Ministers intend to “opt in” to new EU family law framework despite looming Brexit

In a decision which could have significance for families spread across EU borders, the Government has said that it intends for Britain to “opt in” to a new set of EU regulations concerning cross-border family law proceedings.

The European Commission is drafting proposals for a new system to deal with cases relating to divorce and child arrangements which cross national borders.

The framework that officials are in the process of putting together will take the place of Brussels IIA regulation, which came into force in 2005.

Justice Minister Oliver Heald argued that the UK should “opt in”, despite the fact that formal negotiations to leave the EU are set to start next year.

In a ministerial statement he argued that there were possible risks if the new regulations were implemented prior to Britain’s departure and the country had failed to sign up to the new arrangements.

“This might mean for a period of time no EU instrument regulates these matters for UK families even though the UK is still a member state,” he said.

“Secondly, even after a UK exit the regulation will affect UK citizens, principally in other member states, and it is in the UK’s interests to influence the negotiations.”

The new rules are being drafted to provide clearer deadlines for certain family law procedures and improve the system for enforcing judgments in different member states.

At Carter Lemon Camerons we understand that the breakdown of a relationship is never easy, and that trying to get to grips with the legal formalities while dealing with complex emotions can be confusing and upsetting.

For advice on any stage of the process, please contact Chris Corney ( or visit our website.