The Impact of Brexit on Divorce

Jurisdiction VS Enforcement

The rules granting courts with the forum and jurisdiction to deal with divorce petitions and proceedings are based on the petitioner and respondent’s habitual residence or domicile. Habitual residence is where a person lives or resides permanently. Domicile refers to the permanent home. In NI, the court as jurisdiction if the parties are both habitually resident in NI; the petitioner/ respondent resides there; either has resided for at least one year in NI immediately preceding the presentation of the petition; both parties are domicile in NI; or either party is habitually residence for at least 6 months in NI.

Brexit does not necessarily affect jurisdiction to bring proceedings in as long as one of the above requirements are met. However, the main effect of Brexit is on the enforcement of such petition and divorce proceedings in other member states and countries.

Brussels II- Not Applicable in 2021

This EU regulation has a significant application to divorce proceedings and ancillary relief in Northern Ireland. The legislation that governs jurisdiction and recognition in divorces is Regulation (EC) 2201/2003. In Northern Ireland, Brussels II governed jurisdiction, recognition, and enforcement of judgments in divorce matters.

 This legislation made it effortless to determine which member state has viable jurisdiction and simplified that enforcement of orders made in one state across all other member states. As noted above, it will remain intact and relevant for divorce proceedings that commenced prior to 31st December 2020. The final divorce order which is a Decree Absolute concluded under these proceedings and legislation will be automatically recognised and enforces under Brussels II.

However, divorce proceedings that commenced in 2021 will not be recognised and enforced under Brussels II and Brussels II no longer applies to the UK.

The demise of Brussels II will be a paramount loss to divorce and ancillary relief proceedings in Northern Ireland.

What will Brexit change?

The impact of Brexit on Divorce has impacted EU Law surrounding Divorces and EU law will no longer be applicable to Divorces issued in the UK from 31st December 2020. Essentially this will affect the county that the Divorce dispute is heard in most importantly how decisions and petitions made in one country will be recognised and enforced in another country. In Northern Ireland specifically, this applies to Divorces, matters involving children, and child maintenance which also arise within the Ancillary Relief Prayer in the divorce petition.

New and Ongoing Divorces- Recognition

The European Union (hereafter called EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) have concluded that divorce proceedings that were issued before 31st December 2020 will be recognised by each other. In essence, the EU will recognise a UK divorce, and the UK will recognise a divorce that was finalised in the EU. If Divorce proceedings commenced before 31st December 2020 but have not finalised, it is advisable to apply for a recognition of the divorce and any associated orders as soon as possible.

If you have applied for a divorce in Northern Ireland prior to the transition date, the divorce will continue under the current EU rules and law, even if proceedings are ongoing. When the divorce that commenced prior to 31st December 2020 concludes, it can be recognises in both NI or any EU country under the current legislation. If your divorce started in NI after this date, it will not be recognised in the EU.

The Impact of Brexit on Divorce was last modified: March 27th, 2023 by Danielle Garrity