Protecting the huge numbers of ‘new poor’: separated fathers

Protecting the huge numbers of ‘new poor’: separated fathers

On 26 November 2020, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs): Chiara Gemma, Mario Furore, Tiziana Beghin, Daniela Rondinelli and Dino Giarrusso of the Non-attached Members posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:

“Family breakdowns are often the main trigger event behind poverty, where fathers appear to be the most penalised.

The report ‘Poverty and vulnerability of separated parents’ presented by Caritas in 2014 shows that, in Italy, as many as 800 000 out of 4 million separated or divorced men are on the poverty line, and 150 000 live in total poverty.

66.1% are unable to pay for basic necessities and there are more than 200 suicides per year, despite the fact that in 2006 a law on joint custody was passed in Italy. This is a real social emergency, which has worsened in recent years across the EU.

The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly condemned Italy for failing to comply with the joint custody rules, demonstrating that there is often a huge distance between law and enforcement. In 2018, the Court called on Italy to recognise the right to ‘parenthood’.

Given that the Commission has already expressed its views on this matter (answer to written question E-005299/2016), what specific measures does it intend to take in order to encourage Member States to support fathers who need to regain some balance in their lives as being both parents and men?”

On 3 February 2021, Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders responded on behalf of the European Commission stating: “As the Commission noted in its reply to Written Question E-005299/2016, the EU legal framework applying to cross-border family matters is the Brussels IIa regulation. It covers procedural aspects of cross-border family proceedings to facilitate the determination of the competent court and the recognition and enforcement of decisions on custody and visiting rights.

Substantive family law issues, such as the definition of custody and access rights and their modalities, are not governed by the regulation as they do not come within the Union competence. These matters are governed by national law of the Member States.

On 30 June 2019, the new Brussels IIa Recast Regulation was adopted. The new rules, which will apply as from 1 August 2022, will improve the clarity and the efficiency of the procedures. In particular, the cross-border enforcement of custody decisions shall be accelerated by removing any intermediary procedures (abolition of exequatur). This will save time and money for citizens. While the new rules do not regulate directly the relationship between parents and children, these rules will help parents to enforce any rights under national law to maintain relations with their children.”


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