Family law must not be overlooked by Brexit negotiators

Three of Britain’s biggest family law organisations have warned that the lack of progress in Brexit talks could leave tens of thousands of families facing considerable uncertainty.

Resolution, the Family Law Bar Association and the International Academy of Family Lawyers this week issued a joint statement.

The bodies have banded together to produce a report – titled Brexit and Family Law. The paper assesses the challenges that the UK’s departure from the EU presents to separating couples and outlines the possible options for putting alternative arrangements in place.

Their intervention comes amid concerns that family law will be overlooked by negotiators, who have thus far prioritised issues such as immigration policy, the Irish border and the size of the so-called “divorce bill”.

The report says that reciprocal arrangements between the UK and the 27 other member states had been developed over the course of many decades and gave much needed assurances to families.

The organisations have said it is essential that the safeguards that the current framework provides continue following Britain’s official departure in 2019.

Daniel Eames, the present chair of Resolution’s International Committee, said: “Families needing to go to court must know that whatever court they end up in, in whatever country, that decision will be respected by other courts.

“EU instruments which affect UK family law deal primarily with procedural rather than substantive family law – sovereignty is not the issue here – but they require full reciprocity to work.

“Without reciprocity there is a risk of a ‘one way street’ – the UK would continue to apply EU family law and be obliged unilaterally to recognise and enforce decisions of other EU member states – whereas EU member states would not be obliged to recognise and enforce our decisions.”

It is estimated that there are 140,000 international divorces and around 1,800 instances of child abduction within the EU each year. The sheer volume of cases demonstrates the number of people who could be affected if appropriate arrangements aren’t put in place.

OGR Stock Denton Partner Graeme Fraser will be delivering a presentation to the Law Society of Ireland on 24 November on Brexit and the Family Law Practitioner.

He said: “Individuals, families and businesses are all affected by the uncertainties over Brexit. If you have a family law issue, it is always best to obtain early advice from a family law professional. This is particularly important where a family has international connections. Many families in the UK will be affected”

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