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UK rejects EU-wide rules on matrimonial property rights

Date:11 AUG 2011

By Hugh Logue, Newswatch Editor

Jonathan DjanoglyOn 30 June 2011, the Ministry of Justice made a statement in Parliament saying the Government had decided not to opt in to the European Commission's proposals to bring legal clarity to the property rights for married international couples and for registered partnerships with an international dimension.

To read commentary from international family lawyer David Hodson, click here

In March the European Commission proposed two separate Regulations: one to implement the rules for married couples and the other for registered partnerships. The Regulations are intended to help identify which law applies to a couple's property rights and the responsible court. The Regulations also provide for rules for recognising and enforcing court judgments on a couple's property in all EU Member States through a single procedure.

However, Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly (pictured) said in a statement that the Government decided not to opt in to the European Commission's proposals as there were a number of reasons why it would not be in the UK's interests to do so.

In giving those reasons, Mr Djanogly said:  "First, the concept of a matrimonial property regime (or equivalent for civil partners) does not exist in the UK in the sense understood in most other member states. Currently our courts take a wide view of the capital resources available to the parties on divorce or dissolution (including maintenance). Many of these issues are not included in traditional matrimonial property regimes. If the UK was to opt in it would be more difficult for our courts to deal with all aspects of the financial provision of international couples on divorce or dissolution in cases which fall within the scope of these proposals.

"Concerns were raised about how the use of foreign law could drive up costs and complicate the resolution of disputes in the family courts and create uncertainty for third-parties who enter into a legal relationship with the couple. There was also considered to be uncertainty about the interaction with succession law.

"Both the House of Lords European Union Select Committee and the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee have recommended the UK should not opt-in."