an end on 31 December 2020 at 11pm, EU laws regarding family proceedings ceased to apply to the UK.
Rules regarding the country that disputes about family law are heard in and how any decisions made by the courts in one country are recognised and enforced in another, are affected. This includes divorce matters, child maintenance and other child-related matters (including child abduction) in England and Wales.
These changes have the potential to impact many people, including, but not limited to, British nationals who are married to EU nationals, UK residents who are not British nationals and anyone who was born abroad and now resides in the UK.
What if I applied for a divorce before 31 December 2020?
If you had already applied for a divorce before 11pm on 31 December 2020, the UK government has confirmed that your divorce will continue under the previous EU rules and it will be recognised under these rules (by both England and Wales or another EU country).
What if I applied for my divorce after 31 December 2020?
There are new rules for getting your England and Wales divorce recognised in an EU country and vice versa. Your solicitor should be able to guide you through this process.
Important changes to cross-border cases
Until 31 December 2020, if two divorce petitions were filed in the UK and another EU country, the first petition that was filed would have automatically had priority.
Now, if two divorce petitions are filed in this way (one in the UK and one in an EU country), the jurisdiction will be decided by working out which is more appropriate, taking into account factors such as where the family home is and where the family live and work.
With regards to cross-border maintenance disputes, the application process has changed since 31 December 2020 at 11pm. However, if you have an ongoing spousal or child maintenance case in England, Wales or an EU country (as of 31 December 2020), this can continue unchanged. Equally, with regards to enforcement of child maintenance decisions, as long as your maintenance case was resolved and recognised by the courts in an EU country before the Brexit deadline, you should also be able to continue as before.
The UK has a list of countries which can enforce child maintenance decisions made by UK courts (known as REMO – Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders – countries).
Needless to say, this is an extremely complex area of law and it is vital to seek legal advice, tailored to your individual circumstances, from an experienced family lawyer. Get in touch to book your free video consultation with one of our family lawyers to discuss your case today. Neil Graham, a Partner at Grayfords comments as follows: “The Brussels Conventions to which the UK was a signatory until 11.00pm on 31 December 2020 created clarity and certainty over where family and financial proceedings could be commenced, what happened if they were commenced in more than one EU country and how decisions made in one EU country were recognised in another. These issues are now dealt with by a number of disparate Conventions (depending upon the nature of the claim) and provisions contained within UK domestic law. There is also now an element of discretion over where proceedings should continue if they are commenced both in the UK and in an EU member state. It is, therefore, particularly important to obtain expert specialist advice at the very outset of a case where the parties have links with the UK and an EU member state.”