Greek law now allows joint custody

A major change in the recently introduced new Greek family legislation is joint custody. Article 1510 of the Civil Code stipulates that parental responsibility is exercised “jointly and equally”, although one parent will still be considered as the “resident” parent.

Article 5 of the law now states: “The best interests of the child, which are served in particular by the effective participation of both parents in his or her upbringing and care and by the prevention of a breakdown in his or her relationship with either of them…”

Article 12 states that the child’s place of residence cannot be changed without the consent of both parents if the change affects visitation.  A presumption of 1/3 of the total time for parent-child contact is established in Article 13.

The law was passed by 156 votes out of 300 by the centre–right government. Some articles got more votes because the communist party voted for them. The left and the centre voted against the law.  This political split has happened in family law reform in many other countries, and it followed a vociferous campaign by agencies concerned that the new laws would undermine the protection of domestic violence victims

The law is a product of compromise and has many exceptions and provisions that can be interpreted by case law in a deviating way.  “Equal co-parenting is a laudable goal, but a blanket presumption of 50-50 child custody ignores the dangerous reality for domestic abuse victims – overwhelmingly women – and their children,” said Hillary Margolis, senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Greek parliament should put the safety of children and abuse victims first and reject these alarming changes.”

This pressure meant that the legislation was not  decisive on shared parenting and may well be undermined by subsequent court decisions.   The question is whether the courts will apply the law or whether they will strike it down in their case law as they did during the last major reform of Greek family law that took place in 1983.