Empowering European Families: Towards More Party Autonomy in European Family and Succession Law


Project Type: Instrument
Procedure: Regular
Adopted: CD 2015/8 (On Projects)
Project Period: January 2016December 2017


There are currently 16 million international couples in the EU, ie couples where at least one of the partners lives in a country other than his or her country of origin. Despite the fact that EU legislation has achieved far-reaching unification of the rules concerning applicable law, jurisdiction, recognition and enforcement in family and succession law, international couples are still facing a number of problems. These problems have their roots in habitual residence as the dominant connecting factor, but also in the fact that existing EU conflict rules tend to encourage forum shopping and a ‘rush to court’. More notably still, there is often a patchwork of two or three forums and applicable laws even in standard cross-border divorce or separation cases and the approaches taken by the various laws involved are often incompatible with each other.

To a large extent, these problems could be avoided by way of early choice of court and applicable law under existing EU instruments and by agreements on substantive law issues, as far as these are enforceable in the forum State. However, experience shows that only a minor number of international couples make use of the options afforded to them under existing instruments.


This project aims at reducing obstacles faced by international families and at facilitating free movement of citizens by providing better certainty and predictability of results and reducing the costs of litigation in matters of family and succession law. It also aims at promoting the use of family mediation in the EU.



Within the framework of this project, European model dispositions concerning: (a) choice of court; (b) choice of applicable law; and possibly (c) submission to family mediation will be developed, which citizens must be made aware of and get access to whenever a marriage or registered partnership is concluded, a cross-border change of residence is registered and in similar situations. They will be accompanied by simple standard information sheets. In particular in divorce and separation cases, the model dispositions will seek to reduce complexity by offering to the parties a limited set of recommended ‘one-stop shop packages’ (Workstream 1).

As a second step, European model pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements for spouses and registered partners (Workstream 2) as well as model cohabitation contracts for informal relationships (Workstream 3) will be developed, which should be enforceable in as many Member States as possible. They will be published together with comparative notes and explanations concerning which provisions are presumably enforceable in which Member States, thus providing important information for international couples and their legal advisers.


  • Katharina Boele-Woelki
  • Wendy Schrama
  • Christiane Wendehorst


  • Anne Barlow
  • Kerstin Bartsch
  • Margareta Brattström
  • Pedro Carrión Garcia de Parada
  • Mark Harper
  • Maarit Jänterä-Jareborg
  • Matthias Neumayr
  • Eve Põtter
  • François Tremosa


  • Tim Amos QC
  • Josep Ferrer-Riba
  • Richard Frimston
  • Francisco Javier Jiménez Muñoz
  • Magdalena Habdas
  • Matthias Klein
  • Dieter Martiny
  • Vesna Rijavec
  • Tone Sverdrup
  • Alexandra Thomas
  • Alain Verbeke


  • Elena Bargelli
  • Elena D'Alessandro
  • Samuel Fulli-Lemaire
  • Carmen Jerez Delgado
  • Hartmut Wicke


  • Anne Barlow
  • Christine Bellizzi
  • Margareta Brattström
  • Sabine Corneloup
  • Guilherme de Oliveira
  • Nina Dethloff
  • Robert Dobrovodsky
  • Vincent Egea
  • Agnieszka Frąckowiak-Adamska
  • Richard Frimston
  • Cristina González Beilfuss
  • Nikitas Hatzimihail
  • Milana Hrusaková
  • Maarit Jänterä-Jareborg
  • Walter Jean-Baptiste
  • Joanna Kosińska-Wiercińska
  • Anette Kronborg
  • Thalia Kruger
  • Irena Kucina
  • Inga Kudinavičiūtė-Michailovienė
  • José María Lorenzo Villaverde 
  • Ingrid Lund-Andersen
  • Jane Mair
  • Dieter Martiny
  • Ines Medić
  • Elina Moustaira
  • Christoph Müller
  • Monica Navarro-Michel
  • Michel Neyens
  • Barbara Novak
  • Ioana Olaru
  • Maria Donata Panforti
  • Francesca Portelli
  • Branka Rešetar
  • Marianne Roth
  • Wendy Schrama
  • Karin Sein
  • Geoffrey Shannon
  • Salla Silvola
  • Anna Skrjabina
  • Laure Stark
  • Frederik Swennen
  • Orsolya Szeibert
  • Velina Todorova
  • Pekka Tuunainen
  • Triin Uusen-Nacke
  • Lenka Westphalova
  • Jacek Wierciński