New EU regulations to protect children in cross border disputes

The EU has adopted a new set of regulations to protect children caught up in cross border disputes between their parents.

The Brussels IIa Regulation covers cross-border matrimonial matters (divorce, separation, marriage annulment) and matters of parental responsibility, including custody and access rights, and international child abduction.

There are an estimated 16 million international families in the EU, and cross border disputes are becoming more common.

Now the updated Brussels IIa Recast Regulation aims to make proceedings clearer, faster and more efficient.

It sets out rules determining which country's courts are responsible for dealing with disputes involving more than one country and ensures judgments are recognised and enforced in both countries.

It’s hoped that the changes will have a positive impact on all procedures involving children by:

  • Settling cross-border child abduction cases faster

The deadlines applying to different stages of the child return procedure will be limited to a maximum period of 6 weeks for the first instance court and 6 weeks for each court of appeal. Also, Central Authorities will process applications for return faster. 

  • Ensuring the child is heard

Children who are capable of forming their own views, will be given the opportunity to express these views in all proceedings concerning them.

  • Ensuring effective enforcement of decisions in other Member States

The exequatur, an intermediate procedure required to obtain cross-border enforcement, will be abolished for all decisions.

Under the new rules, enforcement can be rejected or suspended largely under the same conditions in all Member States, increasing legal certainty for all citizens and the children concerned.

  • Improving cooperation between Member States' authorities

There will be better cooperation between Central Authorities, which are the direct point of contact for parents. Also, child welfare authorities will be better integrated into this cross-border cooperation.

The new rules are designed to ensure legal clarity, reduce costs related to proceedings and legal assistance and, most importantly, shorten the length of proceedings, to limit the negative impact on the children as much as possible.

Please contact us for more information about the issues addressed in this article or any aspect of family law.