Party Autonomy in International Family Relationships: A Research Agenda

16 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2015

Date Written: January 19, 2015


In recent years, party autonomy has conquered new grounds in cross-border private relationships. Building on first attempts in national codifications, party autonomy has become one of the leading principles used in various EU regulations dealing with cross-border family relationships. It can now be found in successions, in divorce, in maintenance matters. This new trend has been greeted sometimes with enthusiasm, sometimes with skepticism.

While these Regulations constrain the choice that parties can make, it cannot be denied that the principle of freedom of choice has been openly embraced by the European legislator. Hence this principle evolved, at least within the EU, from what was until recently a marginal phenomenon to a well-respected solution for cross-border family relationships This (r-)evolution occurred quite fast and has attracted much attention. However, much of the research in this area has adopted a limited perspective, focusing exclusively on the possibilities and limits of choice in one specific instrument or adopting a comprehensive outlook but with a strong positive flavor. While it is true that a number of contributions provide excellent food for thought, the overall impression is that more time and more research is needed to start apprehending the fundamental questions raised by this evolution. At this stage, it may be too early to offer a comprehensive study of all questions raised by party autonomy in private international law. New developments may in fact modify the picture soon and add to the fields conquered by party autonomy. At the same time, the relative novelty of the changes makes it difficult to take full stock of all issues raised by the development of party autonomy. This is why scholars should first attempt to define a research agenda. This paper offers a first scratch by exploring various questions which should figure prominently in such agenda. It is by no means meant to be exhaustive. Rather, an attempt will be made to shed some light on the main questions raised by recent evolution in the hope of being an invitation for further research.

Keywords: Family law, choice of law, party autonomy; research agenda; Rome III Regulation, conflict of laws, European private international law

JEL Classification: K10, K30

Suggested Citation

Wautelet, Patrick R., Party Autonomy in International Family Relationships: A Research Agenda (January 19, 2015). Available at SSRN: or

Patrick R. Wautelet (Contact Author)

University of Liège ( email )

B-4000 Liege

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