If the United Kingdom leaves the EU without a deal, then the cost of getting divorced in some cases will increase dramatically.
If both partners in a marriage currently apply to different countries in the EU for a divorce, then the country where the first proceedings were issued would usually keep control of that case.
If there is a no-deal Brexit then this rule of “first in line” is not carried over.
As a result, there will be cases where one partner applies to a local court and their partner, perhaps a national of another European state applies to the courts in their home country.
Alternatively, British ex-pats living overseas can often choose to issue in the UK or in the country where they currently live.
Where proceedings are issued in two countries, after a no-deal Brexit, then there will need to be expensive preliminary court hearings just to determine which country should deal with the divorce and associated financial and children matters.
The Government has reported that there are currently:
- 1m British citizens living in the EU
- 3m EU citizens living in the UK
- 16m cross border disputes
- 14,000 international divorces
Which country hears a divorce will be critical; different EU countries have different laws about how money and children matters are settled. It is a commonly held view, for example, that the English courts can be more generous to the partner who is making the financial claim.
In addition, if you are a UK national married to a European then you might feel at a considerable disadvantage in having to instruct overseas lawyers and travel to another country for any court hearings about your family.
It goes without saying that where your marriage is okay then no action is required, but if you think that a divorce might happen soon then take advice now. Just because you are taking advice does not mean that you have to get divorced right away. At least you can evaluate your options with full knowledge of the facts. If you issue divorce proceedings before a no-deal Brexit then the “first in line” rule will still apply.
It will be far better to issue any proceedings first in your preferred jurisdiction than realise after a no-deal Brexit that you face a legal struggle to have your divorce resolved in the country of your choice.