11th UCERF symposium on the 11th of April 2017

On the 11th of April 2017, the annual UCERF (Utrecht Centre for European Research into Family Law) symposium on the current developments in family law was held for the eleventh time. The symposium was opened by Prof. dr. Wendy Schrama with a reflection on the advisory opinion of the Government Committee on the Reassessment of Parenthood (Staatscommissie Herijking Ouderschap). The Government Committee’s advisory opinion concerns mainly the question whether it should be possible for a child to have more than two legal parents.

The session began with three interesting speakers and was chaired by dr. Susanne Burri. Mr. Constantijn van Dam van Isselt, juvenile judge at the Court of Amsterdam, spoke about recent experiences related to the hearing of the child (kindgesprek) and a new project of the Court of Amsterdam concerning involving children younger than twelve in the proceedings. It was of special interest that he added many examples from practice to his presentation. Prof. dr. Catrin Finkenauer  from Utrecht University then gave a very interesting presentation on high conflict divorces (vechtscheidingen)  and the important role of the social network in these divorces. This gave new insights into the risks of escalation of conflicts during or after a divorce. Finally,  dr. Esther Pans, researcher at the Free University of Amsterdam and lawyer at Kennedy van der Laan, discussed views on competency of dementia patients. This presentation clearly showed the tension between reality and assumptions according to the law.

After the lunch, the second part of the afternoon was chaired by dr. Merel Jonker. Pauline Montanus, lawyer and lecturer at the University of Amsterdam, initiated the session by discussing the role of the UNCRC in the youth- and family law practice. She elaborated upon relevant case law, the development and importance of the UNCRCand provided valuable insights into the role of lawyers in improving the importance of the UNCRC. Then, mr. Kristien Hepping, researcher at UCERF, clarified the legal status of parents in youth protection procedures. She presented the results of her empirical study on the presence of a lawyer for the parents in these procedures emphasizing their helpful role. Finally, dr. Hans ter Haar, associate professor notarial law at the University of Groningen, ended the day with a presentation of his comparative law study into the supervision  of parents and guardians in the administration of the assets of minors. He finished with some interesting recommendations for improvement of the Dutch system.