The Regulation covers cross-border maintenance applications arising from family relationships. It establishes common rules for the entire European Union (EU) aiming to ensure recovery of maintenance claims even where the debtor or creditor is in another EU country.
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.
This Regulation provides a series of measures aimed at facilitating the payment of maintenance claims in cross-border situations. Such claims arise from the obligation to help family members. For example, they may take the form of maintenance paid to a child or to a former spouse following divorce.
The Regulation applies to maintenance obligations arising from:
- a family relationship;
- marriage or affinity.
In matters relating to maintenance obligations, jurisdiction shall lie with:
the court of the place where the defendant or the creditor is habitually resident; or
the court which has jurisdiction to entertain proceedings relating to the status of a person (a divorce for example) or relating to parental responsibility, if the matter concerning maintenance is related thereto (provided that jurisdiction is not based solely on the nationality of one of the parties).
Unless the dispute relates to a maintenance obligation towards a child under the age of 18, the parties may, subject to certain conditions, agree on the court or courts of an EU country which have jurisdiction to settle it.
Where the defendant makes an appearance before a court of an EU country, that court shall have jurisdiction, unless the defendant contests its jurisdiction.
If none of the conditions cited above is fulfilled, the dispute may, subject to certain conditions, be brought before the courts of an EU country of which both parties are nationals.
When none of the above conditions is fulfilled, the matter may be brought before the court of an EU country with which the case has sufficient connection if the proceedings cannot reasonably be brought in a country with which the dispute is closely connected.
As long as the creditor continues to reside in the EU country in which the decision on maintenance obligations was given, the debtor may not, subject to exceptions, bring proceedings to modify the decision in another EU country. The creditor may nevertheless agree that the dispute is decided by another court.
If proceedings concerning the same parties and involving the same cause of action are brought before the courts of different EU countries, jurisdiction shall lie with the court first seised.
Regardless of the court having jurisdiction as to substance, applications for provisional and protective measures may be lodged before any court of any EU country.
Recognition and enforcement of decisions
A decision on maintenance obligations by one EU country is to be recognised in another EU country without any special procedure.
The vast majority of EU countries are bound by the Hague Protocol of 23 November 2007 on the Law Applicable to Maintenance Obligations.
Where the decision was taken by a State bound by the 2007 Hague Protocol, its recognition may not be opposed.
Where the decision was taken by a State not bound by the 2007 Hague Protocol, its recognition may be refused in certain cases and it may only be enforced in another State if a declaration of its enforceability has been obtained in that State.
In all cases, the court of origin may declare a decision provisionally enforceable. When the decision is to be enforced in an EU country other than that in which it was originally taken, enforcement is governed by the law of that EU country.
The decision taken in an EU country cannot be reviewed as to its substance in the EU country in which its recognition, enforceability or enforcement is sought.
Free legal aid may be provided in respect of applications on maintenance obligations arising from a parent-child relationship towards a person under the age of 21 provided that such applications are made via the central authorities.
Each EU country must appoint a central authority responsible for assisting parties in the establishment and recovery of maintenance. In particular, they will send and receive applications provided for under the Regulation and take all appropriate measures to introduce or facilitate the introduction of the necessary procedures.
The central authorities shall cooperate with each other, promote cooperation among the competent authorities of their country and seek solutions to difficulties which may arise in the application of this Regulation. To this end, they shall use the European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters.
This Regulation replaces the provisions concerning maintenance obligations of Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters . It also replaces Regulation (EC) No 805/2004 creating a European enforcement order for uncontested claims, except for European enforcement orders concerning maintenance obligations issued by EU countries that are not bound by the 2007 Hague Protocol.
This Regulation has been applicable since 18 June 2011.
Regulation (EC) No 4/2009
Council Decision 2006/325/EC of 27 April 2006 concerning the conclusion of the Agreement between the European Community and the Kingdom of Denmark on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters [Official Journal L 120 of 5.5.2006].
Commission Decision 2009/451/EC of 8 June 2009 on the intention of the United Kingdom to accept Council Regulation (EC) No 4/2009 on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and cooperation in matters relating to maintenance obligations [Official Journal L 149 of 12.6.2009].
Council Decision 2011/220/EU of 31 March 2011 on the signing, on behalf of the European Union, of the Hague Convention of 23 November 2007 on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance [Official Journal L 93 of 7.4.2011].
Under this decision, on 6 April 2011 the EU signed the Hague Convention of 23 November 2007, which establishes, between the contracting parties, a worldwide system for the recovery of maintenance claims.
Council Decision 2011/432/EU of 9 June 2011 on the approval, on behalf of the European Union, of the Hague Convention of 23 November 2007 on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance [Official Journal L 192 of 22.7.2011].
Council Decision 2014/218/EU of 9 April 2014 amending Annexes I, II and III to Decision 2011/432/EU on the approval, on behalf of the European Union, of the Hague Convention of 23 November 2007 on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance [Official Journal L 113 of 16.4.2014].
Under these decisions, the Union deposited its instrument of approval of the Convention on 9 April 2014. The Convention shall enter into force in all EU countries except Denmark on 1 August 2014. The Convention offers a comprehensive framework to deal with issues relating to maintenance obligations with other non-EU Member States which are Party to it.