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Ministers agree update to EU rules on protecting children in cross-border family disputes

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Ministers agree update to EU rules on protecting children in cross-border family disputes

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(BRUSSELS) - EU Justice Ministers reached a political agreement Friday on a proposal to update the rules that protect children in cross-border family proceedings, including international child abduction.

The new rules will speed up the legal and administrative proceedings and ensure that the child's best interest is always taken into account.

The number of international divorces now reaches some 140,000 per year in the EU and there are annually up to 1,800 cases of parental child abduction within the EU.

The updated rules will allow for faster enforcement of decisions, by abolishing intermediate procedures and by aligning the conditions under which a decision may be rejected or suspended.

They will also ensure that children have an opportunity to express their views in all proceedings concerning their case, in particular on custody or if a child was abducted by one of the parents.

Finally, the Regulation will set clearer rules on the placement of a child in another Member State and on child abduction cases.

In more detail, the new rules amend the existing Brussels IIa regulation on a number aspects and foresee in particular:

  • enhanced and clearer rules on intra-EU child abduction cases with the introduction, for example, of clear deadlines to ensure these cases are treated in the most expeditious manner;
  • clearer rules on the opportunity for the child to express his/her views with the introduction of an obligation to give the child a genuine and effective opportunity to express his/her views;
  • the complete abolition of exequatur for all decisions in matters of parental responsibility. This will save time and money for citizens whenever a decision needs to circulate from one member state to another. This abolition of exequatur is associated with a number of safeguards;
  • clearer provisions on the placement of a child in another member state, including the need to obtain consent for all placements, except where a child is to be placed with a parent;
  • the harmonisation of certain rules for the enforcement procedure. While the enforcement procedure remains governed by the law of the member state of enforcement, the regulation includes some harmonised grounds for suspending or refusing enforcement, thereby giving more legal certainty to parents and children.
  • Clearer rules on the circulation of extra judicial agreements. The text foresees that these agreements, for example on divorce or legal separation, will be allowed to circulate only if they are accompanied by a special certificate.

The decision in the Council was taken by unanimity, as required by the special legislative procedure for judicial cooperation in family matters.

The European Parliament was consulted and adopted its opinion in January 2018. The Council will now finalise the adoption of the Regulation in the coming months.

Council Regulation on jurisdiction, the recognition and enforcement of decisions in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility, and on international child abduction (recast) - General approach

Commission website : new rules to better protect children in cross-border family proceedings

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