Matrimonial and parental responsibility judgments — jurisdiction, recognition and enforcement
Regulation (EU) 2019/1111 on jurisdiction, recognition and enforcement of decisions in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility, and on international child abduction
It repeals Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003, known as ‘The Brussels IIa Regulation’, to provide more effective rules protecting children and their parents caught up in cross-border parental-responsibility disputes, for example concerning custody, access rights and child abduction.
It aims to speed up procedures because of the need to move quickly to protect the best interests of the child in many of these circumstances.
It applies from 1 August 2022. Some rules concerning delegated acts and the requirement of EU countries to supply information to the European Commission apply from 22 July 2019.Regulation (EU) 2019/1111 repeals Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 as of 1 August 2022.
The regulation applies to civil matters of:
parental responsibility (attributing, exercising, delegating, restricting or terminating), in particular:
custody and access rights;
guardianship, curatorship* and similar institutions;
children in institutional or foster care;
protecting children in relation to their personal property.
Maintenance obligations are excluded from the regulation’s scope.
In a cross-border context, the regulation provides for:
harmonised rules on jurisdiction in matters of divorce, legal separation and marriage annulment;
harmonised rules on jurisdiction in parental-responsibility disputes such as custody, access rights or placement of a child in another EU country;
improved return procedure in cases of child abduction by introducing clear deadlines so that cases can be settled quickly; courts of first and second instance will have to give their decisions within 6 weeks;
children being given the opportunity to be heard in the proceedings concerning them;
eliminating the need for an intermediary procedure (‘exequatur’) for decisions on parental responsibility, saving time and expense for individuals;
clearer rules about placing children in another EU country, including the need for consent in all situations, except where a child is to be placed with a parent;
more effective implementation of decisions, introducing possible grounds for suspending or refusing enforcement;
simplified circulation of decisions, authentic instruments* and certain agreements within the EU through rules on recognition and enforcement in other EU countries;
better collaboration between the central authorities of the different EU countries and between the courts, while respecting the rights of the parties and confidentiality.
The best interests of the child remain the primary consideration, in accordance with Article 24 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child of 20 November 1989, as implemented by national law and procedure.
The regulation complements the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction which addresses decisions ordering the return of the child to their country of origin.
Civil matters: civil court proceedings and the resulting decisions. For the purposes of the regulation, the term includes all applications, measures or decisions relating to ‘parental responsibility’ within the meaning of this regulation, in accordance with its objectives, and based on established case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Curatorship: an individual who has been legally appointed to take care of the interests of one who, on account of his youth, or defect of his understanding, or for some other cause, is unable to attend to them himself. It is applied to the guardian of the estate of the ward (i.e. an infant placed by authority of law under the care of a guardian) as distinguished from the guardian of their person.
Authentic instruments: defined in Regulation (EC) No 805/2004 as:
a document which has been formally drawn up or registered as an authentic instrument, and the authenticity of which:
relates to the signature and the content of the instrument; and
has been established by a public authority or other authority empowered for that purpose by the EU country in which it originates;
an arrangement relating to maintenance obligations concluded with administrative authorities or authenticated by them.
Council Regulation (EU) 2019/1111 of 25 June 2019 on jurisdiction, the recognition and enforcement of decisions in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility, and on international child abduction (Recast) (OJ L 178, 2.7.2019, pp. 1-115)
Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 of 27 November 2003 concerning jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility, repealing Regulation (EC) No 1347/2000 (OJ L 338, 23.12.2003, pp. 1-29)
Successive amendments to Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 have been incorporated into the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.
Council Regulation (EC) No 4/2009 of 18 December 2008 on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and cooperation in matters relating to maintenance obligations (OJ L 7, 10.1.2009, pp. 1-79)
See consolidated version.
Parental responsibility & protection of children (Hague Convention)
Decision 2003/93/EC on the 1996 Hague Convention relating to international legal aspects of parental responsibility and measures for the protection of children
It authorises EU countries to sign the Hague Convention.
The convention lays down rules to improve protection for children in international situations and avoid conflicts between different national legal systems.
All EU countries are party to the Hague Convention. This means they can rely on common legal rules when dealing with countries outside the EU who are parties to the Convention, to protect children involved in international disputes.
The Convention was concluded under the Hague Conference on Private International Law.
It covers jurisdiction, recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and matters of parental responsibility.
What is covered?
The convention seeks to give international protection to children of up to 18 years old, by establishing:
which country has jurisdiction to take measures to protect a child or their property;
which law is applicable for exercising this jurisdiction;
which law applies to parental responsibility;
that the protection measures are recognised and enforced in all signatory countries;
cooperation between signatory countries.
The measures aimed at protecting a child relate to:
how the child is represented;
placement of the child in foster or other care;
supervision of that care;
how the child’s property is managed.
Which country is responsible?
The country with jurisdiction to provide protection measures is generally the country where the child is usually resident.
It is the country where they are present:
for refugees or internationally displaced children;
for children whose usual country of residence cannot be established;
in emergencies (optional).
In a particular case, if another country appears to be better placed for assessing the best interests of the child, it may be allowed to assume jurisdiction.
Which law applies?
The country exercising jurisdiction does so under its own law.
Exceptionally, it may apply or take into consideration the law of another country that is closely connected to the situation – if this is in the best interest of the child.
A country can only refuse to apply the law designated by the convention for justified reasons of public policy and in the best interest of the child.
Recognition & enforcement
The measures a signatory country takes under this convention to protect a child or their property must be recognised in all other signatory countries.
Only in a limited number of cases, as specified in the convention, may a country refuse recognition.
When protection measures are declared enforceable in another country, that country must enforce them as if it had taken them itself, and do so in accordance with its own law.
Each signatory country must designate one or more central authorities to carry out the obligations imposed on it by the convention.
These authorities must cooperate and exchange information with each other, as well as promote cooperation in such cases among their national authorities.
Council Decision 2003/93/EC of 19 December 2002 authorising the Member States, in the interest of the Community, to sign the 1996 Hague Convention on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition, enforcement and cooperation in respect of parental responsibility and measures for the protection of children (OJ L 48, 21.2.2003, pp. 1–2)
Council Decision 2008/431/EC of 5 June 2008 authorising certain Member States to ratify, or accede to, in the interest of the European Community, the 1996 Hague Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Cooperation in respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children and authorising certain Member States to make a declaration on the application of the relevant internal rules of Community law – Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Cooperation in respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children (OJ L 151, 11.6.2008, pp. 36–48)