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Spain Introduces Regional Family Courts to Take on Child Abduction Cases

Spain looks set to improve their application of the Hague Child Abduction Convention with the introduction of new regional family law courts.

Hague Child Abduction Convention

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a treaty signed by over 90 states around the world. It was made to ensure that children under the age of 16 who have been abducted by a parent and moved from their country of residence are safely returned.

The Hague Abduction Convention applies to situations where a parent retains a child abroad, perhaps after they should have returned from a holiday, in the hope that the law in the new country will allow them to keep their child.

The basic premise of the Convention is that arrangements for children should be resolved by the courts in the country where the children live, unless there is a very good reason why this should not happen. The Convention therefore provides a legal framework for countries to work together to return children to their home countries where decisions on care arrangements, often known wrongly as custody and visitation rights, can be made.

Child Abduction Problems in Spain

In the past, Spain has been poor at applying the Hague Child Abduction Convention. This is mainly because they have no judicial centralisation. This means that courts in Spain may be dealing with mortgages one minute followed by a case of child abduction the next. The lack of judicial centralisation has forced courts without any prior experience to resolve child abduction cases.

A lack of funding and experience among judges and lawyers in this specialised field has compounded the problem. In Spain, cases of child abduction have been known to last for many months, with courts making incorrect welfare-based decisions and appeals taking up to a year to resolve.

Important Changes in Spanish Family Law

Since July 2015, child abduction cases have been channelled through regional family courts in Spain. A six week rule has been imposed (for first-instance and any appeal together) in order to speed up the pace at which child abduction cases in Spain are resolved.

Cara Nuttall Senior Family Law Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK said, “I have noticed increased speed of child abduction cases moving forwards at an appeal level in Spain. However, we will have to wait to see whether such cases have priority assigned to them in practice.”

Slater and Gordon Lawyers are experts in international cases of child abduction and understand the complexities of children law. You can call our contact centre any time 24/7 on freephone 0800 916 9055 or contact us online and we will call you back.

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