The European Commission has announced plans for a regulation that would harmonise laws on parenthood across the EU.
One of the key aspects of the proposal is that parenthood established in one EU member state should be recognised in all others, without any special procedure.
The commission said that the proposal would provide legal clarity for all types of families who found themselves in a cross-border situation within the EU.
Such cases included movements from one member state to another to travel or reside, or situations affecting people who had family members or property in another member state.
Rights under national law
EU law, as interpreted by the European Court of Justice, already provides for parenthood established in a member state to be recognised in all other member states for some purposes – including access to the territory, right of residence, and non-discrimination with the nationals.
The commission pointed out, however, that this was not the case for the rights derived from national law, with varying laws on the jurisdiction, applicable law, and recognition in the field of parenthood potentially causing legal hurdles for families.
“Today's [7 December] proposal allows children in cross-border situations to benefit from the rights derived from parenthood under national law, in matters such as succession, maintenance, custody, or the right of parents to act as legal representative of the child (for schooling or health matters),” a commission statement said.
The EU body added that the proposal aimed to protect the fundamental rights of children, provide legal certainty for families, and reduce the legal costs and burden for both families and EU states’ administrative and judicial systems.
Certificates of parenthood
The main elements of the proposal include:
- Designation of the courts of the member states that have jurisdiction in matters related to parenthood, ensuring the best interest of the child,
- The law applicable to the establishment of parenthood should be the law of the state of the habitual residence of the person giving birth,
- Recognition of court decisions and authentic instruments establishing or providing evidence of the establishment of parenthood,
- The creation of a European Certificate of Parenthood.
Under the proposals, children (or their legal representatives) can request a certificate from the member state which established parenthood, and choose to use it to prove their parenthood in all the other member states.
The commission is proposing a harmonised template, common to the whole EU. It adds that the use of the certificate will be optional for families.
“All children should have the same rights, irrespective of how they were conceived or born and of their type of family,” said Didier Reynders (Commissioner for Justice, pictured).
“Today’s proposal aims to guarantee that the fundamental rights of children are not put at risk in cross-border situations within the European Union,” he added.
The EU emphasises that the new proposals will not harmonise substantive family law, which remains the competence of the member states.
The commission's proposal has to be adopted unanimously by EU leaders in the EU Council, after consulting the European Parliament.