Grandparent Rights Vindicated by Top EU Court

(CN) – When it comes to child access after a divorce, grandparents should be allowed to seek court relief just like parents can, the European Court of Justice ruled Thursday.

Neli Valcheva brought the underlying suit in her native Bulgaria to obtain rights of access to her grandson, Christos Babanarakis, 16, who has been living in Greece with his father, Georgios, since his parents’ divorce.

Based on their findings that Christos’ habitual residence is Greece, however, both the Bulgarian trial and appellate courts dismissed Valcheva’s action for lack of jurisdiction.

The Bulgarian Supreme Court meanwhile invited Europe’s top court last year to weigh in on whether the so-called Brussels IIa Regulation on parental responsibility applies to the rights of access of grandparents.

Thursday’s ruling from the court in Luxembourg comes a month after a magistrate recommended that the court uphold rights of access for grandparents.

Advocate General Maciej Szpunar had noted that such a ruling would come with some complications, specifically how granting rights of access to a grandparents could interfere with the rights and duties of parents.

The ruling Thursday from the First Chamber touches on these themes as well.

“Consequently, it is important, in order to avoid the adoption of conflicting measures and in the best interests of the child, that the same court — that is to say, as a rule, the court of the child’s habitual residence — should rule on rights of access,” the five-judge panel wrote.

Valcheva is requesting that her grandson spend one weekend with her per month regularly, as well as two or three weeks of his holidays.

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