As of 31st December 2020, new rules will be applied to international divorces due to Brexit. If you and your spouse are of different nationalities, have a second home, live or work in Europe, your approach to separation will need to take into account these changes to avoid additional complications and costs.
Previous rules incorporated EU regulations which follow a ‘first past the post’ approach, i.e. the country in which proceedings are issued first has the priority, but the new rules state that if divorce petitions are filed in two separate jurisdictions, the country to which both parties have the ‘strongest links’ will hear the divorce case.
This is something of a grey area, and may vary from couple to couple, but ‘strong links’ is likely to relate to living arrangements, employment, family ties, and children’s arrangements. However, there is a risk that the new rules may lead to lengthy disputes over which jurisdiction the case should be held in, creating additional cost, uncertainty and stress. And, while the pandemic is still a present issue, the inability to travel is an obvious issue, causing additional delays.
Different jurisdictions have different approaches to supporting the weaker financial partner, maintenance, and division of assets, and separating couples may end up clashing over where they want proceedings to be carried out to protect their best interests.
For petitions that were submitted before the 31st of December 2020, the previous EU regulations will still apply. But for those with international links looking to separate in 2021 and beyond, it’s important to discuss your situation with your solicitor (and, if possible, come to a mutual decision over where to hold proceedings with your spouse).
If you have already made decisions about finances, maintenance and other logistical issues in advance – for example in a pre-nuptial agreement – this may still be enforceable if the chosen court is in England and Wales, but enforcing an order made in an EU state may be difficult.
For more advice on any aspect of divorce and separation, get in touch with us at www.franceslindsay.co.uk and speak to one of our experienced, supportive family lawyers. We offer a free 45-minute initial consultation for family law issues and are able to organise remote appointments via Zoom, FaceTime or phone. Let us take the weight off your shoulders and help you find the right solution for your unique circumstances.