Hostname: page-component-7479d7b7d-qlrfm Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-13T20:01:43.707Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

The EC Convention on the Recovery of Maintenance: Necessity or Excess?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 May 2009

M. Sumampouw
Head, Department of Private International Law of the T.M.C. Asser Instituut.
Get access


The problem of defaulting maintenance debtors is not just an international phenomenon; it exists in purely domestic relationships as well. The difference is that in an international case, particularly where the parties do not reside in the same country, additional problems complicate the situation. Most of these problems relate to procedural questions, such as those of international jurisdiction and enforcement of foreign orders. Since maintenance creditors are usually needy parties, other problems in the field of procedural law relate to the obtaining of legal aid and exemption from security for costs. Apart from that, questions concerning the transfer of funds might also arise.

Research Article
Copyright © T.M.C. Asser Press 1991

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


1. The problem of international jurisdiction was the subject matter of the doctoral thesis in 1962 of Bert Voskuil, to whom the present study is dedicated. The title of the thesis is Voskuil, C.C.A., De internationale bevoegdheid van de Nederlandse reenter—In het bijzonder in zaken van echtscheiding en alimentatie [International jurisdiction of the Dutch court, in particular with respect to divorce and maintenance] (1962), 228 p.Google Scholar

2. Trb. 1991 no. 58.

3. 268 UNTS 32; Trb. 1957 no. 121.

4. Gutteridge, H.C., ‘The International Enforcement of Maintenance Orders’, 2 Int. L. Q. (1948) pp. 155172.Google Scholar

5. Contini, P., ‘International Enforcement of Maintenance Obligations’, 41 Cal. L. Rev. (1953) pp. 106123CrossRefGoogle Scholar, reproduced in Unidroit, , ed., L'unification du droit, vol. III 19471952 (1954) pp. 123175Google Scholar; idem, ‘The United Nations Draft Conventions on Maintenance Claims’, 3 Am. J. Comp. L. (1954) pp. 543551, at p. 550Google Scholar; Fetid, M., ‘Zum Stand der Entwicklung im internationalen Unterhaltsrecht’, 3 FamRZ (1956) pp. 165168, 197201Google Scholar; de Winter, L.I., ‘Développement récents dans le droit international en matière d'obligations alimentaires’, IV NTIR (1957) pp. 133158.Google Scholar

6. On the discrepancies of these rules, see: Gutteridge, , loc. cit n. 4, pp. 160 et seq.Google Scholar; De Winter, , loc. cit n. 5, pp. 135139.Google ScholarFerid, , loc. cit. a 5, at p. 165Google Scholar, observed: ‘So sehr Übereinstimmung darüber besteht, daβ etwas geschehen muβ, so wenig ist man sich über den einzuschlagenen Weg einig’.

7. Contini, , op. cit. n. 5Google Scholar, Unidroit, , pp. 129 and 131Google Scholar; De Winter, , loc. cit. a 5, pp. 139140.Google Scholar

8. Contini, , loc. cit. n. 5,3 Ara J. Comp. L. (1954) p. 546.Google Scholar

9. De Winter, , loc. cit. n. 5, p. 153.Google Scholar

10. Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International law, ed., Collection of Conventions (1951–1988), No. VIII. In force since 11.1.1962; Contracting States on 1.3.1992: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey.

11. Collection of Conventions, op. cit n. 10Google Scholar, No. IX. In force since 1.1.1962; Contracting States on 1.3.1992: Austria, Belgium Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Surinam, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey.

12. de Winter, L.I., ‘Rapport de la Commission Sp´ciale’Google Scholar, in Bureau Permanent de la Conférence de La Haye de droit international privé, ed., Documents la Huitième Session (1957), pp. 124133, at p. 125.Google Scholar

13. Collection of Conventions, op. cit. n. 10Google Scholar, No. XXIII In force since 1.8.1976; Contracting States on 1.3.1992: Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom.

14. Collection of Conventions, op. cit n. 10Google Scholar, No. XXIV. In force since 1.10.1977; Contracting States on 1.3.1992: Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey.

15. Art 29 Hague Convention 1973 and Art 18(1) Hague Applicable Law Convention 1973.

16. Art 9(1) Hague Convention 1958 and Art. 15 Hague Convention 1973.

17. Art 9(2) Hague Convention 1958 and Art. 16 Hague Convention 1973.

18. Art 10 Hague Convention 1958.

19. Art 22 Hague Convention 1973.

20. Collection of Conventions, op. cit. n. 10Google Scholar, No. II. In force since 12.4.1957; on 1.3.1992: 29 Contracting States.

21. Collection of Conventions, op. cit. n. 10Google Scholar, No. XXIX In force since 1.5.1988; on 1.3.1992: 5 Contracting States.

22. ETS, No. 92. In force since 28.2.1977; on 1.3.1992: 14 Contracting States.

23. OJ NO. L 299/32 of 31.12.1972.

24. OJ No. L 304/1 of 30.10.1978.

25. OJ No. L 388/1 of 31.12.1982.

26. OJ No. L 285/1 of 3.10.1989.

27. The Brussels Convention as subsequently amended in 1982 has been in force between all the EC-Members with the exception of Portugal and Spain; the Brussels Convention as amended in 1989 has been in force between France, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom (state on 1.5.1992).

28. OJ No. L 319/9 of 25.11.1988. Entered into force on 1.1.1992 between France, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Switzerland (state on 1.5.1992).

29. The addition of Art. 5 (2) of both Conventions reads that if the matter is ancillary to proceedings concerning the status of a person, the defendant can be sued in the court which, according to its own law, has jurisdiction regarding those proceedings, provided that jurisdiction is not based solely on the nationality of one of the parties.

30. Art 3(2) Hague Convention 1958 and Art 7(1) Hague Convention 1973. The difference between the Hague Conventions and the Brussels/Lugano Conventions is that the first are a traité simple and the second a traité double.

31. Bureau Permanent de la Conf´rence de La Haye de droit international priv´, ed., Actes de la Huiti`me Session (1957) pp. 215216Google Scholar; De Winter, , loc. cit. n. 5, p. 155 et seq.Google Scholar The reservation was made only by Liechtenstein and the Netherlands. The latter withdrew the reservation when it ratified the new Hague Convention 1973.

32. See Explanatory Report of this Convention by M. Verwilghen, in Bureau Permanent de la Conférence de La Haye de droit international privé, ed., Actes et documents de la Douzième Session, Vol. IV, Obligations alimentaires (1975) pp. 384465, no. 50 p. 405.Google Scholar

33. The system of international cooperation between authorities esignated in each Contracting State appeared to be an adequate method of solving some particular problems of conflict of laws. The Hague Conference, for example, has copied this method to solve the difficult problem of international child abductions and for questions of international procedural law. See on the development of this method, Droz, G A.L., ‘Évolution du rôle des autorités administratives dans les conventions de droit international privé au cours du premier si`cle de la Conférence de La Haye’, in Études offertes à Pierre Bellet (1991) pp. 129147.Google Scholar

34. In comparison with other multilateral Conventions in the field of international family law, the New York Convention could also claim to be the most popular. See NIFR 1990 nos. 18–57.

35. See: Martin, J. and Huigin, CO.: ‘Draft Explanatory Report on the Convention between the Member States of the European Communities on the Simplification of Procedures for the Recovery of MaintenanceGoogle Scholar (hereafter: Draft Explanatory Report), Chap. 1: Introductory Remarks, para. 1: Background to the Conventioa This Report is not (yet) published and was provided for the present study by courtesy of P.A.M. Meijknecht, Esq., Counsellor at the Ministry of Justice in The Hague. The authors of mis report are both of the Department of Justice in Dublin.

36. The term ‘family relation’ is understood in the wider sense, including ascendants and descendants related by blood or by operation of law, and the (former) spouse.

37. O'Malley, S. and Layton, A., European Civil Practice (1989) nos. 17.35 and 17.36.Google Scholar

38. See infra, paragraph 3.3.

39. Arts. 25 and 31(1) Brussels Convention.

40. Art. 34(2) Brussels Convention.

41. See infra, paragraph 3.4.

42. See supra, n. 13.

43. Art 42 Brussels Convention, Art. 1(2) Hague Convention 1958 and Art 3 Hague Convention 1973.

44. But see Draft Explanatory Report, Chap. 2: Scope and Application of the Convention; para. 6: Art 1, para. 1.

45. See supra, section 2.

46. Art 1(5) reads: ‘Anybody which, under the law of a Contracting State, is entitled to exercise the rights of redress of the creditor or to represent him shall benefit from the provisions of this Convention’.

47. Draft Explanatory Report, Chap. 2: Scope and Application of the Convention, para. 10: Art 1, para. 5.

48. Verwilghen, , op. cit n. 32, no. 92 p. 424.Google Scholar

49. See von Overbeck, A.E., ‘Les nouvelles Conventions de La Haye sur les obligations alimentaires’, ASDI (1973) pp. 135170, at p. 158.Google Scholar

50. Cf., Draft Explanatory Report, Chap. 5: Applications under the Convention, para. 19: Art 5, para. 1.

51. See Art. 9.

52. Art 31 Brussels Convention.

53. Draft Explanatory Report Chap. 2: Scope and Application of the Convention, para. 10: Art 1, para. 5. Emphasis added.

54. Schlosser Report, OJ No. C 59/60 of 5.3.1978, para. 97.

55. See supra, paragraph 3.1.

56. The wording of Art. 9(3) is ambiguous as to the date on which the first option (the declaration) takes effect: ‘Each Member State may, when depositing its instrument of ratification,…, or at any later date, declare that the Convention shall apply to it in its relations with other States which have made the same declaration 90 days after the date of deposit’ (emphasis added). The phrase ‘90 days after the date of deposit’ seems to imply a condition regarding the date on which the declaration has to be made. But such an interpretation would be contrary to the phrase that the declaration can be made ‘when depositing its instrument of ratification… or at any later date’.

57. The remaining two are the applicable law Conventions: the Hague Convention 1956 and the Hague Applicable Law Convention 1973.

58. Art 7 Rome Convention and Art. 1(2) New York Convention.

59. Wim respect to the Rome Convention, see supra, paragraph 3.5. As to the New York Convention. See Contini, , loc. cit. a 5Google Scholar, 3 Am. J. Comp. L. (1954) p. 546.

60. Art 1(4) Rome Convention.

61. Art. 5(1) New York Convention; Art. 5(1) Rome Convention.

62. Art. 13 New York Convention.

63. Preamble and the Arts. 9(1) and 10(1) Rome Convention.

64. See supra, paragraph 3.2.

65. Art. 5 New York Convention; Art 5(1) Rome Convention.

66. Art. 5 New York Convention; Art 5(2) Rome Convention.

67. Art. 6(1) New York Convention; Art 3(2) Rome Convention.

68. Art. 2(4) New York Convention.

69. Art. 3(1) Rome Convention.

70. Art. 10 New York Convention; Art 3(2)(iv) Rome Convention.

71. According to Mecke it follows from the general principles of law mat the request and the accompanying document have to be in the official language of the State addressed or shall be translated in this language. See Mecke, F., ‘UN-Übereinkommen über die Geltendmachung von Unterhaltsansprüchen im Ausland vom 20. Juni 1956’Google Scholar, in Bülow, A. et al. , eds., Der internationale Rechtsverkehr in Zivil-und Handelssachen, Quellensammlung mit Erläuterungen loose-leaf edn., vol. III, p. 794–17, ftn. 58.Google Scholar

72. Cf. van Gelder, C.J., ‘Het EEG-Verdrag onderhoudsverhaal’ [The EEC-Convention on the Recovery of Maintenance], Tijdschrift voor Familie- en Jeugdrecht (1992) pp. 254259, at p. 258.Google Scholar The author, employed at the office of the Dutch Transmitting/Receiving Agency, also comments that in the past thirty years the New York Convention has been functioning succesfully except in some Contracting States because of lack of personnel.

73. Toelichting Nota [Explanatory Note] of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Secretary of State of the Ministry of Justice, Parliamentary Assembly (1990–1991), 22 071 (R 1405) nos. 230–2.

74. See also Van Gelder, , loc. cit. n. 72, p. 259.Google Scholar