Brexit and family law

Sue Jenkinson


Brexit and all that is flowing from it is likely to cause considerable issues for the legal system and the family law system in particular. The Justice Committee has been looking at these issues across the entire UK legal landscape, a huge task. Just before Christmas the Justice Committee started to look at the possible implications for family law specifically, of Brexit and the committee started to ask questions as to how these problems could be mitigated. There was a consensus amongst the academics and legal professionals who gave oral evidence that the effects will be far reaching and create some difficulties for international families in the UK and expat British family’s living in the EU in particular.

It was noted that in 2015 27.5% of children born in England and Wales had a foreign mother, so any legal issues that relate to these children could be very significantly complicated by Brexit unless early steps are taken to create reciprocal agreements with the EU. There are also a great many expat families who live in the EU and who’s jurisdiction and legal arrangements will need to be reconsidered. The leading organisation of family lawyers, Resolution highlighted some of the most significant areas of difficulty in their evidence. These include

  • Complications around the appropriate jurisdiction to hear divorce petitions in the future.
  • There may not be any guarantee that orders of the UK courts will recognised in EU states, possibly resulting in conflicting decisions, thus creating legal headaches and expense for litigants who are increasingly not legally represented in the family courts in this country.


The Committee has concluded that there is an urgent need for the Government to negotiate new agreements with the EU, on such matters as reciprocity of child support and maintenance orders, divorce recognition and the recognition of domestic violence orders. While much of the Brexit focus is on the huge and complicated trade issues, there are a great many family issues that will potentially create legal headaches for families unless they are considered and mitigated before the UK finally leaves the EU, whenever that might be.


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