EU committee urge government to consider family law
Concerns have been mounting with regards to what Brexit could mean for the UK family law system, but the government's response has left many even more worried about what will happen to children and litigants who are caught in the family justice system.
A letter from the House of Lords EU committee to justice secretary David Gauke was published recently, whereby they say they welcome the government's white paper on the future relationship between the UK and EU. However, the committee claim that they do still retain significant concerns about family law, which it doesn't believe has been properly addressed in a 'no deal' technical note on handling civil cases with EU countries that was issued back in September.
Committee claim technical note shows no plan for family law
The committee believe that the technical note merely encourages those who are concerned to seek legal advice, and can see no substantial plan of action that will address their concerns about the drastic impact they feel a no-deal Brexit outcome would have on the UK's family law system and the children that the courts seek to protect.
The committee were previously reassured that the Ministry of Justice were responsible for the UK's post-Brexit membership of the Lugano Convention, but were left surprised when justice minister Lucy Frazer consulted officials during an evidence session to confirm her statement. The House of Lords EU committee felt this undermined their confidence in the government's preparations and cast considerable doubt on the Minister's claim that the Ministry of Justice is heavily involved on the issue.
The technical note concluded that various Hague conventions are set to provide positive alternatives to EU rules, but the committee claim that family law practitioners informed that this was not the case.
Government's statement does little to address concerns
According to the government, the loss of the Brussels II 'lis pendens' rule can be addressed with current rules in place that apply to cases falling outside the regulation's scope. The committee counteract this by saying that the statement issued by the government ignores significant concerns inherent to a major change in the UK's family law system. The concerns include considerable individual expense and inconvenience for litigants, as well as resource implications for a family law system that's already under considerable pressure and struggling with a lack of funds.
As far as the ministry is concerned, a good deal is apparently in sight over Brexit, and contingency plans that are outlined on the guidance aim to provide as much continuity and certainty as possible.
Baroness Kennedy, chair of the Lords EU justice sub-committee, claims that the report has simply left the committee even more concerned. She is now warning that the government need to face the reality of what having no substantial answers on the family justice system will mean following Brexit, and that the uncertainty will ultimately leave vulnerable children as the victims.
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