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This article answers the most frequently asked questions about parental responsibility in Cyprus.
What 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 parental duties, the Laws provide, among others, for the following:
- giving the child a name;
- caring for the child;
- administrating the child’s financial and property matters; and
- representing the child.
Under what circumstances do parental care duties cease and what happens if they do?
Parental care duties are terminated, among other things, in one or both of the following cases:
- death, declaration of disappearance or absence of one of the parents.
- one of the parents is unable to exercise their parental duties, for example 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, the relevant District 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 with 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 establish 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 decide to whom parental responsibility should 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 their property.
In order to determine the child’s best interests, the Court may take into account, among other things, the following:
- the wishes and feelings of the child (depending on their 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 fulfil the child’s needs adequately.
However, the decision must recognise and respect the equality between the parents, independently of their:
- political or other convictions;
- origin; or
- financial status.
Further, 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 or both parents 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, decisions on parental responsibility can be appealed 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 in Cyprus for at least three months before filing an application with the Family Court.
Can a decision on parental care issued by a foreign court be enforced in Cyprus?
Provided that a relevant agreement exists between the states, it is possible to file a relevant application with the Family Court for recognition and enforcement of the decision.
The information provided by A.G. Paphitis & Co. LLC is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional or formal legal advice. You should not act or refrain from acting based on any information provided above without obtaining legal or other professional advice.
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