Family law cases involving EU after Brexit

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, certain current family law agreements which apply between the EU countries will stop applying to the UK. If you have any cross-border family law cases involving people living in the EU, the rules will change.

Changes to family law

There will be changes to rules that decide:

  • where cases for divorce are heard (jurisdiction) and how a divorce granted in one country will be recognised in another
  • where cases about children (parental responsibility) are heard and in which countries decisions will be recognised and enforced
  • where cases for maintenance are heard and in which countries decisions will be recognised and enforced
  • extra EU rules on child abduction

This information relates to cases involving the courts of Northern Ireland. People with cross-border family law cases involving the courts in Scotland or England and Wales should seek advice on how the rules will change in those jurisdictions.

Divorce

If you are going through a divorce, or thinking about getting divorced, and either you or your spouse is habitually resident or domiciled in Northern Ireland, the rules will change.

If your divorce was made final before 'no deal' exit day, you should not be affected.

If, on no deal exit day, you have an ongoing divorce case in Northern Ireland, your case will continue under the existing rules.

The jurisdiction grounds on which divorce cases can be brought in Northern Ireland will broadly stay the same. You can apply for a divorce in the usual way.

However, if your divorce case links the UK and an EU country (depending on where you or your spouse live), after no deal exit day, courts in Northern Ireland will apply new rules to decide where your divorce case will be heard.

You should get advice from a family lawyer as to how these changes affect you.

Cases about parental responsibility

If you're involved in a parental responsibility case (including residence and contact arrangements for children) with an adult or child who is living in the EU, the rules will change.

If your parental responsibility case has been made final and recognised by a Northern Ireland court before no deal exit day, it should not be affected. However, if you make further applications these may need to be made to a different court.

If, on no deal exit day, you have an ongoing parental responsibility case in a court in Northern Ireland, your case will continue under the existing rules.

After no deal exit day, courts in Northern Ireland will use similar rules as those currently to decide if they should hear a parental responsibility case and to recognise and enforce decisions made in EU countries.

However, if you have a case ongoing in a court in an EU country or need to have judgments recognised and enforced in an EU country after exit day, this may need to be done in a different court or under a different procedure.

Maintenance

If your maintenance case was resolved and has been recognised by the relevant court in an EU Member State before no deal exit day, you should not be affected.

The rules will not change that apply to Child Maintenance Service cases where both parents and child are based in the UK.

On no deal exit day, the rules will change that decide where court cases for child maintenance and cases involving spousal maintenance should be heard and which countries will recognise and enforce decisions.

If, on no deal exit day, you have an ongoing maintenance case in a court in Northern Ireland or in an EU Member State, your case will continue to be heard in that court. However, if you make further applications after no deal exit day, they may need to be made to a different court or under a different procedure.

If you have a child maintenance decision that you want to have recognised and enforced in an EU Member State after no deal exit day, go to:

International parental child abduction

There won't be major changes to the rules linked to EU countries  for abduction or wrongfully retained children.

If you're the applicant in a case to return a child who has been abducted to an EU country by the other parent or a relative, you should get legal advice from a specialist lawyer.

You should get legal advice in the country where the child has been taken. You should contact the Central Authority for Northern Ireland and Reunite International Child Abduction Centre.

Share this page

What do you want to do?
What is your question about?
Do you want a reply?
Your email address
To reply to you, we need your email address
Your feedback

We will not reply to your feedback.  Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

This feedback form is for issues with the nidirect website only.

You can use it to report a problem or suggest an improvement to a webpage.

If you have a question about a government service or policy, you should contact the relevant government organisation directly as we don’t have access to information about you held by government departments.

You must be aged 13 years or older - if you’re younger, ask someone with parental responsibility to send the feedback for you.

The nidirect privacy notice applies to any information you send on this feedback form.

Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.
Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.

What to do next

Comments or queries about angling can be emailed to anglingcorrespondence@daera-ni.gov.uk 

What to do next

If you have a comment or query about benefits, you will need to contact the government department or agency which handles that benefit.  Contacts for common benefits are listed below.

Carer's Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912
Email 
dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Discretionary support / Short-term benefit advance

Call 0800 587 2750 
Email 
customerservice.unit@communities-ni.gov.uk

Disability Living Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912 
Email dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Employment and Support Allowance

Call 0800 587 1377

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Contact your local Jobs & Benefits office

Personal Independence Payment

Call 0800 587 0932

If your query is about another benefit, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

Comments or queries about the Blue Badge scheme can be emailed to bluebadges@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk or you can also call 0300 200 7818.

What to do next

For queries or advice about careers, contact the Careers Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Child Maintenance, contact the Child Maintenance Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about claiming compensation due to a road problem, contact DFI Roads claim unit.

What to do next

For queries or advice about criminal record checks, email ani@accessni.gov.uk

What to do next

Application and payment queries can be emailed to ema_ni@slc.co.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about employment rights, contact the Labour Relations Agency.

What to do next

For queries or advice about birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates and research, contact the General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI) by email gro_nisra@finance-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries about:

If your query is about another topic, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

For queries or advice about passports, contact HM Passport Office.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), including parking tickets and bus lane PCNs, email dcu@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about pensions, contact the Northern Ireland Pension Centre.

What to do next

If you wish to report a problem with a road or street you can do so online in this section.

If you wish to check on a problem or fault you have already reported, contact DfI Roads.

What to do next

For queries or advice about historical, social or cultural records relating to Northern Ireland, use the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) enquiry service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about rates, email LPSCustomerTeam@lpsni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about  60+ and Senior Citizen SmartPasses (which can be used to get concessionary travel on public transport), contact Smartpass - Translink.