On the 1st September 2001 the Commission on European Family Law (CEFL) was established. The CEFL consists of approximately 26 distinguished experts in the field of family and comparative law from all European Union Member States and other European countries. The participants at the inaugural meetings were:

  • Professor Katharina Boele-Woelki, Utrecht University
  • Professor Frédérique Ferrand, University Jean Moulin Lyon 3
  • Professor Nigel Lowe, Cardiff University
  • Professor Dieter Martiny, University of Frankfurt/Oder
  • Professor Walter Pintens, University of Leuven
  • Professor Dieter Schwab, University of Regensburg


The main objective of the CEFL is to launch a pioneering theoretical and practical exercise in relation to the harmonization of family law in Europe. This has been achieved through:

  • Surveying the current state of comparative research on the harmonization of family law in the European countries. Experiences will be exchanged and further research activities in this field will be coordinated.
  • Searching for the common core for the solution of several legal problems on the basis of comparing the different solutions provided by the family laws of the various European jurisdictions.
  • Surveying the role of (potential) future European EU member states in the process of the harmonization of family law.


The major benefit achieved through the establishment of this Commission has been the creation of a set of Principles of European Family Law that are thought to be most suitable for the harmonization of family law within Europe. The CEFL consists of two groups:

  • The Organising Committee, and
  • The Expert Group.


The general task of the Organising Committee is to establish the Expert Group (per working field) and to prepare and co-ordinate the work of the Expert Group and of the Commission as a whole. The CEFL started activity in the field of divorce law (grounds for divorce) and some consequences of divorce, such as maintenance between ex-spouses. Parental authority was subsequently selected as the second issue, with property relations between former spouses being added as the third topic. The working method and the initial results of the activities of the CEFL have been widely presented at international conferences across Europe and further afield.