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European matrimonial property regimes

Date:26 AUG 2009

On the 28 September, the European Commission will hold a public hearing in Brussels on matrimonial property regimes and patrimonial aspects of other forms of union.

The hearing, which is open to all interested parties, is part of an on-going consultation process. It follows the publication of a Green Paper on the conflict of laws in matters concerning matrimonial property regimes, including the question of jurisdiction and mutual recognition, which was issued on 17 July 2006.

Lord Justice Thorpe, the Head of International Family Justice in England and Wales, spoke to Newswatch about the progress of further harmonisation of family law amongst EU Member States.

Lord Justice Thorpe commented: "Harmonisation is very difficult in European family law and that is well recognised by the European Commission so by and large they concentrate on producing jurisdictional rules and rules as to applicable law.

"Now we know that the European Commission launched an endeavour to achieve some agreement in the field of divorce, the UK declined to enter the negotiations because the proposal contained applicable law provisions and thereafter the whole endeavour hit the buffers when the remaining states of Europe could get no where near a consensus. The subsequent notion that a reduced number of states would enter into a limited agreement under the enhanced cooperation provisions has subsequently apparently received the thumbs down from the commissioners who did not feel that the rarely employed enhanced cooperation provisions was suitable for this topic.

"We also know that the European Commission has endeavoured to commence the production of regulation on martial property regimes, but again that only reached a green paper stage and the UK has had great difficulty in making a substance response to the green paper.

He continued: "I can only say that it is a very difficult field for the common law states of Europe. We do not have a marital property regime, there are no property consequences of marriage according to our law, only property consequences of divorce and so getting into any sort of step with Europe in this area presents huge difficulties."

Parties interested in attending the hearing must register by 18 September 2009.

To download a registration form, click here. A copy of the Green Paper can be downloaded by clicking here. A summary of replies to the green paper can be downloaded by clicking here.