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EU considering 'enhanced cooperation' to develop cross-border divorce laws

[JURIST] European Union (EU) [official website] justice ministers considered Friday whether to use "enhanced cooperation" [EU backgrounder] to enable some EU countries to work together to create uniform marriage laws for mixed-nationality couples. Incoming EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding [official website] said that she would enter a demand [AFP report] for enhanced cooperation, a technique used when only some EU member states agree. In hearings before the European Parliament [official website] earlier this month, Reding said [press release] that she did not like to use such a technique but it must be used for important issues where unanimity is impossible. Reding said in a statement [press release] earlier this month that cross-border divorces provide a problem for the EU, citing a common hypothetical situation:

A German has married a Greek and they are living together in Belgium. Then they have a divorce. What happens with the children? Where are the children going? What law applies to this divorce to the good of the children afterwards? All this has to be clarified at the European level so that these matrimonial questions will not be headache anymore but that people will get concrete solutions and the children are treated for the better of children.

EU member states have inconsistent marriage and divorce laws. For instance, in July, a British appellate court recognized a pre-nuptial agreement [JURIST report] for the first time in the UK. Such agreements had been generally disregarded by UK courts hearing divorce proceedings, despite the fact that the rest of the EU and much of the rest of the world recognize such contracts as valid.

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