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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

15 APR 2014

EDG v RR [2014] EWHC 816 (Fam)

The full judgment is available below.
(Family Division, Mostyn J, 13 March 2014)

[The judicially approved judgment and accompanying headnote has now published in Family Law Reports [2015] 1 FLR 270]

Enforcement - Foreign maintenance order - Direct enforcement - Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments (Maintenance) Regulations 2011
The mother was permitted to issue her application for enforcement of a foreign maintenance order in the Principal Registry of the Family Division.
By virtue of an order made in Paris the father was ordered to pay child maintenance of €1,200pm index-linked. The father had failed to pay and the mother sought enforcement in England under FPR 33.3.
Under the Maintenance Regulation 2009 by virtue of Art 41 the foreign order would be treated as if it were a domestic order and there was no requirement for any special or additional procedural steps on an application for enforcement of a foreign order. That was made clear by Art 17.
However, the provisions in Sch 1, para 4 to the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments (Maintenance) Regulations 2011 were ambiguous and although the route was by way of direct enforcement it expressed the application being transmitted to the magistrates' court by way of the Lord Chancellor. That procedure was apt for delegated, under Chapter VII of the Maintenance Regulation not direct enforcement under Chapter IV.
In order reconcile Sch 1, Para 4 (1),(2) of the regulations the judge concluded there was an error and the reference to Chapter IV should be Chapter VII. It was inconceivable that the Secretary of State would have sought to impose more restrictive measures of enforcement under the 2011 regulations when Arts 41 and 17 of the Maintenance Regulation expressly forbade it.
The draftsmen in the Ministry of Justice were invited to consider an amendment to the 2011 Regulations, to make clear that, where the enforcement was to be done at the behest of the Lord Chancellor, it should be by transmission of the enforcement application to the new single Family Court.
The mother was entitled to issue her application for general enforcement in the Principal Registry of the Family Division.

The fully referenced, judicially approved judgment and headnote will appear in a forthcoming issue of Family Law Reports. A detailed summary and analysis of the case will appear in Family Law.
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Neutral Citation Number: [2014] EWHC 816 (Fam)
Case No: FD14F00194
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
FAMILY DIVISION

Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: Thursday, 13th March 2014
Before:

MR JUSTICE MOSTYN
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Between:


EDG

Applicant

- and -



RR
Respondent

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Digital Transcription by Marten Walsh Cherer Ltd.,
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- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Miss Marina Faggionato (instructed by Messrs Kingsley Napley LLP)
appeared on behalf of the Applicant.
The Respondent did not appear and was not represented.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
JUDGMENT
Mr Justice Mostyn:
[1] The court is concerned with an order made in Paris on 14 May 2013, which provided for a payment of maintenance for a child, who was born on 28 November 2011. The judgment of 14 May awarded €1,200 per month in child maintenance indexed linked.
[2] The child lives with his mother, EDG. His father is RR, who is a trader working in the City of London. If the father were a trader working in the City of Paris, he would be liable upon enforcement of that order to have his assets seised, his earnings attached, to be imprisoned for up to two years and/or to be subjected to a fine of €15,000.
[3] The enforcement regime here in the United Kingdom is not quite so rigorous, but the mother nonetheless wishes to invoke it. Since the judgment of 14 May 2013, the father has not paid a centime for the maintenance of his son, pursuant to his obligations under the order.
[4] Therefore, the mother wishes to enforce the order here. In particular, the mother wishes to invoke the enforcement machinery in the Principal Registry of the Family Division, principally so that she can take advantage of the new machinery in r 33.3 of the Family Procedure rr 2010, which permits an application to be made for an order for such method of enforcement as the court may consider appropriate.
[5] Speaking anecdotally, that Rule has been very successful, in that the old black letter law problems that applicants for enforcement would run into in the past (namely that on the hearing of their application they would discover that they had applied for the wrong form of enforcement) no longer applies. At any rate, in my experience and to the best of my knowledge, the method of enforcement is successful at an early stage, in that the defaulter is brought face to face with the court sooner rather than later and the court makes very clear to him that, unless there is compliance, then possibly a number of the full range of enforcement measures will be implemented against him.
[6] That is the first reason why the mother wishes to apply directly for enforcement to the Principal Registry of the Family Division. The second reason is that she wishes enforcement to result in direct payment of maintenance to her, rather than it being done through the machinery which has been in place in the Magistrates' Court for well over a century, where the payments are collected by the Clerk to the Justices and then transmitted, in the case of a domestic order, to the applicant, or in the case of a registered foreign order, to the central authority of the foreign country for onwards transmission to the applicant. I only have to describe that procedure for its lack of attraction to any applicant to be apparent.
[7] Prior to the advent of the Council Regulation, commonly known as the Maintenance Regulation No. 4/2009, the only method of enforcement of a foreign order such as this, under the 1972 Act (I do not at this point address what may have been available under the Brussels 1 Regulation) was by the central authority here, in the form of the Lord Chancellor being requested to enforce the order. He in turn would transmit the order to the Magistrates' Court local to where the defaulter lived and the enforcement would take place in the Magistrates' Court, deploying the machinery that I have mentioned.
[8] Amongst other things, the object of the Maintenance reg 2009 was to avoid these formal enforcement requirements and thereby to reduce costs to be borne by the applicant. This is reflected in Recital 27 to the Maintenance Regulation, which reads:
‘It would also be appropriate to limit as far as possible the formal enforcement requirements likely to increase the costs to be borne by the maintenance creditor.'
[9] The Maintenance Regulation provides for two distinct enforcement routes, the second of which is within Chapter VII of the Regulation and is the traditional method of enforcement being done through the central authority in, as I have said, the Lord Chancellor here, which I might describe as delegated enforcement.
[10] Article 56 specifies the forms of maintenance decisions that can be enforced, the available applications, and Art 57 specifies the contents of the formal written application that must be included should this route be adopted. One can see that this route may be attractive to some applicants, because it takes the burden of progress of the application out of his or her hands (her hands usually) and leaves it for the authorities in the enforcing state to do the work on her behalf.
[11] However, there is another route (the first route) which is direct enforcement, which is dealt with in Chapter IV. For the purposes of the decision that I have to make, the relevant article is Art 41, which provides as follows:
‘Subject to the provisions of this Regulation, the procedure for the enforcement of decisions given in another Member State shall be governed by the law of the Member State of enforcement. A decision given in a Member State which is enforceable in the Member State of enforcement shall be enforced there under the same conditions as a decision given in that Member State of enforcement.'
[12] Therefore, if the route of direct enforcement is adopted, by virtue of Art 41 the foreign order is treated as if it is a domestic order. Further, there is no requirement for any special or additional procedural steps to be taken on an application for enforcement of a foreign order. This much is made clear by Art 17, which says that:
‘A decision given in a Member State bound by the 2007 Hague Protocol shall be recognised in another Member State without any special procedure being required and without any possibility of opposing its recognition.'
France is a Member State bound by the 2007 Hague Protocol, which I believe concerns applicable law, but the details of that need not concern me. Therefore, it is clear that there is no additional procedural requirement imposed on an applicant who wishes to adopt the route of direct enforcement.
[13] Given that, under the European Communities Act 1972, European law has direct applicability in the United Kingdom, it should not be necessary for Parliament or the Secretary of State to make any secondary legislation in order to give effect to the rights expressed in the Maintenance Regulation.
[14] However, notwithstanding that, in a sense, the step is otiose, the Secretary of State has made regulations, which were approved by Parliament under the Negative Resolution Procedure in June 2011. These are The Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments (Maintenance) regs 2011 (SI 2011 No. 1484). For the purposes of the decision that I have to make, the relevant part is Sch 1, para 4, which provides:
‘(1) Subject to subparagraph (2), where a maintenance decision falls to be enforced in the United Kingdom under section 1 of Chapter IV of the Maintenance Regulation, the court to which an application for enforcement is to be made is -
(a) in England and Wales, a magistrates' court ...
‘(2) An application for enforcement is to be transmitted to the magistrates' court ... designated for these purposes by rules of court (‘the enforcing court') -
(a) in England and Wales, by the Lord Chancellor ...'
[15] On looking at these provisions, it can be seen that they are ambiguous. Although subpara (1) states, as I have set out, that it refers to a maintenance decision which falls to be enforced under s 1 of Chapter IV, and therefore under the route of direct enforcement, subpara (2) (to which subpara (1) is subject) expresses in a contradictory way that the application is to be transmitted to the Magistrates' Court by the Lord Chancellor. It would only be apt for the Lord Chancellor to transmit an application to the Magistrates' Court should he have received an application for delegated enforcement under Chapter VII. It is impossible to conceive how or why he would be transmitting an application for enforcement where an applicant has elected to adopt the route of direct enforcement under Chapter IV.
[16] I conclude, therefore, that in construing para 4, subparas (1) and (2), that there is a mistake in them and that the reference to Chapter IV should in fact be a reference to Chapter VII. I say this in order to reconcile subparas (1) and (2) and also to give effect to the unfettered right of an applicant who elects the course of direct enforcement to have that enforcement done under Art 41 ‘under the same conditions as a decision given in that Member State of enforcement.' If an applicant with the benefit of a foreign order is made to go to the Magistrates' Court, then they do not enjoy the same conditions as a decision given in the Member State of enforcement, in this case England and Wales. This is because a domestic order, if made in the County Court, may be enforced in the County Court. A domestic order, if made in the High Court, may be enforced in the High Court.
[17] It seems to me to be inconceivable that the Secretary of State could have intended to have imposed more restrictive measures of enforcement by virtue of the 2011 Regulations, in circumstances where Arts 17 and 41 expressly forbid that. Therefore, I have no hesitation in concluding that, contrary to the view taken by District Judge Robinson when this matter was before her on 7 March 2014, the mother here is entitled to issue her application for general enforcement in the Principal Registry.
[18] The judgment that I am giving does have a slight fin de siècle quality to it, in circumstances where the present division of jurisdiction between the County Court, the High Court and the Magistrates' Court will be swept away on 22 April of this year with the advent of the single Family Court, which was created by Schs 10 and 11 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013. The provisions of Schs 10 and 11 make numerous amendments to reams of primary legislation, in order to give effect to the new creation.
[19] Similarly, the Family Procedure (Amendment No.3) rr 2013 (SI 2013 No. 3204) make numerous changes to the Family Procedure rr 2010, to reflect the advent of the new single Family Court. It may be that amendment to The Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments (Maintenance) regs 2011 has been overlooked. I agree with Ms Faggionato that it would be a truly bizarre state of affairs if, following the advent of the single Family Court, when all family work is going to be gathered under the roof of that new institution, that enforcement of an order made by a fellow EU State (if the delegated enforcement route is adopted) was done in the Magistrates' Court; that would be highly anomalous in my view.
[20] I would invite the draftsmen in the Ministry of Justice to consider an amendment to the 2011 Regulations, to make clear that, where the enforcement is to be done at the behest of the Lord Chancellor, it should be by transmission of the enforcement application to the new single Family Court.
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