For anyone that may not have quite caught the small media story that has been ongoing for the last few days, the UK has voted to leave the European Union… The issue has, of course, been covered extensively, both in the UK itself and in Europe, and it appears there will be several months before the 2 year negotiations are triggered by Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. There are many important decisions that will have to be made but, as Family Lawyers, we will need to keep a close eye on how our area of expertise will be affected by the Brexit divorce.
Currently, European Law affects various aspects of family law. To name but a few examples of the way EU Law has directly or indirectly changed domestic UK law: it governs the jurisdiction conditions that need to be met for a decree of divorce to be granted; it governs the test to determine which court has jurisdiction in relation to child access disputes; it led to the UK government introducing The Gender Recognition Act 2004 in order to bring UK law in line with European law; and it plays a significant role in “maintenance” applications. It could also be argued that the UK’s membership in the EU has brought more weight to Nuptial Agreements in this country.
Whilst some of the above EU regulations are undoubtedly helpful and are most likely to be retained when the UK is no longer a Member State, some regulations, which might be deemed vague such as the definition of “maintenance”, may well be dropped in an attempt to provide clarity to the law.
Clearly, after years of being a member, UK law is somewhat entwined in EU regulations and it is likely to take a great deal of time and consideration to work out how the Brexit divorce will affect family law. It will now just be a waiting game as to which regulations remain enshrined in our own law and which, if any, are to be replaced.