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Brexit justice negotiations should prioritise resolving family law cases

House of Commons Justice Committee publishes Brexit report

The Government, when discussing justice matters in the Brexit negotiations, should include within its priorities the retention of efficient means of resolving family law cases involving EU Member States and the UK. That is the recommendation of a new report of the House of Commons Justice Committee.

The Committee has recommended that the Government address four priorities for the justice system in negotiating the UK's new relationship with the EU. The resolution of international family law cases is one of those four priorities.

The Committee recognises that Brussels IIa and the Maintenance Regulation are not without fault: races to issue resulting from Brussels IIa's divorce provisions are particularly undesirable. However, in the view of the Committee, they are improvements over their default alternatives, and mutual recognition and enforcement of judgments in family cases is of demonstrable value in resolving cross-border instances of child abduction and non-payment of maintenance.

The report recommends that the Government should seek to maintain the closest possible cooperation with the EU on family justice matters, and in particular to retain a system for mutual recognition and enforcement of judgments.

For a summary of the report, click here. For the conclusions and recommendations, click here. For the full report, click here.

In a separate report, the House of Lords EU Justice Sub-Committee has expressed concern that leaving the EU without having in place an alternative system to the current arrangements for family law will have a profound and damaging impact on the UK's family justice system and those individuals seeking redress within it.

The committee was particularly concerned that, save for the provisions of the Lugano Convention on cases involving maintenance, there is no satisfactory fall-back position in respect of family law.

Witnesses were unanimous that a return to common law rules for UK-EU cases would be particularly detrimental for those engaged in family law litigation. The Bar Council also suggested that an already stretched family court system would not be able to cope with the expected increase in litigation.

For the Lords' report, click here.

For a Family Law Week article on divorce jurisdiction after Brexit, click here.

23/3/17 (supplemented 23/3/17)