Parental responsibility means all rights and obligations towards a child and its assets.
In particular, this concept covers rights linked to the education and care of the child, the right to look after the child and its assets, the right to decide where it lives, to place it with a foster family or institution, or indeed to take it away for a limited period (access rights at weekends or during school holidays).
The parents usually have the parental responsibility for a child, but parental responsibility may also be given to the institution to which the child is entrusted.
Rules exist within the European Union to allow these rights to be exercised more easily, particularly when the child and those holding parental responsibility do not all live in the same country.
Thus, where there is a dispute between those holding this right - this usually means the parents - there are rules to determine which court has jurisdiction to deal with the case: the main aim, if the two parents live in different countries, is to avoid both parents addressing the court in their own country and two decisions issued in the same case. The principle is that the competent court is the court in the country in which the child habitually resides.
Also, to ensure that the decision is actually applied in the other countries of the European Union once it has been issued, there is a mechanism for the recognition and enforcement of decisions which makes it easier for those with parental responsibility to exercise it.
In particular, the right of access of one parent will be very easily recognised in another European Union Member State, to promote the relationship between the child and both its parents.
To obtain more detailed information please click here (you will be redirected to the dedicated page of the European Judicial Network in Civil and Commercial matters).
Deterring cross-border child abduction within the European Union
The EU has specific rules designed to deter cross-border parental child abduction. A deterrent effect exists because courts in the Member State of the child’s habitual residence before abduction continue to have jurisdiction on parental responsibility issues until such time as the child acquires habitual residence in another Member State and the cross-border child abduction case has been settled. This acts as a disincentive to parents contemplating abduction in order to bring a case before the courts of their own Member State of residence in the hope of obtaining a more favourable judgment or of reversing a judgment issued in another Member State.
Central authorities exist in all Member States except Denmark. Their tasks include facilitating the practical application of EU rules and assisting parents who are victims of cross-border child abduction. At a meeting on 19 June 2008 in Brussels, the central authorities decided to compile and disseminate information on national administrative and judicial procedures concerning applications under EU rules for the return of an abducted child. A committee was mandated to carry out the work and it has published a guide to best practices and common minimum standards.
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Last update: 12/09/2013