We are delighted to highlight that some good news has come out of Europe. New EU regulations have been set out to help protect children and parents involved in cross border child custody and access disputes.
Protecting children in cross border disputes
On the 25 June, the Council of the EU adopted a revision of a regulation setting out rules on the jurisdiction, recognition and enforcement of decisions in:
- Matrimonial matters;
- Parental responsibility matters;
- Intra-EU child abduction
The council said that one of the main objectives of the revision to the EU regulation was to improve the current protection that EU directive gives to children in cases of cross-border children disputes, for example:
- Custody (nowadays referred to as residence or a child arrangements order in the UK );
- Access rights (nowadays referred to as contact or a child arrangements order in the UK );
- Child abduction.
The focus of the new EU regulations is to ensure when resolving cross border children disputes involving more than one EU country that :
- The focus is on what is best for the child;
- Judicial co-operation between EU countries is faster and more efficient to make sure the child’s well-being comes first. It is anticipated that speedier court decisions will be made through abolishing the requirement for an exequatur (an intermediate procedure required to obtain cross-border enforcement).
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People often assume that EU law will not affect them and their families but statistically there are about 140,000 international divorces per year. It is reported that there are about 1,800 cases of parental child abduction in the EU. The number of international divorce cases rises each year as people become increasingly mobile because of work and travel opportunities.
With the update of the Brussels IIa Regulation, the intention is that a child abducted by one parent from an EU country and taken by the parent to another country within the EU will be returned much faster to the country where he or she is used to living in.
Top Manchester children solicitors have welcomed the new EU regulation but have issued a note of caution. UK families caught up in EU cross border disputes will only get the protection and assistance of the new regulation whilst the UK remains in the EU. Subject to Brexit, the additional protection may be short lived. That will not stop child custody solicitors from fighting to reunite parents and children caught up in cross border child custody and access disputes.
The top tip if you fear child abduction or need to enforce a UK custody or child arrangements order across different border jurisdictions is to take early specialist child custody legal advice on your options and to act quickly.
For legal help with child custody and access or child abduction please contact us