The Malta Independent 21 May 2018, Monday

EU aiming for cross-border mutual recognition of court judgments in family matters

Helena Grech Thursday, 20 April 2017, 16:50 Last update: about 2 years ago

Justice Minister Owen Bonnici said that through bilateral meetings, the EU is pushing for mutual recognition of court judgements with regards familial disputes and separation, maintenance obligations and parental responsibility.

This issue stems from the situation of a couple with a child splitting up, and each adult lives in a difference member state. Court cases are filed concurrently in different jurisdictions which gives rise to many complications.

Dr Bonnici was speaking at a conference of the European Judicial Network in Civil and Commercial matters. The second day of the three-day conference was a bilateral meeting on maintenance obligations.

This establishes common rules for the entire EU aiming to ensure recovery of maintenance claims even where the debtor or creditor (referring to a couple) is in another EU country.

In comments with The Malta Independent, Dr Bonnici said that “we are trying to push for mutual recognition, so for example if there is a [court] decree in Malta, a foreign court would recognise it. Things are progressing well, however we need unanimity”.

While addressing the conference, the Justice Minister spoke of his personal experience when practicing family law. He said that he had seen many devastating situations where the parents of a child split up, and they live in different member states.

“You ended up with parents fighting court cases in different member states in different jurisdictions, and courts delivering various judgments. Discussing and sharing best practices on regulations with maintenance obligations, divorce and parent obligations is therefore very important”.

Expanding on this point while giving comments to this newsroom, Dr Bonnici delved into the issue of gay rights, stressing the complications from this measure centred around the definition of a family, as such a measure applies to families.

“What does it mean to be in a family? For us, a man and a man with a child is a family. Hungary and Poland do not see it the same way, so what we are trying to do is say ok, lets progress on the points that we agree upon for the time being, and go from there.”

He said that family law is an area of major importance because it is the backbone of European society, and a healthy family contributes to a healthy society. He said that through the provision of best practice guidelines that all member states would adhere to, it would provide legal certainty and allow for lawyers across Europe to advise their client with certainty, taking away the element of surprise from divergent court judgments between two different jurisdictions.

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