Definition

What lies behind the term preventive justice? Which political goals are the Member states of the EU pursuing with the implementation of a system of preventive justice? Who are the relevant acting protagonists? What are the issues that are involved when preventive justice comes into play? What is the significance of preventive justice for European law?

The following presentation explores these and other questions. Based on a survey of the Member states of the European Union conducted in 2010, an overview of preventive justice in Europe will be given. 24 of the 27 Member states took part in the survey. The information was provided partly with the support of universities, partly by the ministries of justice resp. the chambers of civil law notaries of the respective Member states. The country-specific results are available on this website by clicking on the individual national flags.

I. What is preventive justice?

Preventive justice is an essential element of the European legal systems. As part of it, government authorities support citizens in carrying out important legal acts.

Example: You wish to adopt a minor child. Due to the legal consequences that this entails (e.g. a change of family relationships), many of the Member states require the involvement of a court. In addition, in many Member states a civil law notary supports you in providing the necessary documents and wording of the application.
The following chart illustrates which state authorities are competent for the adoption of minors in the questioned Member states:

The involvement of a state office or authority occurs preventively, meaning as early as possible. Thus, important legal acts can be phrased unambiguously and to the best interest of the citizens. For this reason, subsequent legal disputes are avoided. The courts competent for litigious disputes (“litigious jurisdiction”) are relieved.

Example: In many Member states, marriage contracts are concluded with the participation of a civil law notary. By providing legally clear wording and specific provisions of possible situations (separation, divorce), subsequent disputes are preventively defused.
The following exemplary chart illustrates the competences of state authorities for marriage contracts for the matrimonial property regime of the persons involved:

Marriage contracts

The Member states make statutory provisions that determine under which circumstances in life the citizens are to be supported in the settlement of their legal affairs. Institutions of preventive justice can be found especially in the fields of real estate law, commercial and company law, inheritance law, family law and custodianship law.

Independent state representatives like courts, civil law notaries or other state offices (such as: civil registers, land registers, public registers) are entrusted with preventive justice. Each of these takes action in immediate exertion of public authority and within the framework of the respective applicable rules of procedure.