How will Brexit affect families with an international element?

With Article 50 triggered on 29th March 2017, and ongoing negotiations about hard or soft Brexit not having come to any conclusion, and deadlines being set by each side in what has been described as the UK’s desired divorce from Europe, one has to wonder how this will impact on families in the UK.

Whilst specific figures are not available for the numbers of relationships crossing national borders, it is well known that as the world becomes smaller, that such relationships are on the increase.

Legal questions surrounding the breakdown of such relationships are already complex and require specialist advice, but with the prospect of the Great Repeal Bill, in less than 2 years, there is much to be welcomed and feared for families.

For example, whilst the current Brussel’s rule giving jurisdiction to the first country in which proceedings are issued (staying any later proceedings in another country) encourages expensive litigation from the off, rather than encouraging other forms of alternative more amicable dispute resolution, the potential lack of appropriate reciprocal agreements with other European countries post Brexit, could mean that non-UK courts disregard orders made in the UK, whilst we remain obliged to enforce the orders of other countries. This could at best lead to unnecessary costs and uncertainty, but at worst, real vulnerability for children and families in the UK.

3 leading influential family law bodies (Resolution, the Family Law Bar Association and the International Academy of Family Lawyers), have recently warned that a lack of progress on Brexit negotiations could leave tens of thousands of families and children in limbo.

Whilst the negotiation involves procedural rather than substantive law changes, it is hoped that these are not going to be lost in the negotiation over more meatier matters.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any other aspect of family law at or 01656 645525.


Katie McColgan

Partner, Family Department, at Berry Smith Lawyer