Half A Million UK Children At Risk Of Homelessness

Brexit Impacting On Custody Disputes

All of the uncertainty over Brexit has fuelled legal disputes over child custody.

According to research conducted by the law firm Nockolds, the surge of EU migrants leaving the UK head of October 31st has seen Orders sent to the Family Court soar.

In 2016, the Family Courts made 55,791 Child Arrangement Orders. In 2 years, this increased by 19% to 66,141 in 2018. The number of Child Arrangement Orders has increased by more than two thirds (68%) since 2011, when the Court received 39,319 Orders.

Brexit has also meant that Recovery Orders to the Family Court have also increased, as worried parents ensure the correct legal measures are in place to assist in the recovery of children who are ‘kidnapped’ – been unlawfully taken away or with held from – the person who is responsible for them.

In 2018, 640 Recovery Orders were made, a 25% increase on the 511 Orders that were made in 2016. Overall, the number of Recover Orders issued by the Family court have more than doubled since 2011 when 231 Orders were issued.

According to Nockolds, when a divorced or separated EU national leaves the UK they may want to take any children with them, which can prompt a legal dispute if the other parent wishes to remain in the country and retain access to the children.

Barbara Bitis, a Senior Associate in the family law team at Nockolds, comments:

“We are seeing an increase in child custody disputes where one or both of the parents were born outside the UK. If one parent wants to leave the UK, this can trigger a dispute. These disputes are often harder to resolve informally because of the distances involved and the difficulties over access.

“A key factor in the steady rise of child custody disputes over the past decade is the growing proportion of the population born outside the UK, or with links to foreign countries. Brexit has prompted a wave of EU nationals to leave the UK, many of whom have children in this country.

“The parent leaving the UK may feel particularly strongly about issues around identity, while the parent remaining in the UK will often argue that the child was born here, is being educated here and is immersed in the culture. In such cases compromise can be unusually difficult.

“A major anxiety for EU nationals is how orders made by the UK courts will be upheld in EU countries after the UK leaves on 31st October. If the UK is treated like any other foreign country, it could be significantly harder and more costly to enforce judgements made by British courts in the EU.”

According to Nockolds, the rise in child custody disputes in the courts does not correlate with a rise in single parent families generally. Figures from National Statistics show that the proportion of families with children headed by single parents has remained at around 25% for over a decade.

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