Separating From Your Partner and Europe

As the summer draws to a close we can now look back on the result of June’s referendum and the decision to leave the European Union and the UK’s sporting achievements with the Olympics and Paralympics Games (or less so in the case of the England Football Team). The impact of the referendum result more than any other event this summer will have more of a lasting implication which has caused a great deal of uncertainty and confusion as to how the UK will cope with its decision to leave the EU. Brexit will have significant implications for trade, industry and migration which are attracting all the headlines but it will also have a significant effect on Family Law.

Since the referendum we have seen a number of enquiries coming in from clients concerned about the implications for them and their financial claims on divorce. Theses enquiries have included clients going through the process already, or contemplating a separation or divorce, whether they live here or abroad. For those who already have a final order from the Court, they may find that the result of the referendum may no longer provide the same financial security, as there are concerns about the risk that house prices will fall and changes to interest currency rates. For individuals who have ties abroad there are added concerns because European Conventions (which the UK is a signatory to by virtue of EU membership) may no longer be binding in the future. This will have particular implications for those seeking to establish domiciled or habitual residence and also the enforcement of orders against foreign assets and maintenance.

International Children’s Law is likely to be affected, especially laws involving child abduction and those parents seeking permission to relocate to a European State. As a general principle, an abducted child has to be returned to the country where they are habitually resident regardless of Brexit because all EU countries are signatories of the 1980 Hague Convention. However the more intricate European legal provision in this area are governed by Brussels II Revised which only applies to EU members; therefore this may not apply to the UK when it exits. There is therefore a risk that it could take longer and be more difficult for a child abduction which takes place between the UK and an EU country to be returned. This may mean that that new agreements may have to be negotiated between the EU and the UK in order to protect rights in the future, and ensure the continuation of an agreement similar to Brussels II Revised. For those seeking permission to relocate to a European State they may also see the merits of their claim diminish as they may not benefit from the principle of “free movement”, although the welfare interest of the children remains the paramount concern.

Until the UK completes the transition process, much of what happens will be driven by sentiment and often emotional reactions to a situation can take over. Regardless of your nationality, Brexit will have far reaching implications for individuals seeking to separate the division of assets and the possible relocation of children. If you would like further information or advice on a specific matter, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Family Team.