Belfast Telegraph

Divorced UK couples could be left in limbo in Republic of Ireland

Co-author: Ciara Murphy
Co-author: Ciara Murphy

By Jenna Gardiner

Divorces obtained in the UK may not be automatically recognised in the Republic after Brexit, Irish legal experts have warned.

A briefing paper from the Bar Council of Ireland also highlighted potential complications for post-Brexit international custody and child abduction cases.

Those living in the Republic with a UK divorce may be left in limbo following the withdrawal from the EU, with anyone seeking to remarry unable to do so until legislation is introduced to ratify their previous divorce.

The matter is currently covered by 'Brussels II bis', an EU regulation introduced in 2005 to harmonise family law across all 27 member states. In the absence of this provision, divorced couples run the risk of being left in so-called "limping marriages", which don't enjoy recognition across all jurisdictions.

The Bar Council said it was "not clear" on what might happen to divorces obtained in the UK following Brexit.

"In an effort to avoid the creation of 'limping marriages', it may require the introduction of future domestic legislation to address this particular category of foreign divorces," said the Bar Council.

The Sunday Times reported that it is thought UK marriages will be treated the same as those from countries such as Australia and New Zealand.

In the event of a no-deal scenario, the Republic's Department of Justice said it would introduce legislation to quickly address any negative impact on UK divorcees.

A six-month extension granted by EU leaders means Britain is set to withdraw by October 31, 2019, unless an agreement is ratified beforehand. As the UK hurtles towards this deadline, issues are also appearing on the horizon for child custody cases.

The Brussels II bis law also governs international matters such as child abduction or recovery of maintenance, and takes precedence over the 1996 Hague Convention, a law ratified in both the UK and the Republic.

The Bar Council warned the lack of a "supra-national" court might "give rise to difficulties", as in disputes between the UK and the Republic, the UK will apply the Hague Convention.

The document, dated February 13, was written by Ciara Murphy, chief executive of the Bar Council of Ireland and three barristers - Seán Ó hUallacháin, Joseph O'Sullivan and Sarah Fennell.

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