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​International research project: The state's powers to intervene in family life


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Project management 

Prof. Dr. iur. Arkadiusz Wudarski

European University Viadrina
Chair of Polish and European Private Law and Comparative Law

Collegium Polonicum 147
Große Scharrnstraße 59
15230 Frankfurt/Oder

(PL):  + 48 61 829 6841
(DE):  + 49 335 5534 16 6841

e-mail:  wudarski[at]

Project assistant: Dr. Kajetan Górny, Kinga Malcherek-Kalemba 


This project involves a comparative legal study of the role of the state in family relations. It focuses on issues which are currently highly controversial due to their potential to jeopardize the harmony of family life and the well-being of children. Special attention will be paid to the state’s powers to interfere with the integrity and autonomy of families. In this context, it is particularly important to analyze and evaluate the operation of child protection systems in different countries, the scope of the state’s powers to intervene, and the objectives and practices of the relevant state agencies. The project aims to address a need for systematic, practice-oriented and politically neutral research reflecting the true complexity of these issues from an interdisciplinary and cross-border perspective. By analyzing the well-being of the child as understood by different stakeholders, the project will evaluate the effectiveness of different national child protection systems and propose common standards for balancing the rights and powers of the state and the family.

Unlike previous studies, this project is not only dedicated to the family as a closed social unit with its purely internal relationships. It adopts a broader perspective and looks at external factors posing risks to the integrity of families. The aim is therefore to examine whether the protective mechanisms provided by the state are adequate to the difficulties experienced by families, and at the same time to consider to what degree such mechanisms prevent bad decision-making on the part of the authorities. The legislative and judicial systems of different countries may have different approaches and objectives in this respect. These differences can only be identified through a detailed comparative and functional legal analysis.

One of the focal points of the study is the legal and social situation of migrant families. In such cases, ignorance of local practices and regulations can pose hidden risks to family life and the well-being of children. Disputes with the state may arise due to differences between the home country and the country of migration in terms of the structure and exercise of the state’s powers of intervention, for example with regard to the exercise of parental custody, right of access, the right to receive information, and protection of the child’s identity.

Individual studies from selected countries will be compared and evaluated in a broader context. The legal frameworks and the common practices of various national institutions will be analysed from both domestic and foreign perspectives. In the search for the best legal approach, the basic criterion will be the child’s well-being. In this way, the project will address current social needs and help to counterbalance the sometimes politically motivated and prejudiced reporting of the mass media.

In the European context, it is necessary to consider the legal effects on family life of the EU’s fundamental freedoms. This includes the freedom of movement, which is exercised by EU citizens not only for purposes of tourism, but also when choosing their places of residence within the EU. However, the exercise of this freedom can be affected by differences in family law systems, which are not subject to the European unification process and diverge greatly at the national level. This project, therefore, seeks to answer the question of whether the exercise of such fundamental freedoms within the EU can threaten the integrity and autonomy of the family and interfere with protection of the well-being of children. At the same time, legal and social dangers and obstacles to the European unification process are also of special consideration. The study is thus highly relevant to various ongoing public discussions of national identity and European values. It should be noted, however, that the project will not be limited only to the study of EU member states. It will be enriched with studies of non-European jurisdictions worldwide.

The results of the project will be published in a volume edited by Professor Arkadiusz Wudarski. The co-authors will be largely free to choose the focus of their contributions, but in order to ensure a coherent framework of comparable research findings, they will be asked to focus on issues related to the following questions:

I. Legal and organizational background

1. How is public child and youth welfare organized in your country? How is it historically and legally located?

2. What are the legal powers of the authorities responsible for child protection? How are these authorities perceived by the public?

3. What procedural powers and remedies are available to families and how are they applied in practice?

4. How are issues of cross-border family welfare dealt with and what role do the child protection agencies play?

II. Sociocultural background

1. Are there any empirical studies relating to the questions asked above? What are the results of these studies? Have these results been incorporated into any legal reforms?

2. How is the relationship between child protection agencies and families discussed by politicians, by public experts and by researchers? Are there any difficulties in practice and/or dogmatic concerns related to this issue? What changes are required?

3. Are there any known difficulties concerning the provision of assistance and protection to families with a migration background? How do the child protection agencies deal with these families in terms of language or religious/cultural differences? Are there special arrangements for the protection of such families?

Country representative
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Project participants 

AOTAKE Mika, Osaka University (Japan)

BECLIN Barbara, Vienna University (Austria)

CÃNDIDO MARTINS Rosa, University of Coimbra (Portugal)

CHEOLUNG Je, Hanyang University of the Republic of Korea (South Korea)

CORBET Maria; SHANNON Geoffrey, University of Limerick (Ireland)

DONNELLY Michelle, University of Strathclyde (Scotland)

EICHNER Maxine, University of North Carolina (USA)

HAO Li, Beihang University; WANG Wenna, Beijing (China

HENAGHAN Mark, University of Auckland (New Zealand)

GONZÃLEZ BEILFUSS Cristina; NAVARRO-MICHEL, University of  Barcelona (Spain)

GÓRNY Kajetan, European University Viadrina (Germany), University of Zielona Góra (Poland)

HELMS Tobias; SCHNEIDER Stephanie, The Philipps University of Marburg (Germany)

KHUBUA Giorgi Tbilisi State University; SIRDADZE Lado, Business and Technology University in Tbilisi (Georgia)

KILDE Gisela, The University of Freiburg (Switzerland)

KORNEL Martin, University Brünn (Czech Republic)

LEONG Wai Kum, National University of Singapore (Singapore)

LUHAMAA Katre, University of Tartu (Estonia)

MAJSTROVIĆ Irena; ŠIMOVIĆ Ivan, University of Zagreb (Croatia)

MANKOWSKI Peter, University of Hamburg (Germany)

MENNE Martin, Kammergericht Berlin (Germany)

MEYSEN Thomas, International Centre for Socio-Legal Studies – SOCLES (Germany)

MUNIZ DE SOUZA KONDER Cíntia, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)

NISHITANI Yuko, Kyoto University (Japan)

NOVIKOV Andrey Alekseevich, University of Sankt Petersburg (Russia)

PERLMUTTER Bernard, University of Miami (USA)

PUT Johan; HOFKENS Liese, University of Leuven (Belgium)

RAUTENBACH Christa; ESSOP Zaida, North-West University (South Africa)

RUITENBERG Geeske, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (Netherlands)

RZAYEVA Gulnaz; ALIYEV Amir; MAMMADRZAL Shahin; IBRAHIMOVA Aytakin, Baku State University (Azerbaijan)

SAKALAUSKAS Gintautas, Universität Vilnius (Lithuania)

SAMMUT Ivan, University of Malta (Malta)

SAMOBOR Ana, University of Ljubljana (Slovenia)

SPANGARO Alessandra, University of Bologna (Italy)

SHACKEL Rita, The University of Sydney (Australia)

SZEIBERT Orsolya, Eötvös Lorand University (Hungary)

TEODOROVA Velina, Plovdiv University (Bulgaria)

TUITOEK Jerobon Nelly; MILEJ Tomasz, Kenyatta University (Kenya)

WIERCIŃSKI Jacek, University of Warsaw (Poland)

WUDARSKI Arkadiusz, European University Viadrina (Germany), University of Zielona Góra (Poland)

ZEYTIN Zafer, Turkish-German University (Turkey)