International Divorce & Family Law: European Union
There’s a wide variety of approaches to the family, the law and marital breakdown across Europe. This has always meant European lawmakers have had to grapple with complex issues when it comes to creating a framework to regulate divorce, child arrangements and the division of marital assets. International marriages, international work mobility and the number of UK citizens for example who retire or settle in EU countries like Spain and France are all on the rise. They are the key factors that have forced courts in both the EU and the UK to take a wider, cross-border view when reaching decisions around divorce, finances and arrangements for children.
Marital Property Across The EU
Individual European states each have their own family law systems with particular approaches to issues like maintenance and child arrangements. Courts in Austria for example might still to some extent take into account the fault of one spouse when considering what level of maintenance to award. And the way individual states approach the overall division of property in a divorce can be markedly different from country to country.
Unlike in the UK most EU states allow couples to elect a marital property regime to govern their finances during and after the marriage or impose a particular regime if a couple do not choose one of their own. So couples may be subject to a ‘community property’ regime where property acquired before a marriage is considered separate while property the couple acquire during a marriage (with the exception of inheritances and gifts) is considered shared or ‘community’ property. As an alternative to the community regime a couple may elect to treat all property separately or jointly –whether accrued before or during the marriage.
Enforcing Court Orders Across The EU
One persistent problem that presents itself in international divorce cases is how to enforce a judgment in one country over assets in another. For example if a judge in the UK orders that a holiday home in Spain be transferred to one spouse as part of a financial settlement, how is that transfer finalised in Spain?
Enforcement of UK orders in the EU after Brexit is governed by the laws of the relevant EU state. And because not all EU countries have specific rules about recognising non-EU orders (such as an order from an English court) the process can become lengthy and complicated. As a result specialist legal advice on enforcement is advised.
Child Relocation To The EU
Another issue that arises in EU/UK divorces is how to enforce arrangements regarding the children of divorced couples when one parent moves to another EU country.
Before Brexit so-called Brussels IIA legislation provided a relatively secure and straightforward way to deal with disputes over relocation of children. From 2021 parent need to rely on the Hague Conventions which can result in a lengthier process with fewer options for the parent seeking the return of a child than existed under Brussels IIA.
We are specialist international divorce lawyers and family solicitors and we have advised numerous clients who are either UK–based but originate from another EU country, or are living outside of the UK, perhaps in the EU but have a connection with England or Wales.
We handle cases between England and European countries, including:
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