Family, civil and commercial disputes involving EU countries after EU exit

Last updated: 5 April 2019

The UK may be leaving the European Union.

EU exit (also known as Brexit) may have an effect on the way you live in Scotland.

This may include changes to the way family, civil and commercial legal disputes are handled.

EU exit has not happened, and many of the details are not yet known or are regularly changing. This page gives the most up-to-date information, but it will be added to and changed over time, so please keep checking back for updates.

Family law disputes involving EU countries

If there's a family dispute where both parties are based in the UK, nothing will change after EU exit except for a small change to when courts in Scotland can deal with divorce cases.

If a family dispute involves EU countries, however, some of the rules may change after EU exit.

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, some EU family law agreements will no longer apply to the UK.

This will affect rules on:

  • the country that family law disputes are heard in
  • how decisions made in one country will be recognised and enforced in another

This applies to cases in Scotland for:

  • divorce
  • matters relating to children
  • child maintenance
  • EU rules on child abduction

If you are involved in a case you think may be affected by this (or if you will be soon), you should speak to a lawyer or Citizens Advice Bureau as soon as possible.

If the UK leaves the EU with a deal, there will be no change to the process during the 'implementation period' (until December 2020).

Divorce

At the moment, EU family law decides when courts have 'jurisdiction' over a divorce case (when they're able to deal with it).

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, this will change and the courts will have jurisdiction if either partner:

  • is resident in Scotland on the date when the court action starts, or
  • was resident in Scotland throughout the period of one year ending on the date when the court action starts.

There will be similar changes for the 'dissolution' of a civil partnership.

Matters relating to children (parental responsibilities, rights, contact and residence)

EU exit will also affect the EU rules on matters relating to children. This includes:

  • parental responsibilities and rights
  • contact
  • residence

After EU exit, these EU rules will be replaced by other international rules, which Scotland currently follows in cases involving non-EU countries. These rules are similar to the EU rules.

Family maintenance

The rules for family maintenance that are currently applied within the EU will be replaced by other existing international rules.

This means maintenance can still be obtained and enforced between Scotland and EU countries.

If you have a child maintenance decision you want to have recognised and enforced in an EU country, as well as speaking to your solicitor you can contact:

Central Authority for Scotland

Address:

St Andrew's House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG

International parental child abduction

After EU exit, the rules about abduction or wrongfully retained children in EU countries will mostly not change, as these are very similar to other international rules in this area which will replace the EU rules.

If you are the applicant in a case to return a child who has been abducted to an EU country by the other parent or a relative, you should contact:

Central Authority for Scotland

Address:

St Andrew's House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG

The charity Reunite also provides advice and support on parental child abduction.

Cross border civil and commercial disputes involving EU countries

If there's a civil or commercial dispute where both parties are based in the UK, nothing will change after EU.

If a dispute involves EU countries, however, some of the rules may change after EU exit.

If the UK leaves the EU without a withdrawal agreement (a 'no deal' situation), some EU civil law agreements will no longer apply to the UK.

This will affect rules on:

  • the country civil and commercial law disputes are heard in
  • how decisions made in one country will be recognised and enforced in another

If you are currently in a case you think may be affected by this (or you will be soon) you should speak to a lawyer.

If the UK leaves the EU with a deal there will be no change to the process during the 'implementation period' (until December 2020).

The UK Government has published detailed information on civil cases which includes Scotland in a 'no deal' situation.