Family law: Recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and matters of parental responsibility

Mobility within the European Union has brought significant changes in family relationships so that international couples’ relations can be governed by a basic common European legal framework. This purpose is mainly achieved by the Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 of 27 November 2003 concerning jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility, repealing Regulation (EC) No 1347/2000.

As regards in particular recognition and enforcement of family law decisions, it has been concluded that judgments in the field of family litigation should be “automatically recognised throughout the Union without any intermediate proceedings or grounds for refusal of enforcement”.

This is why judgments on rights of access and judgments on return that have been certified in the Member State of origin in accordance with the provisions of this Regulation should be recognised and enforceable in all other Member States without any further procedure being required. Arrangements for the enforcement of such judgments continue to be governed by national law.

The recognition and enforcement of judgments given in a Member State should be based on the principle of mutual trust and the grounds for non-recognition should be kept to the minimum required.

Authentic instruments and agreements between parties that are enforceable in one Member State should be treated as equivalent to “judgments” for the purpose of the application of the rules on recognition and enforcement


Under the Regulation, any EU country must automatically recognise judgments given in another EU country on matrimonial and parental responsibility matters. Recognition can be refused if, for example:

-recognition is clearly contrary to public policy

-the defendant did not receive the document initiating proceedings in time to arrange legal defence (in cases where the judgment was given in the defendant’s absence)

-recognition is incompatible with another judgment given between the same parties.

For judgments concerning parental responsibility, recognition can also be refused if:

-the child was not given an opportunity to be heard

-on the request of a person claiming that the judgment infringes his or her parental responsibility, the judgment was issued without this person having been given an opportunity to be heard


A judgment on the exercise of parental responsibility enforceable in the EU country where it was issued can be enforced in another EU country when it has been declared enforceable there at the request of any interested party. However, no declaration is required for judgments granting rights of access or concerning the return of a child that have been certified by the original judge in accordance with the Regulation.

For any issue of recognition and enforcement of a decision concerning family disputes as well as any issue of family law, contact us at +357 22272360 and/or by email:


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