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Last checked: 28/04/2022

Parental responsibility

As a parent, you are responsible for your children's upbringing, education and property. You also have the right to represent them legally.

In all EU countries, a mother automatically has parental responsibility for her child, as does a married father. In most cases, parents exercise this responsibility jointly.

The rules on whether an unmarried father has these rights and duties differ depending on the country.

Find out about parental responsibility rules in the country relevant to you:

Choose country:

  • Austriaaten
  • Belgiumbeen
  • Bulgariabgen
  • Croatiacren
  • Cypruscyen
  • Czechiaczen
  • Denmarkdken
  • Estoniaeeen
  • Finlandfien
  • Francefren
  • Germanydeen
  • Greecegren
  • Hungaryhuen
  • Irelandieen
  • Italyiten
  • Latvialven
  • Lithuanialten
  • Luxembourgluen
  • Maltamten
  • Netherlandsnlen
  • Polandplen
  • Portugalpten
  • Romaniaroen
  • Slovakiasken
  • Sloveniasien
  • Spainesen
  • Swedenseen

Custody and visiting rights

The rules on custody and visiting rights are unique to each EU country. National laws determine:

However, all EU countries recognise that children have the right to a personal relationship and direct contact with both parents, even if the parents live in different countries.

In cases of divorce or separation, it is important to determine whether the children will live with one parent exclusively or with both alternately. You and your former partner may seek a mutual agreement on this.

Going to court over custody and visiting rights

If you cannot reach agreement on custody or visiting rights, you will probably go to a court.

In situations involving more than one country, for example if the parents do not live in the same country, the courts responsible for handling cases of parental responsibility are those in the country where the child usually lives.

If you expressly agree with your spouse, the court ruling on your divorce can also rule on parental responsibility matters connected to your divorce.

The court will decide in the best interests of the child on your custody rights, visiting arrangements and determine the child's place of residence.

Recognition and enforcement

Court decisions on parental responsibility made in an EU country are recognised in all EU countries without the necessity for any additional procedure.

Their enforcement is facilitated by a standard procedure.

Find out how decisions on parental responsibility taken in one EU country can be recognised and enforcedOpen as an external link in another one.

Central authorities responsible for parental responsibility can help with your specific case. Search for central authorities responsible for matrimonial and parental responsibility.Open as an external link


Exception – Denmark

EU rules on parental responsibility – for instance on jurisdiction, recognition or enforcement – do not apply to Denmark.


EU legislation

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