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newsMore effective rules to deal with cross border matrimonial matters and parental responsibility issues

The EU makes it easier and faster for decisions on divorce, legal separation and marriage annulment, as well as on parental responsibility issues and international child abduction to be applied across borders.

The Council today adopted a revision of the so-called Brussels IIa regulation which sets out rules on the jurisdiction, recognition and enforcement of decisions in matrimonial matters and matters of parental responsibility, as well as on intra-EU child abduction.

One of the main objectives of the revision is to improve the current legal rules that protect children in cases of cross-border parental responsibility disputes, such as those related to custody, access rights and child abduction.

Ana Birchall, Romanian deputy Prime Minister ad-interim and Minister for Justice, said: "The best interest and wellbeing of our children must come first. The new rules we agreed today will ensure that international child abduction and other cross border parental responsibility issues are dealt with in a speedier and more efficient manner, and that decisions are swiftly enforced. Time is essential and the lives of children cannot be unduly disrupted because of problems over cross border judicial cooperation".

The new rules amend several aspects of the existing Brussels IIa regulation and foresee in particular:

  • 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 accompanied by a number of procedural safeguards;
  • enhanced and clearer rules on intra-EU child abduction cases with the introduction, for example, of clear deadlines to ensure that these cases are treated in the most expeditious manner;
  • clearer rules on the circulation of authentic instruments and extra-judicial agreements. The text foresees that agreements on divorce, legal separation or matters of parental responsibility, will be allowed to circulate when they are accompanied by the relevant certificate.
  • clearer provisions on the placement of a child in another member state, including the need to obtain prior 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.


The proposal was presented by the Commission on 30 June 2016. It is subject to the special legislative procedure which requires unanimity in the Council after consultation of the European Parliament. All Member states, except Denmark, take part in the adoption and application of this legislation.

The opinion of the Parliament on the Commission proposal was delivered on 18 January 2018. The Parliament was then consulted again and delivered a second opinion, on the text of the Council general approach, on 14 March 2019.

Next steps

The new rules will apply 3 years after the publication of the regulation in the official journal.

Copyright European Union