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Convention on parental responsibility and protection of children

In order to improve the protection of children in international situations and to avoid conflicts between different national legal systems, this convention provides common rules for its signatory countries regarding jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition, enforcement and cooperation on matters of parental responsibility and child protection.


Council Decision 2003/93/EC of 19 December 2002 authorising the Member States, in the interest of the Community, to sign the 1996 Hague Convention on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition, enforcement and cooperation in respect of parental responsibility and measures for the protection of children.


The Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Cooperation in respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children was concluded within the framework of The Hague Conference on Private International Law on 19 October 1996. However, only sovereign states may accede to the convention. By way of exception, the Council therefore authorises the European Union (EU) countries to sign the convention.

Nevertheless, the EU retains exclusive competence for the provisions of the convention that fall within the scope of the regulation on jurisdiction, recognition and enforcement of judgements in matrimonial matters and matters of parental responsibility (the “Brussels II” Regulation). Consequently, EU countries must make a declaration upon signing the convention, whereby EU law continues to be applied to the recognition and enforcement within the Union of judgments given on matters relating to the convention by an EU country.


The convention contributes to the protection of children at international level. It applies to children up to 18 years of age, aiming to establish:

  • the country having jurisdiction to take measures to protect a child or his/her property;
  • the law applicable for exercising this jurisdiction;
  • the law applicable to parental responsibility;
  • recognition and enforcement of the protection measures in all signatory countries;
  • cooperation between the signatory countries.

The measures aimed at protecting a child relate to:

  • parental responsibility;
  • the rights of custody;
  • guardianship;
  • the representation of the child;
  • the placement of the child in foster or other care;
  • the supervision of the care provided to the child;
  • the management of the child’s property.


In general, the country of the child’s habitual residence has jurisdiction to take measures to protect the child or his/her property. For refugee or internationally displaced children or for children whose habitual residence cannot be established, the country in which they are present has jurisdiction.

In a particular case, if another country appears to be better placed for assessing the best interests of the child, it may be allowed to assume jurisdiction. In cases of emergency, the country on whose territory the child or his/her property is present may exercise jurisdiction to take any necessary protection measures.

Applicable law

The country exercising its jurisdiction does so under the rules of its own law. Under exceptional circumstances, it may apply or take into consideration the law of another country that is closely connected to the situation, provided that this is in the best interest of the child. The application of the law designated by the convention can only be refused for public policy reasons, and provided that it is in the best interest of the child.

Recognition and enforcement

The measures a signatory country takes under this convention to protect a child or his/her property must be recognised in all other signatory countries. Only in a limited number of cases, as specified in the convention, may recognition be refused. When protection measures are declared enforceable in another country, that country must enforce the measures as if it had taken them itself and carry out the enforcement in accordance with its own law.


Each signatory country must designate one or more central authorities to carry out the obligations imposed upon it by the convention. These authorities are to cooperate and exchange information with each other, as well as to promote cooperation among their national authorities.


ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Decision 2003/93/EC



OJ L 48 of 21.2.2003


Council Decision 2008/431/EC of 5 June 2008 authorising certain Member States to ratify, or accede to, in the interests of the European Community, the 1996 Hague Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Cooperation in respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children and authorising certain Member States to make a declaration on the application of the relevant internal rules of Community law [Official Journal L 151 of 11.6.2008].
This decision authorises EU countries that have not yet ratified or acceded to the convention to do so. This concerns Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom. In view of depositing their instruments of ratification or accession simultaneously, these countries are to exchange information with the Commission and Council on the status of the related procedures. This exchange should take place before 5 December 2009, after which the date of the simultaneous deposit (preferably before 5 June 2010) will be established.
This decision also authorises Bulgaria, Cyprus, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands and Poland to make a declaration aimed at ensuring that EU rules on recognition and enforcement of judgements will continue to apply in the Union.

Last updated: 08.12.2010

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