The EU has accepted proposals for the reform of key divorce legislation Brussels II Revised.
Also known as Brussels IIA or II Bis, Council Regulation 2201/2003 defines jurisdiction in family disputes involving more than one member state – in particular the cross-border recognition of legal orders involving children and divorce.
The proposed changes focus on the laws concerning children – in particular the proscribed timetable for child abduction cases. Currently, Brussels II requires the courts in a target country to issue the necessary legal orders for a child’s return a maximum of six weeks after the other parent issues an application in their home country – except in exceptional circumstances. Some countries are notoriously slow and some, like the United Kingdom, have a reputation for speed, Family Law reports.
If approved, the proposed changes would see this timetable replaced by a three stage process: six weeks for the application to be processed by the authority which receives the application; six weeks for any court hearings to begin and six weeks for any appeals to be held. It is hoped this will encourage slower member states to take a speedier approach to child abduction cases.
Appeals would be limited to a single level – that is to say, child abduction rulings could only be subject to a single appeal. In addition child abduction would be restricted to certain courts to allow resident judges to develop specialist expertise in the relevant law.
Amongst other reforms, there will also be a new guarantee that children of sufficient age and maturity to express their views will be guaranteed the right to participate in proceeding which concern them.
To the surprise of some family lawyers, however, no proposals have been made for the reform of jurisdiction regulations in divorce disputes.
The proposals follow lengthy consultations between the European Commission and judges, advisors and legal experts across member states. The proposals will now proceed to the Council and European Parliament.
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Photo of the European Commission headquarters by TPCOM via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence