Terrence Trainor

How will Brexit Effect UK Family Law

In reality, the UK's exit could take as long as two years before they can formally end their relationship with the EU. By Terrence Trainor

It is believed that the results of the referendum, with UK voting to leave the EU, will result in a lot of disruption and confusion in family law. A report from the Bar Council believes that it may result in the courts being unable to cope with the changes.

The report produced by the Bar Council is seen as being neutral and it carefully considers the legal and constitutional implications of the UK leaving the EU while investigating the effect the EU referendum would have on certain laws in the UK.

The EU measures have had a big impact in family law, largely in a positive way, and this has been continuing to grow and be developed in recent years. This includes the maintenance regulations as well as having uniform jurisdictional rules on children and divorce proceedings. Whilst the report acknowledges that the measures in place are not flawless, it is widely accepted that any change or withdrawal from the current regulations may result in disruption and confusion.

It has been suggested in the report, the courts would find it difficult to deal with the transition and this is largely down to the fact it is happening at a time when legal aid has been decreased and a large number of couples are unrepresented. There is also the fact that the family courts are currently going through budgetary adjustments and structural alterations.

The Bar Council have made it clear that they support the many measures, but not every initiative, that has been put in place for family law. The report also stated that a move away from the EU may result in London becoming a less popular venue for future litigation.

A period of uncertainty is likely to be experienced regarding the jurisdiction and enforcement regimes that are in place between the UK and other EU member states and this is likely to remain until similar or alternative arrangements have been agreed.

The report also stated that leaving the EU may cause problems regarding the ability of UK citizens to enforce UK court Orders overseas. This could be particularly problematic in family law proceedings in the London courts which often deal with couples who could be best described as ‘citizens of the world’.

The report was released following a study that was carried out by the Law Society based on how the Brexit would impact the legal profession. Of course, until the UK has formally invoked ‘Article 50’ to leave the EU it is very much a matter of ‘watch this space’.

In reality, the UK's exit could take as long as two years before they can formally end their relationship with the EU and like with any marriage breakdown, a period of calm and reflection is needed to ensure that the relationship ends as amicably and as positively as possible.

About the Author

Terrence Trainor is the Head of Family Law at Fletcher Day. For more information please visit

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