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    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.

    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).

    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.

    The comparative discussions held during this seminar show that the different jurisdictions make use of – approximately – the same ingredients for their legislation on adult guardianship measures and continuing powers of attorney. Given the common international framework (for example the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) and given the common societal context (cfr. the strong increase of the ageing population) this may not come as a surprise. Despite these common ingredients, the different jurisdictions have managed to arrive at different dishes spiced with specific local flavours. Given that each jurisdiction bears its own history and specific policy plans, this may not come as a surprise either. The adage ‘same same but different’ is in this respect a suitable bromide.
    For my own research, the several invitations – that implicitly or explicitly arose from the different discussions – to rethink important concepts or assumptions were of most relevance and importance. A particular example that comes to mind is the suggestion to ‘reverse the jurisprudence’ and to take persons with disabilities instead of healthy adult persons as a point of reference. Also, the invitation to rethink the relationship between the limitation of capacity and the attribution of a guard comes to mind as the juxtaposition of the different jurisdictions showed that these two aspects don’t need to be automatically combined. Also the discussion on the interference between the continuing powers of attorney and the supervision by the court, provoked further reflection on hybrid forms of protection on my part. Finally, the ethical and medical-legal approaches may lead to a reconsideration of the traditional underlying concepts of autonomy and the assessment of capacity.


Veerle Vanderhulst Ph.D.
Veerle Vanderhulst works at the Faculty of Law and Criminology, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

    Legal position of a known donor constitutes an ongoing challenge. Known donors are often willing to play a role in the child’s life. Their wishes range from scarce involvement to aspiring legal parentage. Therefore three persons may wish for parental role. This is not catered for in the current laws allowing only for two legal parents. Several studies show how lesbian mothers and a donor ’devise new definitions of parenthood’ extending ’beyond the existing normative framework’. However, the diversity in the roles of the donors suggests a split of parental rights between three persons rather than three traditional legal parents. In this article I will discuss three jurisdictions (Quebec, Sweden and the Netherlands), allowing co-mother to become legal parent other than by a step-parent adoption. I will examine whether these jurisdictions attempt to accommodate specific needs of lesbian families by splitting up parentage ’package’ between the duo-mothers and the donor.


Prof. mr. Masha Antokolskaia Ph.D.
Masha Antokolskaia is professor of Private Law (in particular, Personal Status and Family Law) at the VU University Amsterdam. She is a member of the Commission on European Family Law (CEFL) and a board member of the International Society of Family Law. She is author of a diverse range of monographs and articles written in Dutch, English and Russian. Her main research areas are: European comparative Family Law and Dutch Family Law, with particular regard to the law relating to relationships, parentage and divorce.

    Sinds de invoering van het Burgerlijk Wetboek in 1838 heeft men herhaaldelijk getracht de gronden voor echtscheiding te verruimen. Hoewel deze gronden uiteindelijk pas verruimd werden in 1971, werd de tot die tijd bestaande situatie, waarbij echtscheiding slechts op vier gronden mogelijk was en echtscheiding met wederzijds goedvinden verboden was, als onwenselijk beschouwd. Dit gevoelen werd nog sterker na het arrest van de Hoge Raad uit 1883, de zogenaamde 'Groote Leugen'. Teneinde een einde te maken aan deze 'Groote Leugen' en in een poging het Nederlandse echtscheidingsrecht meer in lijn te brengen met het Duitse recht, heeft de Nederlandse secretaris-generaal voor Justitie, J.J. Schrieke, tussen 1942 en 1944 twee wijzigingsvoorstellen voorgelegd aan de Duitse autoriteiten welke destijds Nederland bezet hielden. Dit artikel analyseert beide wijzigingsvoorstellen en probeert een antwoord te geven op de vraag in hoeverre deze voorstellen het resultaat waren van een mogelijke invloed van het Nationaal Socialisme.
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    Since the introduction of the Civil Code in 1838 one has repeatedly tried to extend the grounds for divorce. Although the grounds for divorce were not extended before 1971, the then existing situation, with only four grounds for divorce and a prohibition of divorce with mutual consent, was considered undesirable This sentiment became even stronger after the judgment of the Dutch Supreme Court of 1883, which became known as the 'Big Lie'. In order to stop this 'Big Lie' and in an attempt to bring Dutch divorce law more in line with German divorce law, the Dutch secretary-general of Justice, J.J. Schrieke, has presented the German authorities, which then occupied the Netherlands, with two draft revisions between 1942 and 1944. This article analyses both drafts and tries to answer the question to what extent these drafts were the result of a possible influence of National Socialism. This article is a summary of a part of the most important conclusions of the dissertation of the author, titled: 'National Socialist Family Law. The influence of National Socialism on marriage and divorce law in Germany and the Netherlands' defended at Maastricht University on 8 November 2012. A commercial edition of the dissertation is forthcoming.


Dr. Mariken Lenaerts LL.M., Ph.D.
Mariken Lenaerts obtained her doctorate at Maastricht University.

    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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