Brexit’s likely impact on the popularity of England’s family court system for cross-border and international divorce cases has reportedly led to a surge in such applications and the resulting divorce cases being heard in the run-up to the Brexit transition.
The end of the year will bring an end to the UK’s participation in a long-standing EU agreement under which cross-border divorce rulings made in one EU state are automatically recognised in another; an agreement which has seen London earn the reputation as the so-called “divorce capital of the world”.
A recent High Court divorce financial settlement case, OG v AG  EWFC 52, was notable in a number of ways that may prove instructive to family lawyers and their divorce clients in similar cases in the future. Some of the most enlightening points considered by Mostyn J, Francis J and Cohen J in their commentary on the divorce financial settlement case include the following:
In March, during the days when many of us assumed that COVID-19 restrictions were a temporary situation that would be weathered quickly before returning to normal life, the government announced that, under specially created guidelines, a separated parent would be able to withhold child contact from the other parent if they had legitimate concerns about potential COVID transmission.
In theory, this sounded reasonable enough. However, given that it required the good faith of both parents, it is perhaps also reasonable to suggest that problems should have been foreseeable. Under this COVID-specific piece of family law guidance, parents were given the power to unilaterally “exercise their parental responsibility and vary the arrangement to one that they consider to be safe” – effectively, a green light to vary a child arrangements order.
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement of lockdown measures on 23 March 2020, separated parents and their children were left in the position of trying to negotiate a new and complicated landscape in which they were uncertain of their rights in relation to child visitation and other important matters.
However, even a close reading of the initial lockdown measures failed to provide much in the way of useful clarification. They told us that we were only allowed to leave our homes for the following reasons:
As you can see, this summary of the key points held little to nothing in the way of guidance for what to do in the case of children of separated families who might normally move between homes. Such uncertainty had the potential to prove problematic for the children of separated families, particularly as routine is typically thought to be essential to their emotional and psychological wellbeing.
So, 31 January has come and gone, and the EU Withdrawal Bill has now passed into law. If you thought this would put an end to all talks of messy divorce, think again.
Yes, the UK's decision to end our relationship with Europe and to instead embark on the separation process of Brexit has many implications for family law, not least – although most ironically – within the pertinent area of cross-border divorce.