An important innovation introduced by this Regulation is the abolition of exequatur, or the filing of a request in a domestic court to declare a foreign judgment enforceable. As a result, the rights of access granted in a judgment are recognized and enforceable automatically in another Member State, provided that the judge who decided on question of visitation rights has issued a certificate.

The same applies to judicial orders for the return of the child; there is no requirement for a declaration of enforceability to be issued by a domestic court. The Regulation provides for the right of the child to be heard during the procedure unless the judge considers it inappropriate due to the child’s age and degree of maturity. The court cannot refuse to return the child without first giving the person who requested the return the opportunity to be heard.

Under the Hague Convention 1980 the court is not obliged to order the return if it would expose the child to physical or psychological harm, or put him/her in an intolerable situation. The EU Regulation requires the return of the child where that could expose the child to such harm, provided the authorities in the member state of origin have made or are prepared to make adequate arrangements to insure the protection of the child after the return.

The Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the civil aspects of international child abduction (the 1980 Hague Convention) and the Hague Convention (1996) on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition, enforcement and cooperation in respect of parental responsibility and measures for the protection of children continue to apply in cases where the EU Regulation does not.

The EU Regulation prevails over the Convention in relation to those aspects covered by the Regulation. The Convention and the Regulation are generally similar in scope and in rules.

Abduction cases – Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments