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Home > News > Brexit – how will my divorce be affected?

Brexit – how will my divorce be affected?

29 January 2021 | Louise Kiely


The Brexit transitional period has ended, and the UK government have confirmed new rules surrounding divorce in England which had come into effect as of 31 December 2020.

I am part way through my divorce, will anything change?

If you have already started divorce proceedings, then you can continue to proceed based on the law at the time the proceedings were started.

The EU and the UK have indicated that the divorce will be recognised by each other in the same way it was prior to 31 December 2020. However, if proceedings conclude after 31 December 2020 it may be advisable to apply for recognition.

I am about to start divorce proceedings, will Brexit change anything?

The new rules announced by the UK government will apply to any divorce proceedings in 2021 and beyond.

The rule used to be the “first in time” where the country that received the application first would have jurisdiction over the proceedings. This is no longer the case.

The English and Welsh courts will now decide where the divorce should happen based on the most appropriate place. This is not always easy to determine particularly if couples lived in different countries for extended periods of time.

If divorce is commenced in an EU country, that country will apply their own rules on determining where the divorce should be held. This does not prevent you from beginning proceedings in the UK as the “first in time” rule no longer applies.

Will my divorce be recognised?

UK divorces granted before 31 December 2020 will be recognised by all EU member states. If your divorce proceedings started before 31 December 2020 but did not conclude before that date, the UK and EU have indicated that they will still be recognised by all EU states. However, to be certain it is advisable to apply for a Certificate of Recognition as soon as possible. This is even more important should you want to live or work in an EU country.

Divorce proceedings that commenced after 31 December 2020 will not automatically be recognised by all EU member states. The reliance will be on the 1970 Hague Convention on the Recognition of Divorces and Legal Separations. Only 12 out of the 27 EU member states are signed up to these rules. These 12 countries will still recognise your divorce:

  • Cyprus
  • Czechia
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • Italy
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia

For your divorce to be recognised in any other EU state then it is important that you seek legal advice.

Specialist divorce solicitors

Don’t forget we are here for you, to advise, represent and support you through your case. To contact our team of specialist divorce lawyers in Bristol or London, please call 0117 906 9400 or email

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.

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