The Court of Justice of the European Union has given its judgment in a case involving ‘rights of access’ to children

The case involved Ms Neli Valcheva, who is a Bulgarian national and the maternal grandmother of a child born in 2002. Since his parents’ divorce, the child has been habitually resident in Greece with his father, a Greek national.

Ms Valcheva wanted access to her grandson but the Greek authorities weren’t supportive of her case and so she applied to the Bulgarian courts for a determination of arrangements for her to exercise rights of access to her grandson. Her case was dismissed by the Bulgarian courts of first instance and appeal on the basis of lack of jurisdiction by reason of the fact that an EU Regulation (the Brussels IIa Regulation) provides for the jurisdiction of the courts of the Member State in which the child is habitually resident (in this case, the Greek courts).

She took her appeal to the Bulgarian court of last instance, which took the view that, in order to determine the court having jurisdiction, it was necessary to establish whether or not the Brussels IIa Regulation applies to the rights of access of grandparents. It referred the case to the Court of Justice for an answer to this question.

The Court of Justice has now given its judgment, which finds that the notion of ‘rights of access’ includes the rights of access of grandparents to their grandchildren. The case will now go back to the Bulgarian court to rule on Ms Valcheva’s application.

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