The planned changes in family law, namely joint custody and the alternating residency of children between divorced parents, are widely seen rectifying a protracted injustice to fathers in Greece, while some legal experts say that it is essential for safeguards to be instituted.
“With the ongoing changes, joint custody, which is already legislated in the courts, is being passed into the Civil Code,” legal expert and lawyer Giorgos Tzevelekos told Kathimerini.
“It is a small but important step to mitigate an injustice, as the courts still give 90% of custody to mothers,” he said, noting that courts currently do issue decisions for joint custody, but this is done sparingly.
In the future, however, the granting or not of joint custody will be down to the judge, while the opinion of the minors themselves may also be factored in. Tzevelekos notes that “in the case of a violent father, a judge is not only able to deprive him of custody, but of communication with the child as well.” Tzevelekos cautioned however that the legal reform “is based on a foreign legal model, where joint custody is the norm.”
“We as a society still have a long way to go,” he said, while noting that an important difference ushered in by the new legal framework is the increase of the time that the parent who does not have custody of the child to one-third of the total.
For her part, lawyer Vasso Tsoutis said that the planned changes are in the right direction, but safeguards are needed for abusive and negligent parents, as well as with regard to questions of alimony. She said no one should be allowed to interpret the law as they please. Noting practical issues such as the proximity of the two households and the existence of sufficient space at both homes for the child, she insisted that even if joint custody is institutionalized, “not all dads are able to claim it.”