International Recovery Of Maintenance
The EU legislation and several international treaties binding on Finland contain provisions on the international aspects of maintenance obligations and payments. Within the framework of these arrangements, it is possible, for example, to recover maintenance in cross-border situations or to apply for the obtaining or modification of a maintenance decision and request authorities to help locate the debtor or the creditor. The types of applications available and the procedures to be followed vary depending on the applicable international treaty or EU legal act. The applicable treaty or act is determined based on the place of residence of the parties and the date of issue of the maintenance decision, among other things.
The system of Central Authorities has been established for the purpose of attending to maintenance issues with a cross-border dimension. The Ministry of Justice functions as the Central Authority in Finland (Act on the Central Authority in Finland in certain international matters relating to maintenance, 1076/2010).
How can the Central Authority be of assistance?
The Central Authority is a body that you may contact for example in the following situations:
If the person liable to provide maintenance (maintenance debtor) resides abroad and there is need to recover maintenance from him or her, the Central Authority may:
- provide advice on questions related to the application of the international treaties and the Maintenance Regulation and on the drawing up of the applications
- transmit the application for the recovery of maintenance to the Central Authority of the state of the maintenance debtor’s habitual residence and function as the contact point towards the foreign central authority
- assist in locating the maintenance debtor
If you live abroad and the maintenance debtor resides in Finland, the Central Authority may:
- receive your application for the recovery of maintenance or establishment of maintenance obligation and initiate or facilitate the institution of the related proceedings in Finland
- help locate the maintenance debtor and obtain information on his or her income and assets
- encourage amicable solutions (voluntary payment of maintenance as the goal)
- provide assistance in establishing parentage where necessary for the recovery of maintenance
As a rule, the Central Authority provides these services free of charge.
If the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela) pays you child maintenance allowance, it is also responsible for recovering the maintenance payments abroad on your behalf. In that case, you must not take any own actions for the recovery from abroad (http://www.kela.fi/web/en/child-maintenance-allowance).
If you need legal advice or if you have any questions related to your child’s situation or maintenance, it may be a good idea to contact a legal aid attorney, advocate or another lawyer.
The best way for an applicant residing abroad to have his or her matter dealt with is to contact the Central Authority of his or her country of residence, which in turn will contact the Central Authority of Finland.
Relevant legislation and treaties binding on Finland
Between the EU Member States, the Maintenance Regulation is primarily applicable (Council Regulation (EC) No 4/2009 of 18 December 2008 on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and cooperation in matters relating to maintenance obligations). The Maintenance Regulation lays down common rules for the EU countries on the matters listed above. The Maintenance Regulation simplifies the process through which a person entitled to maintenance (maintenance creditor) may apply for the payment of maintenance by a person liable for maintenance (maintenance debtor) residing in another Member State. The simplified process means, for example, that the maintenance decisions issued by the courts of the Member States move freely within the European Union and that they may be enforced in other Member States without any further formalities.
Under the Regulation, it is possible for the creditor and the debtor to present various applications related to the recovery of maintenance, such as applications for the recognition and enforcement of a valid maintenance decision in the receiving country or for the obtaining of a new decision, through the Central Authorities. The Maintenance Regulation is applied also in Denmark with the exception of the provisions on the applicable law and cooperation between the Central Authorities, among others.
The text of the Regulation, the standard forms required for the procedures under the Regulation, and other practical information are available on the European e-Justice Portal.
Within the Hague Conference on Private International Law, several conventions concerning maintenance have been concluded. These conventions may be applicable in cases where the person liable for maintenance or the person entitled to maintenance does not live in an EU country.
The most important of these conventions is the Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance, which entered into force for the European Union on 1 August 2014. The purpose of the Convention is to enable a more effective international recovery of maintenance payments. It lays down consistent rules for the recognition and enforcement of foreign decisions concerning maintenance obligations as well as on the cooperation between the authorities. Under the Convention, it is possible for the creditor and the debtor to present various applications related to the recovery of maintenance, such as applications for the recognition and enforcement of a valid maintenance decision in the receiving country or for the issue of a new decision, through the central authorities. The Convention is applied in regard to the United States of America, Turkey and Ukraine, for instance.
The European Union has also acceded to the Hague Protocol of 2007 on the law applicable to maintenance obligations. The Protocol has been applied in the EU Member States (with the exception of Denmark and United Kingdom) since 18 June 2011. The Protocol determines the law applicable to maintenance obligations arising from a family relationship, such as parentage or marriage. The applicable law, in turn, determines among other things whether maintenance may be claimed and to what extent.
Finland has acceded also to the following international agreements concerning maintenance:
The Hague Conventions of 1958 and 1973 relating to maintenance obligations (Treaty Series 42/1967 and 35/1983)
The New York Convention on the Recovery Abroad of Maintenance (Treaty Series 37/1962)
The Conventions, explanatory memorandums and information on the status of ratification are available on the website of the Hague Conference on Private International Law.
Between the Nordic countries, the Nordic Convention on maintenance obligations (Convention between Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark on the recovery of maintenance through coercive measures, Treaty Series 8/1963) is in force. The Convention is based on the principle of direct contact between the authorities. The receiving authority in Finland is the enforcement office of the debtor’s place of domicile or habitual residence, or, if there is uncertainty as to which enforcement office is competent, the Ministry of Justice. The Nordic Convention on maintenance obligations is given priority over the Maintenance Regulation and the Hague Convention where the case concerns the recognition and enforcement of a decision issued in one of the Nordic countries.
In addition to the arrangements mentioned above, there is a reciprocity mechanism between Finland and the Canadian Province of Ontario in force (Treaty Series 33/1990).
Related national legislation:
Finland may also recognise and enforce foreign maintenance decisions by virtue of its national legislation even when there is no obligation to do so under international law (Act on the recognition and enforcement of maintenance decisions issued abroad, 370/1983, and the Decree on the recognition and enforcement of maintenance decisions in certain cases, 832/1989).
The Maintenance Regulation and the Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance are nationally supplemented by the Act on the Application of the Council Regulation on Maintenance Obligations (1077/2010).
Act on the Central Authority in Finland in certain international matters relating to maintenance (1076/2010)
Child Maintenance Act (704/1975)
The national legislation and the international treaties are available in Finlex Data Bank.
Senior Adviser Tanja Niemi
Senior Adviser Anna-Lena Halttunen