A new maintenance regulation has come into force today which simplifies the enforcement of maintenance agreements and orders across the EU. The English courts can no longer refuse to enforce a maintenance order from another EU State and must treat the order as if it were an order of the English courts. Rather than having to register the foreign maintenance order with the English courts first, the creditor can immediately ask the court to deduct the maintenance from the debtor’s wages or bank account.
Crucially, the Regulation limits the powers of the English Court and the Child Support Agency (CSA). For example, the CSA is not now permitted to make a maintenance assessment against a UK serviceman stationed abroad and the English Court’s power to make a maintenance order on divorce may be restricted where the court’s jurisdiction is based on the sole domicile of one of the parties. In addition, the English Court may be forced to allow a maintenance claim after a foreign divorce even where the connection with the UK is limited.
For those giving international divorce advice to wealthy individuals, there is also the possibility of preventing the English court from making a maintenance order by entering into a foreign prenuptial agreement or marriage contract.
This is a major development and may result in the English Courts giving greater weight to pre-nups generally as otherwise foreign nationals living here may have more protection on divorce than UK nationals.