This article examines the reciprocal recognition and enforcement of decisions rendered by a judicial or administrative authority in a Contracting State in respect of a maintenance obligation arising from a family relationship, parentage, marriage or affinity, including a maintenance obligation towards an infant who is not legitimate, between: (1) a maintenance creditor and a maintenance debtor; or (2) a maintenance debtor and a public body which claims reimbursement of benefits given to a maintenance creditor.
The free movement of families within the European Union has brought the need for ways of enforcing maintenance payments across international borders into focus. If the ex-spouses are living in different countries, the problem arises as to which country has jurisdiction over the family matter and how a judgment on alimony/maintenance can be declared enforceable in the other country.
Within the European Union, the matter is much simplified by reason of the operation of Council Regulation (EC) No 4/2009 (the Regulation), which provides a series of measures aimed at facilitating the payment of maintenance claims in cross-border situations. In regard to the rest of the Countries, there are many bilateral agreements which force the contracting parties in regard to the enforcement of alimony/maintenance decisions.
Enforcing an alimony decision from a foreign country in Cyprus
If the decision is issued in an EU Member state then the Regulation is applicable. The Regulation was established with the aim to accelerate and simplify enforcement of maintenance decisions across EU Member States; to guarantee the effective recovery of maintenance; and to remove all obstacles to recovery. As a result of the Regulation, maintenance decisions given in one Member State must be recognised and capable of being enforced in another Member State without any special procedure being required.
According to the Regulation each country has a Central Authority for handling the interstate maintenance orders. The Central Authority of Cyprus is the Ministry of Justice and Public Order. With this regard, if the applicant/ creditor is in another country and the debtor is in Cyprus, the applicant can seek assistance from the Ministry of Justice and Public Order, being the Central Authority, via the relevant Central Authority in the country where he/she is, but not directly. After completing the applications that will be provided to the applicant by the Central Authority, the two Central Authorities will communicate each other in order to enforce the Cyprus Court decision in the foreign country.
As an alternative way if the applicant wishes to proceed with his/her lawyer, he/she can resort directly to the Family Ccourt via his/her lawyer.
For the non – EU members, a decision issued by a court of a foreign country can be enforced in Cyprus provided that the Republic of Cyprus has concluded or is connected with an agreement for mutual recognition and enforcement of judicial decisions with the country issuing the decision (Law No.121(I)/2000).
Enforcing an alimony decision from Cyprus Court to a foreign country
In regard to a decision issued from a Member State, which has signed and ratified the Hague Convention of 23 November 2007 on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance ( the 2007 Hague Protocol) , a decision of the Family Court of Cyprus in relation to maintenance obligation is recognized and enforceable in that country without any declaration of enforceability.
A decision given in a Member State not bound by the 2007 Hague Protocol shall be recognised in the other Member States without any special procedure being required but it shall be enforceable in another Member State when, on the application of any interested party, it has been declared enforceable there.
The applicant shall contact the Ministry of Justice and Public Order as the Central Authority to proceed with the application by contacting the Central Authority of the foreign country.
The Cyprus Court decision can be recognised and enforced in in non-EU cases but the process is not as straight-forward as there are countless regulations, conventions and statutes between Cyprus and other countries worldwide regarding the enforcement of maintenance orders.
It seems that for EU members the recognition and enforcement of a maintenance decision can be an easy procedure for the applicant through the help of the Central Authority of each member. The question now is about the procedure that need to be followed after the Britain's exit from the EU. Following Britain's exit from the EU, the Regulation will cease to have effect however it may be possible for the UK to agree for it to continue to apply by modifying the UK's legislation or introducing a new agreement.