How will Brexit affect UK divorce tourism? - Marcia Mediation

Restoring confidence in cross-border divorce: How will mediation pick up the pieces if divorce negotiations take a hit from Brexit?...

Divorce tourism is the practice of travelling to another country to take advantage of its more favourable divorce laws, and for the past 15 years UK divorce tourism has seen Brits benefit financially by legally separating overseas or borders.

But from the start of 2021, Brexit could spell an end to this for couples from (or living in) England – and mediators will be ready to pick up the pieces if divorce negotiations get more difficult as a result.

What is divorce tourism?

Since the early 2000s, the Brussels II Regulation has allowed divorce tourism to take place between EU member states, with separation in one country applying legally across the EU. But with Brexit, this no longer applies to English divorce law.

There have always been some restrictions on when couples can divorce in a different country in the EU, including:

  • Spouses must have recently lived in the country and one must still live there.
  • One spouse must be a citizen of the country or has lived there for the past year.
  • Parties can initiate divorce proceedings in different countries with the earlier request taking precedence.

It is still possible that an agreement will be reached as part of the Brexit ‘deal’ to continue the regulation in England beyond January 1st; however, a no-deal Brexit would signal an end to the arrangement and allow English courts to insist on divorces being handled elsewhere.

Significantly, under Brussels II, it has been impossible to enforce via a prenuptial agreement the location of any future divorce proceedings, and different countries are considered more and less generous on different aspects of divorce.

England, for example, is widely regarded as more generous on issues like child support and maintenance payments – so the ability to force divorce proceedings to be carried out abroad could be welcome news for wealthy individuals.

What will happen if UK divorce tourism ends?

If it is no longer possible to divorce under another country’s laws, couples will have less options when starting proceedings. It’s always sensible to consult a mediator as early as possible in the divorce process, but from 2021 this will be even more crucial.

There are several potential implications for UK divorce tourism, particularly for couples who live in England where divorce laws are still relatively strict:

  • An increase in prenuptial agreements to restrict maintenance payouts.
  • An increase in disputes and contested divorce proceedings.
  • A potential decrease in parties complying with the court’s ruling.

Under the previous rules, some cases have famously led to a ‘race to file’ as both spouses sought to bring proceedings in the most favourable country for them; however, at least the rules were clear that whoever filed first gained precedence.

From January it’s possible – and indeed likely – that cross-border divorce cases will be subject to greater dispute, and may require court action simply to determine who has jurisdiction over the proceedings, unless parties can agree on this via mediation.

How to restore confidence in cross-border divorce

If your divorce proceedings involve cross-border negotiations, or you are living away from your home nation, it’s important to keep things friendly to make progress without needing court action.

Mediation can help from the very early stages of divorce, so both parties can agree on where to file for divorce, whether that is in the UK or elsewhere in Europe and the world.

A mediator is there to make progress. However complicated your case might seem, an experienced mediator can cut through the complexity to move things forwards in a way that benefits everybody involved. Get in touch with us to speak to a mediator today about starting the process.