While present discussions on Britain’s departure from the European Union (EU) have primarily focused upon trade and the rights of EU citizens in the UK, they will also affect more everyday aspects of law, including family law. This week we explore how Brexit is likely to change the future of family law and whether there is anything that should cause concern for professionals and families alike.
With the unravelling of the intricacies of Brexit, there is a growing uncertainty and tension surrounding how it will affect the international landscape of family disputes and, in particular, the future of family law in the UK. Recently, the UK Government published a future partnership paper entitled ‘Providing a Cross-Border Civil Judicial Cooperation Framework’, recognising the increasingly likelihood of cross-border family disputes.
Firstly, this paper emphasises the Brussels lla Regulation (2201/2003) is likely to become a neglected instrument after the implementation of Brexit. This regulation concerns the jurisdictional rules regarding parental obligations and the jurisdiction of matrimonial matters. In addition, there are several EU instruments regulating mediation and maintenance orders.
The role of the Brussels Regulation II is to ensure that decisions made in one member state can be easily applied in another. For instance, the Regulation specifies a decision on a matrimonial manner made in one member state must be accepted in other states without any need for additional procedures. Consequently, this regulation and other EU instruments have provided confidence and impartiality in the dynamic landscape of family disputes.
What will govern the future of family disputes?
The legal sector has already reported a sharp rise in the increase of clients that are concerned with the future of their family dynamic after Brexit. Despite this growing uncertainty, there are several treaties that will still apply to the UK, including the Hague Convention 1980 (on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction). The Convention supports the return of abducted children, maintaining the protection of children. In addition, the Convention encourages cooperation and respect between signatory parties to promote the safeguarding of children.
There are a number of other agreements like the Hague Convention that will continue to be effective. The government has acknowledged the necessity to obtain an all-encompassing cross-border civil judicial cooperation on a mutual foundation. In theory, the government intends to continue the same standard of cooperation presently provided by the Brussels lla Regulation.
What should we learn from this?
There is a clear need for a strong cross-border judicial cooperation governing the international stage to avoid unnecessary uncertainty for families. Whilst details are slowly emerging on how the government aims to provide a stable background for international cooperation, we should hope that this does not come too late for the families within the EU and in the UK post-Brexit.