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Brexit and family law: CFLQ special issue editorial

Date:26 SEP 2017
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This special issue of Child  and Family Law Quarterly contains several of the papers delivered at a joint seminar held by CFLQ with Cambridge Family Law at Trinity College in March 2017.

Quite fortuitously, the seminar happened to fall between two important events: the publication just days earlier of key parliamentary committee reports on the implications of Brexit for transnational litigation, including in family cases, and the UK’s formal notification of its intention to leave the European Union (EU), issued just a couple of days later.

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The seminar provided an opportunity for legal academics, practitioners, representatives from some EU 27 governments and Central Authorities, and students to come together to explore various ramifications of Brexit across the full range of family law issues, Topics explored included: recognition of divorce and enforcement of associated orders; jurisdiction in relation to divorce, private and public children matters, maintenance and other financial arrangements on divorce; international child abduction; and family migration.

Some key problems and questions that emerged during the expert practitioner panel discussion at the end of the day included:

  • the adequacy or otherwise of alternative ‘fall back’ options, in particular the work of the Hague Conference and its potential (or otherwise) for creating better, more global solutions;
  • the potential (or otherwise) of adopting a formula that requires UK courts to take ‘due account’ of judgments from the Court of Justice of the EU;
  • the difficulties of adequately regulating intra-UK family litigation;
  • the legitimacy of using secondary legislation to enact new rules to deal with transnational family justice matters;
  • the likely burden on an already badly over-stretched domestic family justice system of the years of legal uncertainty following the major legal dislocation that will inevitably arise; and
  • probable ‘red line’ issues for both the UK and the EU in the forthcoming negotiations.

What strategy each negotiating party adopts in those impending ‘divorce’ proceedings remains to be seen: will transnational family justice be a very small cog in a much larger machine that, for that reason, is in danger of being overlooked? Or will its apparently minor status make it a subject on which an early, easy ‘win’ for both sides can be agreed? Either way, however ‘minor’ the issues may appear to outsiders in the broader scheme of Brexit, they are of critical importance to the individuals and families concerned.

In the meantime, we are pleased to publish in this special issue five papers from the seminar to contribute to the ongoing debates.

Buy this individual issue here. Find out about a subscription to Child and Family Law Quarterly here.