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Proposed Revision of the Brussels IIa Regulation

On 30 June 2016, the European Commission published its long awaited  proposal for revision of the Brussels IIa Regulation on jurisdiction, the recognition and enforcement of decisions in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility, and on international child abduction.

Regarding matrimonial matters, there are no changes proposed as " only limited evidence of existing problems was available at this stage to allow for a precise indication of the need to intervene and the scale of the problems, and for a fully informed choice of any considered option ". This will be a disappointment to many in all Member States, who hoped for some provision on the choice of court for divorce proceedings to avoid the need to  "rush to court", fostering a culture of mutually agreed resolution of conflict.

Concerning parental responsibility, six main areas of concern were identified:

Revised Rules

Changes to the procedures to settle cross-border parental child abduction faster

The deadlines applied to different stages of the child return procedure will be limited to a maximum period of eighteen weeks (six weeks for the processing of the application, six weeks for the first instance court, and six weeks for appeal). A decision on return will be appealable only once, and the judge will have to consider whether a judgment ordering the return of the child should be enforceable in the meantime.

Parental child abduction cases heard by a limited number of (specialised) courts so that judges develop the necessary expertise.

Ensuring the child is heard

A child who is capable of forming his or her own views will be guaranteed an opportunity to express these views in all proceedings concerning them. This will apply in particular to proceedings on custody and access, and on the return of children if they were abducted by one of their parents.

Ensuring enforcement of decisions in other Member States - abolition of the exequator

With the new rules, the exequatur will be abolished. If the enforcement has not occurred after six weeks, the court has a duty to  inform the requesting Central Authority in the Member State of origin or directly the applicant about the reasons for the lack of  enforcement.  In addition, in order to speed up enforcement, the court that issued the judgment will be able to declare it provisionally enforceable.

Improving co-operation between Member States' authorities

The new rules will promote better co-operation between Central Authorities as they are the direct point of contact for parents and play a key role in supporting the judges in applying the rules; child welfare authorities will be better integrated in cross-border cooperation.  The new rules will, for example, clarify the procedure for placing a child in a foster family or an institution abroad and ensure that such requests are handled quickly.  It will be possible for courts and authorities to request reports on adults or siblings if these are of relevance in child-related proceedings. Child welfare authorities will be able to obtain the necessary information from other Member States through the Central Authorities: the new rule establishes minimum requirements for a request for a social report and an eight week time limit for the requested authority to respond.

The proposal is now going to be discussed by Council and the JURI Committee of the European Parliament.

The full proposal can be found here.