This post was contributed by Francesco Pesce, who is an associate professor at the University of Genoa.
The very first meeting of the Hague Conference on Private International Law’s (HCCH) Special Commission (SC) on the Practical Operation of the 2007 Child Support Convention and 2007 Maintenance Obligations Protocol was held from 17 to 19 May 2022. The event was attended by over 200 delegates representing HCCH Members, Contracting Parties and Observers from all regions of the world.
Following an invitation coming from the Secretary General of the HCCH, for the first time EAPIL participated as an Observer to a meeting of the Hague Conference.
The meeting resulted in the adoption of over 80 Conclusions & Recommendations, providing guidance on a wide range of issues relating to the implementation and practical operation of these instruments.
Among other things, the Special Commission took into a specific consideration some issues raised in the Position Paper on Child Support and Maintenance Obligations prepared by the EAPIL Working Group specifically created for that purpose.
More in detail, HCCH Members and Contracting Parties discussed some problems concerning the effective access to legal assistance for children under the Convention, for the recovery of maintenance obligations arising from a parent-child relationship.
Firstly, the interpretation of the concept of ‘residence’ (Article 9) was reaffirmed to be necessarily consistent with Article 53, which prescribes uniformity in the interpretation and application of the Convention, due to its international character. In this perspective, it has been recalled that the intention behind the use of (simple) ‘residence’ is to provide the easiest and the widest access to Central Authorities and make it is as easy as possible to apply for international recovery of child support, so that a child has the possibility to require financial support wherever he or she may be living and should not have to satisfy a strict residence test in order to apply for assistance to receive it (cf. Borrás-Degeling Report, para. 228). Based on this assumption, the SC confirmed that Article 9 does not always indicate a single national Central Authority: when the creditor/child is permanently living in two different Contracting States, then it does not prevent a choice of most appropriate (State, and subsequently) Central Authority to submit the application. The creditor may take into account many factors in making this decision, bearing in mind that support is usually needed for a prolonged period of time. Such a case is considered under para. 7 of the Conclusions & Recommendations, expressly referred to the situation of a child studying abroad, when the debtor habitually resides or has assets in another Contracting Party than the State of either the residence or habitual residence of the creditor.
Secondly, the SC noted that some doubts were raised by the responses to the Questionnaire of August 2019 on the practical operation of the 2007 Child Support Convention, on the concept of ‘creditor’ with reference to the existing difference between those systems where it is the child him/herself who qualifies as ‘creditor’ acting for the protection of his/her own interests (even if procedurally through an adult (parent) acting on his/her behalf) and, on the other hand, those States providing that a dependent child cannot be the creditor, so that the action for the maintenance recovery is brought by the parent on his/her own In this respect, the SC recalled that, in the case where the child is an applicant, information concerning the name of the non-debtor custodial parent should be written under “Other information” in Section 10 of the Recommended Form (cf. Conclusions & Recommendations, para. 8);
Lastly, the SC addressed the issue of family status, with a specific reference to recognition and enforcement of maintenance decisions concerning relationships not provided by the law of the requested State. On this matter, para. 24 of the Conclusions & Recommendations simply reaffirms that, in accordance with Article 19(2) of the 2007 Convention, maintenance obligations arising from these relationships can still be recognised and enforced without recognising such relationships per se. The specific issue of (same-sex) marriages and other relationships – such as cohabitations – that could be equated to marriage in the national law of the State of origin was raised by the Position Paper, but it was not deepened during this first meeting of the SC: in fact, spousal support was not considered a priority at this stage (cf. para. 67).