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

Malta Independent - - NEWS - He­lena Grech

Jus­tice Min­is­ter Owen Bon­nici said yes­ter­day that through bi­lat­eral meet­ings, the EU is push­ing for mu­tual recog­ni­tion of court judge­ments with re­gards to 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 liv­ing in a dif­fer­ent 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 to 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 prac­tis­ing 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 judge­ments. Dis­cussing and shar­ing best prac­tices on reg­u­la­tions with main­te­nance obli­ga­tions, di­vorce and par­ent obli­ga­tions is there­fore very im- por­tant”.

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 judge­ments be­tween two dif­fer­ent ju­ris­dic­tions.

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