Prof. dr. Katharina Boele-Woelki

Molengraaff Institute for Private Law
+31 30 253 7193

Through my research in the field of international and comparative family law, I pursue two objectives: firstly, the possibility, feasibility and desirability of harmonising, or even unifying, substantive and international family law within Europe; secondly, the extent to which the rules of private international law can designate a law other than substantive national law as the applicable law to govern a cross-border relationship. Both objectives are strongly interconnected. I have carried out research which specifies the ways in which private international law can cooperate with unified and harmonised substantive law in order to meet the needs of international families. Based upon extensive comparative research, I have proposed model laws for Europe in the field of divorce, maintenance, parental responsibilities and property relations between spouses, which can be used by national legislators, the European legislator and courts. My long-standing involvement in international networks provides the opportunity for close collaboration with a large number of prominent family law scholars, not only from Europe, but also from around the world (South-Africa, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Russia). I am chair of the most important European family law research network, the Commission on European Family Law ( This network was established in 2001 and includes 28 family law experts from 26 European jurisdictions. Within the Utrecht Centre for European Research into Family Law (UCERF), I also coordinate, initiate and supervise inter- and multidisciplinary research in the field of family relations. I frequently cooperate with sociologists, psychologists and economists.

Completed Projects
Religious and cultural identity markers for children in state interventions 01.02.2014 to 31.08.2015
General project description

The media have recently reported on several cases involving minority families in which youth care agencies intervened because the emotional and physical development of childresn was at stake. The dominant secular societal and legal norms concerning the development of children into balanced individuals appear to clash with religious and cultural norms. Preliminary research has confirmed that childcare workers and judges lack an evaluative framework through which to determine how the interests of society and parents should be weighed against interests relating to the future identity of the child. This multidisciplinary research project investigates the way(s) and extent to which state agencies should take account of religious and cultural influences upon the development of children's identities when taking child protection measures. The aims are twofold. Firstly, to establish building blocks for a framework that enables professionals in the field to identify and understand the multiple components that constitute the complex cases involving minorities in which child protection measures are considered. Secondly, to provide a solid foundation for future research into the legitimacy of state interventions in cases concerning child protection in today's pluralistic European societies. 

Utrecht University Youth and Identity, Utrecht University