15/04/2013 08:54 BST | Updated 14/06/2013 06:12 BST

Making It Easier to Recover Child Maintenance Abroad


"It's my prerogative," Bobby Brown sang on his 1988 breakthrough single. Perhaps that's what the American R&B singer had in mind when he skipped three months of child support payments in 2004. He was sentenced to 90 days In prison, which was suspended once he made good on the missing $15,000.

Unfortunately, it's not just the rich and famous who show a cavalier attitude towards supporting their offspring. It is an all too common problem, made worse in some cases because the reluctant parent lives abroad. If it is difficult to claim from an ex in your own country, it proves even more challenging when they live somewhere with a different language and legal system.

The Hague Convention on the Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance, negotiated by the EU and a number of other countries including the US, aims to make it easier to recover maintenance from someone living in another country. This international convention covers many practical matters, such as language requirements, standardised forms and the exchange of information on national laws.

On Wednesday 17 April the European Parliament will be asked to approve some amendments to the Hague Convention, which would clear the way for it to enter into force in the EU. Antonio López-Istúriz White, the MEP responsible for steering it through Parliament, is recommending approval to ensure that the convention becomes active as soon as possible.

As more people find partners abroad, laws like this become increasingly important. Some 13% of all marriages in Europe are between citizens from different countries. In 2007 alone 300,000 international couples got hitched.

The Convention is just the latest in a series of EU rules aimed at addressing challenges unique to international couples. Over the last few years MEPs have approved rules clarifying which country's laws are relevant in the case of a divorce or when one of the partners dies.

Photo copyright Pondspider (released under Creative Commons licence)