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Jurisdiction, recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters

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1) OBJECTIVE

To standardise the rules of private international law in the Member States relating to jurisdiction and to improve the recognition and enforcement of judgments in relation to dissolution of the marriage link and custody of joint children.

2) ACT

Council Regulation (EC) No 1347/2000 of 29 May 2000 on the jurisdiction, recognition and enforcement of judgements in matrimonial matters and in matters of parental responsibility for joint children [Official Journal L 160 of 30.06.2000].

Replaced by:
Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 of concerning jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility, repealing Regulation (EC) No 1347/2000 [Official Journal L 338 of 23.12.2003].

3) SUMMARY

On 28 May 1998, the Member States signed the Convention on Jurisdiction and the Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Matrimonial Matters (known as the "Brussels II Convention") and the Protocol on its interpretation by the Court of Justice (Official Journal C 221 of 16.07.1998). Explanatory reports on the Convention and the Protocol were approved on the same day. The Convention has not been ratified by the Member States.

This Convention extends the 1998 Brussels Convention to cover matrimonial matters, so far excluded from the scope of cooperation between Member States. In encouraging the free movement of persons, the development of the internal market is increasing the establishment of family ties between people of different nationalities or who are resident in different Member States. This has prompted a growing need to speed up matrimonial procedures and ensure legal certainty in matters of jurisdiction.

The Amsterdam Treaty changed the legal basis for judicial cooperation in civil matters, which has now been incorporated into the EC Treaty (Article 65). The Convention has been converted into a Community instrument (regulation) to ensure that it is implemented quickly and to overcome the practical difficulties encountered by citizens in their daily lives.

A regulation was preferred to a directive because it enables strictly defined and harmonised rules to be applied quickly. Furthermore, it incorporates the content of the Convention, thereby ensuring continuity.

The Regulation covers civil proceedings relating to divorce, legal separation and annulment of marriage, and matters concerning parental responsibility for children of both spouses when the matrimonial proceedings take place.

Jurisdiction in matters relating to divorce, legal separation or annulment of marriage is determined according to the country of residence of one or both spouses or according to their nationality. The competent court also has jurisdiction in all matters concerning parental responsibility over a child of both spouses, if the child is resident in that Member State. Where this is not the case, the same court may have jurisdiction in certain circumstances.

Where a case is brought in a Member State, the court concerned determines whether it has jurisdiction by reference to the criteria set out in the Regulation. In the event of default of the respondent, it must also check that the latter was notified officially of the proceedings. If such notification has had to be sent abroad, the rules set out in the Regulation on the service in Member States of documents in civil or commercial matters apply.

Where parallel cases are brought in different Member States, the second court seized waits for the first court seized to accept jurisdiction, then declines jurisdiction in favour of that court. In urgent cases it may take provisional or protective measures.

Judgements in matrimonial matters or in matters of parental responsibility delivered in one Member State are recognised in the other Member States without any particular formalities, and no procedures are required for the updating of civil status documents. There is provision for the non-recognition of a judgement in matrimonial matters or in matters of parental responsibility on certain grounds, but a judgement may not be reviewed as to its substance in any circumstances.

A judgement on the exercise of parental responsibility in respect of a child of both parties may be declared enforceable in a Member State at the request of an interested party (also in the different regions of the United Kingdom after being registered for enforcement).
A decision on an application for a declaration of enforceability may be appealed against.

Upon its entry into force, this Regulation will replace the existing conventions between the Member States and take precedence over the international conventions on the same subject. Finland and Sweden, however, may, if they wish, continue to apply the Agreement of 6 February 1931 between Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden concerning marriage, adoption and custody. The agreements between Portugal, Italy and Spain and the Holy See are also respected.

Two or more Member States may conclude conventions to amplify the Regulation. These are then notified to the Commission.

The Commission must present a report on the application of the Regulation together with any proposals for its amendment to the European Parliament, the Council and the Economic and Social Committee no later than 1 March 2006 and thereafter every five years.

The provisions of Title IV of the EC Treaty (visas, asylum, immigration and other policies related to free movement of persons) are not applicable to Ireland, the United Kingdom and Denmark. Ireland has, however, decided to participate in this Directive, while the United Kingdom and Denmark have not yet given their decision.

ActDate of entry into forceDeadline for implementation in the Member States
Regulation (EC) N° 1347/200001.03.2001-

4) IMPLEMENTING MEASURES

On 3 July 2000, the French Republic presented an Initiative with a view to adopting a Council Regulation on the mutual enforcement of judgements on rights of access to children[Official Journal C234 of 15.08.2000].

Declaration of Sweden and Finland pursuant to Article 36(2)(a) of Council Regulation (EC) No 1347/2000 of 29 May 2000 on jurisdiction and recognition and enforcement of judgements in matrimonial matters and in matters of parental responsibility for children of both spouses.
Official Journal L 58 of 28.02.2001.
Sweden and Finland declare that the Convention of 6 February 1931 between Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden comprising private international law provisions on marriage, adoption and guardianship (known as the "Nordic Convention on Marriage"), together with its Final Protocol, will apply in full in relations between Sweden and Finland in place of Regulation (EC) No 1347/2000, as from the date on which the agreement of 6 February 2001 on the amendment of the Nordic Convention enters into force between Finland and Sweden.

Commission Regulation (EC) N° 1185/2002 amending the list of competent courts in Annex I to Council Regulation (EC) N° 1347/2000 of 29 May 2000 on jurisdiction, the recognition and enforcement of judgements in matrimonial matters and in matters of parental responsibility for children of both spouses [Official Journal L 173 of 03.07.2002].

5) FOLLOW-UP WORK

Last updated: 23.03.2004
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