Will my divorce be recognised in the EU after Brexit?
People who have been divorced while living in the UK, but who have connections in other EU countries have asked whether their divorce will be valid in that country.
During the transition period it was very unclear, exactly how Brexit would affect international family law. But now the deal-or-no-deal drama has been played out, and the dust is settling we can pause and take stock.
When Britain was in the EU, and during the “transition period” there were EU regulations which stated, essentially, that any divorce in one member state would be automatically recognised in the other member states. So that was pretty simple.
But at the end of the transition period those regulations ceased to apply in the UK, and we fell back onto various international treaties, mostly Hague Conventions. So the rules are quite complicated, and they vary depending on which country we are dealing with, and what the issue is – divorce, or resolution of financial issues, or enforcing a financial order which has already been made.
The key date is the date when the proceedings were started. Generally EU regulations will apply to any family proceedings which had already been started by 11.00pm on 31 December 2020. So if your divorce was started by that time, it will automatically be recognised in all EU states. But that is not the case if your divorce proceedings started after that time.
The relevant treaty is the Hague Convention 1970. Countries which signed up to it agreed automatically to recognise each other’s divorces. Most EU member states signed but not all, notably France and Ireland. So whether an English divorce started after 31 December 2020 will be recognised in Europe can depend on where the parties were living when the divorce proceedings were started, and also where they were “domiciled” which is slightly different legal concept.
For example, you could have an Irish couple who live and work in the UK but are still “domiciled” in the Republic of Ireland. If they get divorced in England their divorce would not be recognised in Ireland, so they would have to have another divorce there if, for example, one of them wanted to remarry. There are also problems over recognition of same-sex divorce and civil partnership dissolution.
So the short answer is that if you are uncertain about your position you need to take individual advice
John Pratley is an expert divorce lawyer, who has more than 25 years experience advising clients purely about divorce and related family law issues, such as the financial consequences of separating and divorcing. After establishing the first niche family law practice in Bristol, and going on to senior management roles in a national firm, John set up Apple Tree Family Law in 2018. Apple tree family Law solicitors specialise in advice about divorce and financial issues.
We are based in Bristol and Exeter, but we have clients all over the UK and further afield. We offer, simply, clear and accurate advice about divorce and family law issues, and the very best client service, for a clear and reasonable price.