A vote to leave the EU on 23 June could result in a key divorce rule being chucked out, a Mayfair-based lawyer told City A.M. today.
Jo Edwards, partner and head of family at Forsters, pointed out that the first in time rule, whereby a divorce which involves parties with links to different EU countries will take place in whichever jurisdiction the papers are first filed in, is underpinned by a piece of EU legislation.
Edwards noted that, should the UK leave the EU, the country might adopt the system that is currently used in divorce proceedings between an EU and non-EU national. This system involves a court deciding which of the competing countries to run the proceedings in.
If the parties cannot reach a swift agreement, the lawyer warned that several days can be spent in court just to decide where a case should be taking place.
"Given the potentially significant difference in financial outcome in each country, many couples find it worth having this preliminary legal skirmish," Edwards said. "This may become the norm if there is Brexit."
Commenting on the current system, Edwards added: "London is the divorce capital of the world, with very generous provisions for the financially weaker party; this may mean that if one party has strong connections with another country – through domicile, spending time there during the marriage and so on – they would be better advised to issue a divorce petition in that other country even if connected with England. The current first in time rule has the benefit of certainty, finality and speed."