The suspension of Parliament, and the UK’s impending exit from the EU, spell uncertain times for divorcing couples. In particular, the law reforms which would end fault-based divorce have been lost.
There is also confusion as to what will happen to European divorce cases following Brexit.
We previously reported that divorce reforms in England and Wales would soon bring an end to fault-based divorce. Had the legislation been implemented, it would have meant that divorcing couples could start proceedings straightaway, without attributing blame to one party or the other.
However, the suspension of Parliament has led to the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill being dropped. For now, at least, the reforms will not be enforced and divorce laws will remain the same. MPs and peers may return to the issue in the future, but they will have to start from the very beginning.
Therefore, if you want to divorce and there are no allegations of fault, you must wait at least two years before you can start divorce proceedings – so long as you both agree to it. If one side does not give their consent, you have no option but to wait for five years.
European divorce cases
There are also question marks over cross-jurisdictional EU divorces. In other words, citizens of one EU state are living in another EU state, and wish to terminate their marriage. For example, what country should the divorce take place in?
With regard to cross-jurisdictional EU divorce, the government has said that divorces already underway should continue under the current rules. So, the person who files first for divorce chooses the jurisdiction. This works thanks to reciprocal agreements between EU member states.
Going forward the rules may or may not change. It depends on the outcome of negotiations. However, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, no one is entirely sure what will happen. There will be no framework to outline what country a divorce should take place in. It could also be difficult to enforce maintenance orders and rectify custody battles.
Get expert legal advice
We know this is unsettling. You may have been looking forward to starting no-fault divorce proceedings. You may also be unsure what to do about your divorce if you are a UK citizen living in an EU member state, or vice versa.
Whatever your situation, please contact the divorce team at Garner & Hancock Solicitors for help. We stay up-to-date with the latest divorce laws and can provide friendly, practical advice.