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Article

Access_open The Child’s Contact with Grandparents

Journal Family & Law, September 2021
Keywords Family life, Best interest of the child, Contact rights, Grandchildren, Grandparents
Authors prof. M. Holdgaard
AbstractAuthor's information

    Grandparents hand down their experiences, knowledge, traditions and values to their grandchildren. As a high level of grandparental involvement may play an important role in a child’s well-being, legal protection of that family relation may be in the best interest of a given child. There is a continuing interaction between family law, cultural and social norms of what constitutes a family and how family life should be, and actual family practices and structures. Due to changing family patterns combined with an increasing number of divorces and cohabiting couples with children splitting up grandparents now play an increasing role in their grandchildren’s lives. Children become members within other types of family structures, e.g. single parents (raising half-siblings), families with yours and/or mine (and joint) children etc. When a child’s family includes a step-parent with children and step-grandparents – as well as the biological parents and grandparents – a potential risk of conflict among the family members is high. Grandparents, therefore, risk losing contact or having less contact than they had previously. At first glance, there might appear to be little reason for society to regulate the practices of grandparents as providers of non-formalized childcare or to protect the rights of children in these relationships. However, due to the changing family practices and social norms, one could argue that the legal protection of contact between grandparents and grandchildren is an important legal topic in domestic law and in academic discussions in the coming years. This article articulates these issues by framing three articles that together create a thematic map in this journal on Spanish and Catalan law, and Scandinavian law as well as the grandparents’ right to maintain contact with their grandchildren under the European Convention on Human Rights seen in a context of the best interest of the child.


prof. M. Holdgaard
Marianne Holdgaard is Professor in family and inheritance law at the School of Law, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Aalborg
Article

Access_open Enhanced Contact Rights for Grandparents? A Critical View from Spanish and Catalan Laws

Journal Family & Law, September 2021
Keywords Contact with grandchildren, Best interest of the child, Parental responsibilities
Authors prof. dr. J. Ribot Igualada
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article examines how Spanish and Catalan laws deal with claims of grandparents who seek contact with their grandchildren against the will of one or both parents, and the scope given to their rights. It starts by explaining the content and the goals of the legal reforms enacted in Spain at the beginning of the 21st century to promote grandparents’ interests. Then, it presents the case law developed in the interpretation of the relevant legal rules. The resulting state of the law is assessed, taking into account the interests of all the parties involved (parents, grandparents, and grandchildren). The experience of more than twenty years of application of the specific provisions concerning grandparents’ contact rights sheds light on the impact of giving grandparents stronger legal rights. However, it also prompts the question of whether this legislative choice might have brought about useless and potentially harmful litigation.


prof. dr. J. Ribot Igualada
Jordi Ribot Igualada is Professor of Civil Law at the Institute of European and Comparative Law and Director of the Institute of European and Comparative Private Law (University of Girona).
Article

Access_open Grandparents’ and grandchildren's right to contact under the European Convention on Human Rights

Journal Family & Law, September 2021
Keywords Grandparents, Grandchildren, Family life, Contact, Best interests of the child, Child's views
Authors Prof. K. Sandberg
AbstractAuthor's information

    The article explores the extent of the right to family life under Article 8 ECHR with regard to contact between grandparents and grandchildren. An analysis of decisions from the European Court of Human Rights shows that although such a right may exist, it is not strong and depends heavily on the circumstances of the specific case. The article points to what seems to be an inconsistency in the Courts approach to these cases and questions the position of the children and their views and best interests.


Prof. K. Sandberg
Kirsten Sandberg is Professor of Law at the University of Oslo Faculty of Law.

    This article examines the hearing of children in Belgian and Dutch courts in return proceedings following an international child abduction. The analysis is based on the experience, insights and needs of both children who have experienced an abduction by one of their parents, and family judges. In this sensitive and often highly conflicted family context, hearing children in court is not self-evident. Challenges of both a judicial-institutional and communicative-relational nature can hinder the effective implementation of children’s right to be heard. This contribution seeks to answer the question of how to better support judges and children in addressing these challenges, with the aim of enabling children to fully and effectively participate in return procedures. Building on the interviews with children and judges, supplemented with findings from Belgian and Dutch case law and international literature, three key recommendations are formulated: 1) explore and evaluate opportunities for judges and children to experience support during the return procedure, for example via the figure of the guardian ad litem; 2) invest in training and opportunities for specialisation of judges with a view to strengthen their expertise in taking the best interests of the child into account; and 3) systematically pay attention to feedback to the children involved on how the final decision about their return is made – and this before, during and after the procedure.
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    Dit artikel bestudeert het horen van kinderen in Belgische en Nederlandse rechtbanken in terugkeerprocedures volgend op een internationale kinderontvoering. De analyse vertrekt vanuit de beleving, ervaring, inzichten, noden en behoeften van zowel kinderen als van bevoegde familierechters. In deze gevoelige en vaak uiterst conflictueuze gezinscontext is het horen van kinderen door de rechter geen evidentie. Uitdagingen van zowel juridisch-institutionele als communicatieve-relationele aard kunnen een effectieve implementatie van het recht van kinderen om gehoord te worden in de weg staan. Dit artikel zoekt een antwoord op de vraag hoe rechters en kinderen beter kunnen worden ondersteund om deze uitdagingen aan te pakken, met als doel dat kinderen volwaardig kunnen participeren in de terugkeerprocedure. Voortbouwend op de interviews met kinderen en rechters, aangevuld met bevindingen uit Belgische en Nederlandse rechtspraak en internationale literatuur, worden drie sleutelaanbevelingen geformuleerd: 1) voorzie mogelijkheden voor rechters en kinderen om spanningsvelden weg te werken tijdens de terugkeerprocedure, bijvoorbeeld via de ondersteunende figuur van de bijzonder curator; 2) investeer in opleiding en groeiende specialisatiemogelijkheden bij rechters en 3) heb aandacht voor feedback en terugkoppeling naar de betrokken kinderen over hoe de eindbeslissing over hun terugkeer tot stand komt, en dit zowel voor, tijdens als na de procedure.


Sara Lembrechts LLM
Sara Lembrechts is researcher at University of Antwerp (Law and Development Research Group) and policy advisor at Children’s Rights Knowledge Centre (KeKi).

Marieke Putters LLM
Marieke Putters is researcher at the International Child Abduction Center (Centrum IKO).

Kim Van Hoorde
Kim Van Hoorde is Project & Prevention Manager at Child Focus.

dr. Thalia Kruger
Thalia Kruger, PhD, is Associate Professor at the University of Antwerp (Personal Rights and Property Rights Research Group) and Honorary Research Associate, University of Cape Town.

dr. Koen Ponnet
Koen Ponnet, PhD, is Professor at Imec-Mict-Ghent University (Faculty of Social Sciences).

dr. Wouter Vandenhole
Wouter Vandenhole, PhD, is Professor at the University of Antwerp (Law and Development Research Group).

    This report discusses the interesting remarks and conclusions made by the speakers at the ERA seminar, ‘Recent Case Law of the European Court of Human Rights in Family Law Matters’, which took place in Strasbourg on 11-12 February 2016. The report starts with a brief discussion on the shifting notion of ‘family life’ in the case law of the ECtHR, then turns to best interests of the child in international child abduction cases, the Court’s recognition of LGBT rights and finally the spectrum of challenges regarding reproductive rights in the Court’s case law. The overarching general trend is that the Court is increasingly faced with issues concerning non-traditional forms of family and with issues caused by the internationalisation of families. How this is seen in the Court’s recent case law and how it effects the various areas of family law is discussed in this report.


Charlotte Mol LL.B.
Charlotte Mol is a Legal Research Master student at the University of Utrecht, where she specializes in family law and private international law. She has assisted the Commission on European Family Law with the editing of the comparative study on informal relationships. As a guest student she visited the University of Antwerp for two months, where she researched the best interests of the child in international child abduction cases in collaboration with, and under the supervision of, Prof. Thalia Kruger. She holds a European Law School LL.B. from Maastricht University.

    Op 11 februari 2015 heeft het Comité van Ministers van de Raad van Europa de Recommendation on preventing and resolving disputes on child relocation aangenomen. Dit is het eerste Europese instrument over het verhuizen met kinderen na scheiding. De Recommendation heeft een duidelijk tweeledig doel: het voorkomen van conflicten over verhuizingen met kinderen en, indien een conflict is gerezen, het bieden van richtsnoeren voor het oplossen daarvan. In deze bijdrage staan in de eerste plaats de inhoud van de Recommendation en de daarbij gemaakte keuzes centraal. Daarnaast wordt ingegaan op de vraag wat deze Recommendation kan betekenen voor het Nederlandse recht en de toepassing daarvan in verhuiszaken. In de Recommendation worden enige, naar het oordeel van de auteur verstandige keuzes gemaakt. Zo verdient het stevig inzetten op alternatieve geschiloplossing steun. Daarnaast is de aanbevolen afzonderlijke beoordeling van het belang van het kind, zonder dat dit belang echter de doorslag hoeft te geven, in overeenstemming met vaste rechtspraak van de Hoge Raad in verhuiszaken. Ook het pleidooi voor een neutrale, kind-gecentreerde, casuïstische benadering door de rechter strookt met de wijze waarop Nederlandse rechters tot hun beslissingen in verhuiszaken komen. Specifieke verhuiswetgeving op deze punten, zoals de Recommendation voorstelt, acht de auteur dan ook niet nodig. Wel zou de wettelijke verankering van de in de Recommendation voorgestelde formele notificatieplicht kunnen bijdragen aan het voorkomen van verhuisconflicten. Krachtens deze plicht dient de ouder met een verhuiswens de andere ouder – schriftelijk en binnen een redelijke termijn – te informeren over de voorgenomen verhuizing. Hoewel de verwachtingen van het daadwerkelijke effect van de Recommendation als niet-bindend instrument niet al te hoog gespannen moeten zijn, draagt deze bij aan de erkenning van verhuizing met kinderen als een (hoog)potentieel conflictueuze aangelegenheid.
    On the 11th February 2015 the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted the Recommendation on preventing and resolving disputes on child relocation. This is the first European instrument on child relocation. The aim of the Recommendation is twofold: preventing relocation disputes, and in case of a dispute, providing guidelines for solving them. This contribution firstly intends to examine the principles of the Recommendation and the choices that has been made during the drafting process. Secondly, it will look at the question of to what extent the Recommendation could lead to any adjustments of Dutch law and its application in relocation cases. In the opinion of the author, a number of prudent choices have been made in the Recommendation. In the first place, the encouragement of alternative dispute resolution ought to be supported. Secondly, the recommended individual and separate assessment of the best interests of the child (whose interests are, however, not decisive) is in accordance with the case law of the Supreme Court of the Netherlands in relocation cases. The plea for a neutral, child centered, case-by-case approach by the court is also consistent with the way in which Dutch courts make their decisions in relocation cases. Specific relocation legislation in this regard is not necessary in the opinion of the author. However, a legislative provision requiring the relocating parent to inform the other parent prior to the intended relocation might contribute to the prevention of disputes on child relocation. Although expectations concerning the actual effect of the Recommendation as a non-binding instrument should not be too high, it nevertheless contributes to the recognition of child relocation as an issue with a high potential for conflict.


Prof. mr. Lieke Coenraad
Prof. mr. Lieke Coenraad is Professor of Private Law and Dispute Resolution at the law faculty of VU University Amsterdam. She is also deputy judge at the Court of Appeal of Amsterdam.

    Those who talk can be heard. Those who are allowed to talk may be listened to. This study is an attempt to give legal voice to those who cannot talk or are usually not listened to: children. This study is about the attention given to their interests, the best interests of the child. When these interests are immersed in a minority context, children may be overlooked for different reasons, including discriminatory attitudes or prejudice regarding their families. Law and its interpretation must be changed in order to include the difference. This study discusses the best interests of the child principle with special attention to its legal relevance in cases where lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) are, or want to be, parents. The authoritative source for the interpretation of the principle is the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The analysis focuses on the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and its case law. The study aims to explore the Court’s approach to the best interest of the child and identify whether the principle is being consistently applied in cases involving LGBT families, given the fact that sexual orientation and gender identity are still sensitive issues in Europe. This is done by comparing these cases to cases lodged by applicants who were not identified as an LGBT person. The margin of appreciation doctrine and the lack of European consensus on sexual minorities’ rights are confronted with the urgent paramount consideration that has to be given to children’s best interests. The analysis explores whether there is room for detecting a possible Court’s biased approach towards the concept of the best interests of the child. This study challenges the Court’s decisions in the sense that the focus should not only be at the LGBT parents’ rights to private and family life, but also at the interests of their daughters and sons. This is an attempt to call upon the ECtHR and all states not only to actively fight discrimination against LGBT persons, but, ultimately, to stop interpreting the concept of the best interests of the child in an arguably biased way, and to consider the principle’s legal value in any decision, regardless of their parents’ sexual orientation, gender identity or any other distinction.


Mr. Gabriel Alves de Faria
Gabriel Alves de Faria is a Brazilian lawyer, LGBTI activist and human rights specialist who holds a Law degree from the Federal University of Espirito Santo and a European Master’s Degree in Human Rights and Democratisation (E. MA/EIUC - Utrecht University). Among other legal and social experiences in the human rights field, Gabriel has worked as a researcher in comparative sexual orientation Law at Leiden University and most recently as a Fellow and consultant lawyer at the LGBTI Rapporteurship of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington, DC. His latest project is a documentary on the situation of LGBTI persons in Southeast Asia.

    This article discusses the possibility spouses have under the Rome III Regulation (EC Regulation 1259/2010) to choose the law applicable to their divorce. It discusses the limits and exceptions of this freedom to choose.


Dr. Thalia Kruger
Thalia Kruger is professor at the law faculty of the University of Antwerp, where she teaches and researches private international law, international civil procedure and international family law. She is also Honorary Research Associate at the University of Cape Town.

    This article seeks to critically analyse the European Commission's Proposal for a Council Regulation on jurisdiction, applicable law and recognition and enforcement of decisions in matters of matrimonial property regimes (COM (2011) 126). It focuses upon the coordination of the Proposal's provisions on jurisdiction and applicable law with the parallel provisions contained in other related EU private international law instruments, namely those relating to divorce (Brussels II bis and Rome III) and succession (Succession Regulation). In doing so, the article adopts a 'stress-test' approach, presenting scenarios in which interaction between these related instruments takes place. The compositions and circumstances of the fictitious couples in these scenarios are varied in order to fully illustrate the potential consequences of the interplay between the instruments. This article seeks to assess the extent to which (in)consistency exists between the current and proposed EU private international instruments and, by evaluating this interaction through a number of norms, how identified inconsistencies impact upon international couples' legal relationships. In order to ensure the analysis remains as up to date as possible, the article will also take into account relevant changes introduced in the latest revised versions of the Proposal.


Jacqueline Gray LL.M.
Jacqueline Gray studied law at the University of Glasgow (2006-2010) and European law at the Leiden University (2010-2011). Following this, she undertook a four-month internship at the Molengraaff Institute for Private Law and five-month traineeship at the European Parliament in Brussels. She is now a PhD student at the Molengraaff Institute for Private Law, where she is writing her dissertation on party autonomy in the EU private international law relating to family matters and succession.

Pablo Quinzá Redondo LL.M.
Pablo Quinzá Redondo, a research scholar funded by the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, is currently undertaking a PhD at the University of Valencia. His specialisation concerns 'The europeanisation of matrimonial property regimes from a substantive and private international law perspective'. Prior to commencing his PhD, he completed undergraduate degrees in both Law and Administration and Business management (2004- 2010), as well as a Master’s degree in Company Law (2010-2012), at the University of Valencia.
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