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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).

    In 2016 the Dutch Government Commission of Reassessment of Parenthood (GCRP) proposed a wide array of legal changes to Family Law, e.g. with regard to legal multi-parenthood and legal multiple parental responsibility. Although the commission researched these matters thoroughly in its quest towards proposing new directions in the field of Family Law, multi-parents themselves were not interviewed by the commission. Therefore, this article aims to explore a possible gap between the social experiences of parents and the recommendations of the GCRP. Data was drawn from in depth-interviews with a sample of 25 parents in plus-two-parent constellations living in Belgium and the Netherlands. For the most part the social experiences of parents aligned with the ways in which the GCRP plans to legally accommodate the former. However, my data tentatively suggests that other (legal) recommendations of the GCRP need to be explored more in depth.
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    In 2016 stelde de Nederlandse Staatscommissie Herijking ouderschap voor om een wettelijk kader te creëren voor meerouderschap en meeroudergezag. Ondanks de grondigheid van het gevoerde onderzoek ontbraken er gegevens omtrent de ervaringen van de meerouders zelf. Dit artikel levert een bijdrage in het vullen van deze leemte door inzage te geven in de (juridische) ervaringen van 25 ouders in meerouderschapsconstellaties in België en Nederland.


Nola Cammu MA
Nola Cammu is PhD Candidate at the Law Faculty of the University of Antwerp.
Article

Access_open Autonomy in old age

Journal Family & Law, May 2019
Authors prof. dr. Tineke Abma and dr. Elena Bendien
AbstractAuthor's information

    Background: In many European countries caring responsibilities are being reallocated to the older people themselves to keep the welfare state affordable. This policy is often legitimized with reference to the ethical principle of autonomy. Older people are expected to be autonomous, have freedom to make their own decisions, and be self-reliant and self-sufficient as long as possible.
    Aim: The purpose of this article is to explore whether and how older people can remain autonomous in order to continue living their lives in accordance with their own values in the context of declining professional caring facilities and shrinking social networks, and which concepts of autonomy can guide professionals and other involved parties in facilitating the choices of older people.
    Method: An empirical-ethical approach is used to interpret the moral values enacted in the caring practice for older people. Two cases are presented. One is the narrative of a woman who lives by herself; she has been hospitalized after a fall and hip fracture, but does not want to be operatied. The second is the narrative of man living in a residential home; he wants to be actively involved, doing good deeds like he always did as a Scout. The cases are evaluated with the help of two concepts of autonomy: autonomy as self-determination and relational autonomy.
    Results: In both cases the enactment of autonomy remains problematic. In the case of the woman there was not enough care at home to live up to her own values. After she was admitted to a hospital her wish not to be operated was questioned but ultimately honoured due to compassionate interference by close relatives and her oncologist. In the second case there was not enough space for the man to lead his life in the way he always had; his plans for improving the social environment in the care home were torpedoed by management and ultimately the man decided to step back.
    Conclusion: In order to do justice to the complexity of each empirical case that involves autonomy of an older person more than one concept of autonomy needs to be applied. Relying on self-determination or relational autonomy exclusively will give professionals and all involved parties a restricted view on the situation, where the wishes of older people are at stake. In both cases autonomy was overruled by system procedures and stereotypical ideas about old people as being weak and not able to make their own decisions. Both cases show, however, that older people - even if they are physically and mentally frail - long to remain morally responsible for the direction their lives are taking, in accordance with their own values. They communicate their wish to determine their own future and at the same time they are interdependent on others to realize their (relational) autonomy and require support in their attempt to maintain their identity. This conclusion has implications for the normative behaviour of the professionals who are involved in care and treatment of older people.
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    Achtergrond: In veel landen wordt de verantwoordelijkheid voor de zorg voor ouderen naar de ouderen zelf verplaatst, dit teneinde de welvaartstaat betaalbaar te houden. Dit beleid wordt veelal gelegitimeerd met referentie naar het ethische principe van autonomie. Oudere mensen worden geacht autonoom te zijn, vrij te zijn om hun eigen beslissingen te nemen, en om zo lang mogelijk zelfredzaam te blijven.
    Doel: Het doel van dit artikel is om te onderzoeken of en hoe oudere mensen autonoom kunnen blijven teneinde hun leven in overeenstemming met hun eigen waarden te kunnen voortzetten in de context van teruglopende professionele zorgactiviteiten en krimpende sociale netwerken, en welke concepten van autonomie zorgprofessionals en andere betrokken partijen kunnen helpen bij het faciliteren van de keuzes door ouderen.
    Methode: Een empirisch-ethische benadering wordt gebuikt om de morele waarden in de zorgpraktijk voor ouderen te interpreteren. Twee casussen worden gepresenteerd. De eerste is het verhaal van een vrouw die op zichzelf woont. Ze is na een val waarbij haar heup is gebroken, in een ziekenhuis opgenomen, maar ze wil niet geopereerd worden. De tweede is het verhaal van een man die in een verzorgingshuis woont. Hij wil actief betrokken worden en goede dingen doen zoals hij die altijd heeft gedaan toen hij padvinder was. Beide verhalen worden met behulp van twee concepten van autonomie geëvalueerd: autonomie als zelfbeschikking en relationele autonomie.
    Resultaat: In beide casussen blijft de verwezenlijking van autonomie problematisch. In het geval van de vrouw was er thuis onvoldoende zorg om volgens haar waarden te kunnen leven. Toen zij in het ziekenhuis was opgenomen werd haar wens om niet te worden geopereerd tegen gehouden, maar uiteindelijk ingewilligd als gevolg van bemoeienis uit hoofde van barmhartigheid door directe verwanten en haar oncoloog. In het tweede geval was er voor de man onvoldoende ruimte om zijn leven te leiden op de manier zoals hij dat altijd had gedaan. Zijn plannen om de sociale omgeving in het verzorgingshuis te verbeteren werden door het management getorpedeerd en uiteindelijk heeft hij zich ervan teruggetrokken.
    Conclusie: Teneinde recht te doen aan de complexiteit van beide casussen die betrekking hebben op de autonomie van een oudere, dient meer dan één concept voor autonomie te worden ingezet. Het vertrouwen in zelfbeschikking of relationele autonomie alleen zal aan de professionals en alle andere betrokken partijen een beperkt zicht geven van de situatie wanneer het de wensen van ouderen betreft. In beide gevallen werd de autonomie ter zijde geschoven door protocollen en stereotypische ideeën over ouderen als kwetsbare personen die niet in staat zouden zijn om zelf hun beslissingen te nemen. Echter tonen beide voorbeelden aan dat ouderen, zelfs als ze fysiek en mentaal kwetsbaar zijn, de wens hebben om moreel verantwoordelijk te blijven voor de richting die hun leven zal nemen, in overeenstemming met hun eigen waarden. Zij geven de wens aan om hun eigen toekomst te bepalen en tegelijkertijd zijn ze onderling afhankelijk van anderen om hun (relationele) autonomie te verwezenlijken, én hebben ze behoefte aan steun bij hun poging om hun identiteit te behouden. Deze conclusie heeft gevolgen voor het normatieve handelen van professionals die bij de zorg en behandeling van ouderen betrokken zijn.


prof. dr. Tineke Abma
Professor dr. Tineke A. Abma is a full professor of Participation and Diversity at the Department of Medical Humanities of Amsterdam UMC, location VUmc.

dr. Elena Bendien
Dr. Elena Bendien is a social gerontologist and a senior researcher at the Department of Medical Humanities of Amsterdam UMC, location VUmc.

    Alternative/amicable dispute resolution (ADR) is omnipresent these days. In line with global evolutions, the Belgian legislator embraced the use of these ADR mechanisms. Recent reforms of the law, first in 2013 with the act concerning the introduction of a Family and Juvenile Court and consecutively in 2018 with the act containing diverse provisions regarding civil law with a view to the promotion of alternative forms of conflict resolution, implemented more far-reaching measures to promote ADR than ever before. The ultimate goal seems to alter our society’s way of conflict resolution and make the court the ultimum remedium in case all other options failed.In that respect, the legislator took multiple initiatives to stimulate amicable dispute resolution. The reform of 2013 focused solely on family cases, the one in 2018 was broader and designed for all civil cases. The legal tools consist firstly of an information provision regarding ADR for the family judge’s clerk, lawyers and bailiffs. The judges can hear parties about prior initiatives they took to resolve their conflict amicably and assess whether amicable solutions can still be considered, as well as explain these types of solutions and adjourn the case for a short period to investigate the possibilities of amicable conflict resolution. A legal framework has been created for a new method, namely collaborative law and the law also regulates the link between a judicial procedure and the methods of mediation and collaborative law to facilitate the transition between these procedures. Finally, within the Family Courts, specific ‘Chambers of Amicable Settlement’ were created, which framework is investigated more closely in this article. All of these legal tools are further discussed and assessed on their strengths and weaknesses.
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    Alternatieve of minnelijke conflictoplossing is alomtegenwoordig. De Belgische wetgever heeft het gebruik van deze minnelijke oplossingsmethodes omarmd, in navolging van wereldwijde evoluties. Recente wetshervormingen implementeerden maatregelen ter promotie van minnelijke conflictoplossing die verder reiken dan ooit tevoren. Het betreft vooreerst de hervorming in 2013 met de wet betreffende de invoering van een familie- en jeugdrechtbank en vervolgens kwam er in 2018 de wet houdende diverse bepalingen inzake burgerlijk recht en bepalingen met het oog op de bevordering van alternatieve vormen van geschillenoplossing. De ultieme doelstelling van deze hervormingen is een mentaliteitswijziging omtrent onze wijze van conflictoplossing teweegbrengen, waarbij de rechtbank het ultimum remedium dient te worden nadat alle overige opties faalden.De wetshervorming van 2013 focuste uitsluitend op familiale materies, de hervorming van 2018 was ruimer en had alle burgerlijke zaken voor ogen. De wettelijke mogelijkheden bestaan vooreerst uit een informatieverstrekking omtrent minnelijke conflictoplossing in hoofde van de griffier van de familierechtbank, advocaten en gerechtsdeurwaarders. Rechters kunnen partijen horen omtrent eerdere ondernomen initiatieven om hun conflict op een minnelijke manier op te lossen, zij beoordelen of minnelijke oplossingen alsnog kunnen worden overwogen, zij kunnen de diverse minnelijke mogelijkheden toelichten aan partijen alsook de zaak voor een korte periode uitstellen om partijen toe te laten de mogelijkheden aan minnelijke conflictoplossing te verkennen. Er werd voorts een wetgevend kader uitgewerkt voor een nieuwe oplossingsmethode, namelijk de collaboratieve onderhandeling. De wet creëert tevens een link tussen een gerechtelijke procedure en de methodes van bemiddeling en collaboratieve onderhandeling, om de overgang tussen deze procedures te vereenvoudigen. Tot slot werden er binnen de familierechtbanken specifieke kamers voor minnelijke schikking opgericht, waarvan het wetgevend kader in detail wordt bestudeerd in dit artikel. Al deze wettelijke opties worden nader besproken en beoordeeld aan de hand van hun sterktes en zwaktes.


Sofie Raes
Sofie Raes is a Ph.D. candidate at the Institute for Family Law of the University of Ghent, where she researches alternative dispute resolution, with a focus on the chambers of amicable settlement in Family Courts. She is also an accredited mediator in family cases.

    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.

    This contribution provides an introduction to the main theme’s that are discussed in micro-, meso- and macroeconomics relating to family law. The occasion was a closed international expert seminar organized by RETHINKIN. (www.rethinkin.eu), a Scientific Research Network financed by the Research Foundation Flanders. The seminar concerned the compensation of household production between partners on the one hand, and intergenerational care for the elderly on the other. A report on the legal aspects is also available on this forum. This contribution first situates the economics of family in general, before discussing the main functions of practicing the economics of family law: (a) avoiding legislative mistakes, (b) using incentives to encourage altruistic behaviour, (c) using disincentives to discourage opportunistic behaviour and finally, (d) applying family economics as a benchmark for protective measures. It is concluded that employing the economics of family law encounters some difficulties, but that the possibilities it offers for legal development outweigh the difficulties.
    Deze bijdrage biedt een inleiding op de voornaamste thema’s die aan bod komen in de micro-, meso- en macro-familierechtseconomie. Aanleiding was een besloten internationaal expertenseminar dat werd georganiseerd door RETHINKIN. (www.rethinkin.eu), een wetenschappelijke onderzoeksgemeenschap gefinancierd door het Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek - Vlaanderen. Dat seminar betrof de compensatie van huishoudelijke productie tussen partners enerzijds en intergenerationele zorg voor ouderen anderzijds. Een verslag van het juridische gedeelte is ook op dit forum beschikbaar. Deze bijdrage situeert eerst de familie-economie in het algemeen, vooraleer in te gaan op de belangrijkste functies van de beoefening van defamilierechtseconomie: (a) het voorkomen van verkeerde wetgevende keuzen, (b) het aanmoedigen in de wetgeving van altruïstisch gedrag, (c) het ontmoedigen in de wetgeving van opportunistisch gedrag en ten slotte (d) de onzichtbare hand als opmaat voor een minimale wetgevende bescherming. De conclusie luidt dat de beoefening van de familierechtseconomie op sommige moeilijkheden stuit, maar dat de mogelijkheden ervan voor een goede rechtsontwikkeling meer gewicht in de schaal leggen.


Prof. dr. Frederik Swennen
Frederik Swennen is a senior lecturer at the University of Antwerp and an attorney at the Brussels Bar.

    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.

    D'après le Code civil, et ce dè s son origine, la séparation du couple marié peut donner lieu à une obligation légale de payer au conjoint, ou à l'ancien conjoint, une pension censée couvrir ses besoins. En dehors du mariage, point de lien alimentaire prévu par la loi. Depuis 1804, deux évolutions sociales majeures ont cependant changé le visage de la vie de couple. D'un côté, elle ne passe plus nécessairement par le mariage. D'un autre côté, seule sa dimension affective est censée lui donner sens, ce qui la rend éminemment fragile. La question se pose dè s lors de savoir si le lien alimentaire qui existe actuellement en droit belge entre conjoints désunis répond encore de maniè re adéquate et pertinente aux modes de fonctionnement de l'économie conjugale.
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    According to the Civil code, and in view of its development, the separation of a married couple can give rise to a legal obligation to pay maintenance to the other spouse, or ex-spouse, in order to cover his or her needs. In contrast, outside marriage, no statutory maintenance is available. However, since 1804, two major social evolutions have changed the way of life of couples. On the one hand, maintenance no longer flows inevitably from marriage. On the other hand, only the ‘love’ dimension of a relationship supports the provision of maintenance, which makes this claim eminently fragile.
    The question then arises as to whether the maintenance between separated spouses which is presently provided for under Belgian law still adequately and appropriately serves the functioning of the conjugal economy.
    In addition, the absence of maintenance rights for unmarried couples also raises questions. The contribution proposes a reconsideration of the right to maintenance between all couples, married or not, on the basis of other justifications, in particular the solidarity which couples establish during their shared lives.


Dr. Nathalie Dandoy
Nathalie Dandoy is lecturer at the catholic University of Louvain. She is member of the research centre of Family Law (Cefap-UCL). Her main research area concerns the maintenance rights between family members. She is member of editorial committee of Revue trimestrielle de droit familial and Journal des Juges de paix et de police.

    In this paper, I will firstly illustrate the broader context of the contractualisation of family law by drawing upon the oscillations in family regulation between private and public regulators, in the light of the so-called family law exceptionalism. I consider the contractualisation of family law to be the ordering of the family by families and individuals through the use of legally binding private instruments. I will elaborate upon the substantive and jurisdictional contractualisation of family law in Sections 2 and 3 of this paper respectively. The deliberately 'impressionist' presentation of Section 1-3 leads onto the conclusion which proposes that States benevolently tolerate substantive contractualisation through a lower standard of judicial review, and that, whilst they actively stimulate jurisdictional contractualisation of the content of family relations, the formation and dissolution of family relations still appear to fall within the State's exclusive domain (Section 4).
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    In deze bijdrage situeer ik eerst de 21ste eeuwse contractualisering van het familierecht in de historische pendelbeweging tussen publieke en private regulering van familieleven. Die leidde in de 19de en 20ste eeuw tot de aanneming van een bijzondere, niet-contractuele, aard van het familierecht (sectie 1). Ik beschouw als contractualisering van het familierecht: de regulering van familieleven door de familie en door individuen, door middel van juridisch bindende privaatrechtelijke instrumenten. Ik zal ingaan op de inhoudelijke en jurisdictionele contractualisering van het familierecht in respectievelijk de secties 2 en 3 van deze bijdrage. De bewust 'impressionistische' uiteenzetting in secties 1-3 leidt naar de conclusie dat Staten enerzijds een welwillende houding aannemen ten opzichte van inhoudelijke contractualisering, doordat een lagere norm van rechterlijke toetsing wordt gehanteerd. Anderzijds stimuleren zij actief de jurisdictionele contractualisering van de inhoud van familierelaties. Het aangaan en de beëindiging van familierelaties blijven daarentegen het exclusieve domein van de Staat (sectie 4).


Prof. dr. Frederik Swennen
Frederik Swennen is a senior lecturer at the University of Antwerp and an attorney at the Brussels Bar.
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