Updated: January 19, 2024
Based on the Parents and Children Relations Act of 1990, Family Law Act of 1975, and generally, Cyprus Family Law regulations, the custody of the children is joint. A child after divorce in Cyprus should be taken good care of by both parents with equal shared parental responsibility.
However, suppose the parents of the children have disagreements regarding the upbringing of the children. In that case, one of the parents, after appointing a lawyer who deals with child custody matters (or a child custody lawyer), can file a custody petition at the District Family Court to set the custody rights and the right of communication through issuing a Court Order.
A custody petition can be filed if the parents separately live or if the children are in Cyprus after divorce.
Suppose one of the parents, for example, disagrees with the other parent while practicing parental care in Cyprus. In that case, the competent Family Court can decide, after filing the necessary petition and using the services of a lawyer, which of the parents will have custody of the children.
There are different kinds of custody, be it shared custody (joint legal custody), sole custody, or exclusive custody, depending on the welfare and interest of the children, as the Court will decide.
The Competent Court to file such a petition is the Family Court, where the children have permanent residency.
The children’s custody petition can be filed if the parents are divorced or separated. If the Court decides that one of the parents will have custody of the children, then the other parent will have the right of communication with the children, which is also settled through the same petition.
The sole or exclusive custody of the children means that the parent who has it can live with the children at any place in the world and can make decisions about the children without receiving the father’s consent regarding any matters, for example, their education or medical needs if any.
If the father is living in Cyprus and the parental care is appointed to the mother by the Court, he will have the right to communicate and visit the child at his home to spend time together during agreed times.
Also, he will have the right to participate in the decision-making regarding the child’s future and the mother regarding essential matters such as medical care or education. Any agreement between the parents regarding the above should be issued as a Court order legally binding for both parties.
The Court can set any matter concerning the children's education, health, and traveling abroad if any of the parents request it.
Based on case law, a requirement for the father to gain full custody of the children is that the decision of the Court should be in favor of the children and not in favor of one of the parents. (Case, Kkoufou (1997) 1AAD 1588)
Suppose the permanent residency of the children is in Cyprus. If the children are going to school here and have friends or relatives in Cyprus, the custody will likely remain with the parent they are currently living in Cyprus if the other parent lives abroad.
The age of the children and their opinion on where they want to live will also be considered. (If the Court finds the children mature enough to express their opinion, the Court will hear their opinion through a specific procedure. There is no particular age to consider them mature, as case law indicates.)
For the mother to lose custody of the children, she must practice the custody poorly with unquestionable evidence that has to be presented by the father to the Court to decide whether the custody of the children will be passed to him. For example, verbal/physical abuse, abandonment, negligence.
The children’s interests will be taken into consideration, and what would be more suitable for their well-being, age, and so on based on the facts of each case.
The report from the Welfare Office in Cyprus will be considered by the Court and indicate if the mother is incapable of taking care of her children.
It will also pay attention to facts such as if the children were born in Cyprus or raised in Cyprus from a very young age, the children’s environment, and what is familiar to them, such as Cyprus’s life, culture, climate, and overall environment. The Court will consider whether changing that environment for the children would benefit their well-being or not.
Regarding setting the custody of the children and the timeframe of completing such procedure at the Court, there is no express procedure for this purpose. Each case takes a number, and it will take some time for it to be completed depending on the parents’ will.
For instance, the parents have the right at any stage of the Custody petition to settle the petition earlier than its completion by issuing a Court order if they both agree on what will be issued. If the parents disagree on what the Court will order, the petition of custody might take around a year or more to finish.
In the petition’s content, the facts of the case are written along with the required reasoning. After filing the petition, the petition will be served to the Respondent, and they have the right to appear on the hearing day at the Court or appoint a child custody lawyer to represent them and ask for time to file a defense.
The case is set for proof on another date if the Respondent does not appear. The Court will ask the Welfare Office in Cyprus to prepare a report (an officer from the Welfare Office visits the house where the children live and asks questions to the children and the parent with whom they are living and prepares its report).
Afterwards, the Court will review the facts of the case to decide how to proceed and give relevant instructions to the lawyer.
When the Court order regarding Custody is issued or when a child maintenance Court order is issued, the parent with whom the children are living can apply to the competent authority to receive a single-parent allowance.
Abandoning children is a crime based on Article 54 of the Children’s Law Chapter 353. However, when poor custody practice from the mother is noticed, the father can file a petition at the Court to set the custody of the children (i.e., family violence or leaving the children at home unattended).
In such cases, the Court can issue an order to remove the custody from the mother. She does not exercise parenting appropriately and passes it exclusively to the father under specific circumstances/requirements. The Court always considers the interests of the child and their welfare.
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Who will have the children’s custody, and what are the communication rights?
While the parents are married, they jointly have custody and parental responsibility. Even while married, the court may decide what will happen if they disagree on parental responsibility. Upon divorce, parents will still have joint parental responsibility (legal custody) unless serious reasons make the Court take parental responsibility away from one or both. The Court will also decide on physical custody, i.e. with whom the child is to live or how the parents may share living arrangements. The other parent (non-resident) has communication rights with the child. The parents can agree on how communication rights may be exercised. If they cannot agree, the Court will decide. By Court, we mean the Family Court, where the child has habitual residence.
What rights does a father have in Cyprus?
The father has rights to parental responsibility, custody and communication. Unless the parents agree otherwise, the child will take his surname. Upon divorce, a father has the right to communication and visitation. If they cannot agree on this with the mother, the Court will decide based on the child's best interests. Unmarried fathers (i.e. fathers who were never married to the child’s mother) have 1) the right to surname and 2) parental responsibility only if they are named on the birth certificate. They can also apply to the Court for communication rights upon relationship breakdown.
What are the decrees of parental care, child custody and communication?
These are decrees or orders that can be made by the Court when marriage between the parents ends. The court will decide on legal custody (parental responsibility, usually held by both parents). Also, physical custody, i.e. with whom the child is to live (physical custody or parental care). Finally, the Court will decide on the communication rights of the non-resident parent.
What are the main provisions in Cyprus regulating the child/ parent relationship?
The child is entitled to receive care and responsible upbringing from their parents. The responsible upbringing that is responsible decisions about the raising, health, future and estate of the child is expressed by the term “parental responsibility”. The Court will take away parental responsibility from one or both parents only for serious reasons. The decision to take away parental responsibility can change if circumstances change accordingly. Upon divorce, the court decides with whom the child will live and the other parent’s (the non-resident parent’s) visitation rights.
What happens if the parents are separated?
Upon divorce, the parents may agree on residence and communication and give effect to their agreement through a Court order. If they cannot agree, the Court will decide. Parental responsibility continues jointly unless the parent(s) breach their parental duties towards the child or exercise them abusively. In such a case, the Court will remove parental responsibility from either parent or both. If you are referring to unmarried parents separating, the father has rights only if he is mentioned in the birth certificate, that is, if he has recognised the child.
Will I be allowed to relocate to another country if the non-custodial parent of the child objects?
No, you cannot relocate the child in such a case. The non-custodial parent must consent. The only instance where you can relocate with the child to another country without the other parent’s permission or consent is if the other parent has lost parental responsibility or never had it (that is, you were unmarried, and the father has not recognised the child).
Is it permissible to travel overseas with my child?
You can travel overseas with the child only if the other parent consents. The rule is the same for holidays or any other trip. The only exception is if the other parent does not have parental responsibility.
Can you tell me more about the stop-list?
If you believe there is a danger that the other parent will take the child abroad without your consent, you will notify the police and apply to the Family Court for a stop-list order. In such a case, the other parent will be stopped at the port or airport and will not be allowed to remove the child from the Republic.
What happens if the other parent illegally removes the child from Cyprus and relocates to another country?
If the other country is a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the authorities of that country will cooperate with the Cypriot authorities to return your child. You must seek the Cypriot authorities as soon as possible because the child may be allowed to stay in the new country only if they have settled and integrated into the new community's life. If the other country is not a signatory to the Hague Convention, the procedure may take longer and be more complex. Nevertheless, you will still contact the police, the Ministry of Justice and your lawyer to start the recovery process.
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