What exactly is parental responsibility?
According to The Parents and Children Relations Laws 1990 to 2008, parental care or responsibility is defined as the duty and right of both the parents, who exercise it jointly. If the child is born in wedlock, parental responsibility is assigned automatically to both parents. If it is born out of wedlock, then parental responsibility is assigned to the mother. In order to claim parental responsibility, the father must officially acknowledge paternity.
Regarding the parental duties, the Law provides, among others, for the following:
- Giving the child a name;
- Caring for the child;
- Administrating the child’s financial and property matters;
- Representing the child.
Under what circumstances does the parental care duties cease and what happens in this case?
Parental care duties are terminated, among others, in one and/or both of the following cases:
- In case of death, declaration of disappearance or absence of one of the parents.
- In case one of the parents is unable to exercise his/her parental duties, for instance due to disability or limited legal capacity.
In these cases, parental care is to be exercised exclusively by the other parent.
However, if both parents are unable or unwilling to exercise parental care, then the Family Court can appoint a guardian, who is preferably a close relative.
Which court or authority is in charge of parental responsibility matters?
Applications concerning parental responsibility matters should be filed at the Family Court.
What happens in case of a divorce?
Provided that both parents are alive, in the case of a divorce or where a marriage is declared null and void, the question of parental responsibility is determined by the Family Court that can:
- assign the parental care duties to one of the parents or to both parents jointly, provided that they agree and fix the child’s place of residence;
- divide the exercise of parental responsibility between the parents;
- or grant it to a third person.
How does the Court decides to whom parental responsibility shall be assigned?
The court takes into account the child’s best interests. Additionally, it considers the relationship between the child and its parents and siblings, as well as any agreements between the parents, regarding the custody of the child and the administration of his/her property.
In order to determine the child’s best interests, the Court may take into account, among others, the following:
- The wishes and feelings of the child (depending on his/her age and maturity);
- The child’s sex, age and other characteristics;
- The child’s educational and emotional needs;
- The parents’ standards of care and living;
- The parents’ financial abilities;
- The parents’ abilities to fulfill adequately the child’s needs.
However, it is to be noted that the decision shall recognize and respect the equality between the parents, independently of their sex, race, language, religion, political or other convictions, nationality, origin or financial status.
Also, the parent to whom the exercise of parental care has not been assigned has the right of personal communication with the child.
Is the decision regarding parental responsibility and the custody of children irrevocable?
No, decisions regarding the custody of children may be revoked and altered, provided that one of the parents or both of them or the Welfare Services file a relevant application, demonstrating that the conditions on the basis of which the previous decision was issued have been subject to changes.
Is there an emergency procedure?
There may arise issues that require immediate action, in order to ensure the child’s best interests.
Once the main application for parental responsibility is filed, unilateral interim applications can be submitted for matters, such as the child’s temporary maintenance or even the withdrawal of parental care, if the child’s safety is at risk.
Is it possible to appeal against a decision on parental responsibility?
Yes, before the Appellate Family Court.
What if the child or the parents do not live in Cyprus or have different nationalities?
The parties must have resided for at least three (3) months in Cyprus, before filing an application at the Family Court in Cyprus.
A decision on parental care has been issued by a foreign court. Can it be recognized and enforced in Cyprus?
Provided that a relevant agreement exists between the states, it is possible to file a relevant application to the Family Court for recognition and enforcement of the decision.
For further information and details on the procedures, you can get in touch with our Family Law experts.