8th UCERF symposium on the 10th April 2014

On Thursday 10th April 2014, the eighth UCERF symposium, concerning current developments in family law, was held in a packed Geertekerk in Utrecht.

Katharina Boele-Woelki opened the symposium by welcoming the participants, after which Jet Tigchelaar chaired the first session of the afternoon, which concerned the legal position of the child. After the coffee break, Merel Jonker took over as chairperson, for a session on the position of mothers.

The first speaker of the afternoon was Hans van Loon, the former Secretary General of the Hague Conference on Private International Law. He discussed child abduction from a human rights perspective, and outlined the current case law in this regard. He was critical over the rules on cross-border child abduction contained in the Brussels II bis regulation, and closed his speech with the words: “One just has to deal with it.”. After this, Simone van de Hof spoke about digital child law. She provided an insight into the impact of the digital world upon children. The participants learned many new terms during the course of this presentation, such as sharents (parents who share a lot of information about their children on social networking sites) and online profiling (the commercialisation of children’s environments). On a final note, she concluded that the legislation in this area is outdated in light of the new technological developments, and that the rights and privacy of children is insufficiently protected (or, in some instances, completely unprotected). Following this, Jan Biemans analysed the position of the disinherited child. He suggested that the best interests of the minor child in inheritance law are not optimally guaranteed. The legal representative often has to deal with a lack of knowledge, and frequently has a conflict of interest in taking action. Due to the contractual nature of the receivables, the theoretical financial claim that the child has is not always fulfilled.

Foto UCERF symposium 2014 (3)

Susanne Burri began the second part of the afternoon with a presentation about work and care in family relations, with particular regard to the right to parental leave of fathers and intended mothers. A series of cases in the European Court of Justice was discussed. These cases show a worrying lack of consistency, meaning that, according to Burri, this issue has become a “problem child”. After this, Will Portegijs spoke about women and economic independence. Statistics show that only half of women aged 20 to 64 years old are economically independent. The main reason for this is that Dutch women are the champions of part-time work. Interestingly, as their children grow up, these women continue to work part time. Despite the semi-traditional division of labour that makes such women vulnerable in the event of divorce, they are not worried about these figures. Despite the rising incidence of divorce, women with a partner assume that their relationship would always endure. Alexander Labohm closed this session with a contribution concerning current developments in partner alimentation. We are very grateful to him for replacing Myriam de Bruijn-Lückers at the last moment. Labohm stressed that alimentation can only be paid for a maximum period of twelve years, and that it can also be assigned for a shorter period, if a lawyer succeeds in justifying this reduction. In this way, it is not necessary to shorten the maximum period for alimentation as provided by the law. However, according to Labohm, maintenance obligations between cohabitations ought to be regulated.

In her closing speech, Katharina Boele-Woelki announced that the next UCERF symposium will take place on the 16 April 2015. Write this down in your agenda!