Proposals aimed at making it easier for people to make cross-border claims for maintenance payments, such as child support money, have been given strong support by MEPs, during a vote in plenary session on 13 December.
The legislative proposals, made by the European Commission in December 2005, seek to place a clear responsibility on member states to enforce decisions on maintenance obligations made by courts in other EU countries. This is important for cross-border cases, for example those where a person who owes child support money (the debtor) may have moved to another state since the break-up of a marriage.
MEPs have retained, in their opinion, the key principle that a decision reached in one member state "shall be recognised and enforced in another member state without the need for a declaration of enforceability and without any possibility of opposing its recognition".
The original Commission proposals do, however, set out several specific situations in which member states would still be able refuse to enforce such decisions. These include, notably, situations where "the debtor asserts new circumstances or circumstances which were unknown to the court of origin". MEPs sought to narrow the possible use of this loophole, insisting they must be "significant, relevant circumstances".
MEPs also have sought to ensure that the legislation will have a sufficiently wide scope. The original proposals provided no clear definition of what constitutes a maintenance obligation. This was identified as a problem by Parliament on the grounds that interpretations vary across the member states. MEPs have, as a...