RADICAL CHANGES IN FAMILY LAW IN GREECE

We have been hearing a lot about upcoming changes in Family Law. Although no legislation has been implemented as of yet, the changes will be radical in certain areas of family law (at least based on the existing status quo as well as the legal tradition). Some of the discussed and proposed changes will involve the creation of a specialised Family Court, the founding of a Marriage Counselling Support Office, the institution of joint child custody (even after the issuance of a divorce judgment), the formation of a new way to calculate child support, the protection of the child’s interests but also the creation of a domestic partnership for same-sex couples (which will include provisions regarding the couple’s inheritance rights).

The first substantive amendment of Family Law took place in 1983. It is self-evident that legislation passed more than 20 years ago is at best “out-dated” and cannot address the needs of contemporary families. The new legislation aims to equalise the responsibilities and rights of both parents regarding their children’s custody. Pursuant to the introductory essay of the Ministry of Justice, for the first time ever in Greece there will be a same-sex couples partnership agreement (a matter on which Greece has been convicted several times by the Human Rights Court). The Greek Ministry has made it clear that no same-sex marriage option will be available (primarily due to the strong influence of the Greek Orthodox Church traditions in the country and the major opposition from religious organisations and a significant part of the population).

Along with the foundingĀ of a Specialised Family Court, there will be mandatory mediation before the parents can actually go to Court; mediation will be handled by trained family mediators who will attempt to help the parties find a mutually acceptable solution to their disputes. If mediation fails, then the case will be sent to the Courts. There will be one judge, assisted by court officers who will be trained in resolving family disputes. Parents will be able to request advice from the Family Court and the trained officers and be informed regarding their rights and obligations. The Court decisions will be subject to appeal. The Appellate Court (comprised of one judge as well) will also attempt to compromise the parties’ claims through mediation. The existing provisions regarding consensual divorces will remain in effect.

Major changes are also anticipated in adoption law and distribution of marital property (it is expected that the categories of people who can adopt will be increased and the process will be more flexible).

Another radical change will be the protection of joint child custody. The majority of European Countries already have this regulation but this is a first one for Greece. Child support will also be determined based on more objective criteria. Up to now, both parties were free to submit evidence (through documentation and witness testimonies) in an attempt to prove each other’s financial capacity and the Court could go either way based on the subjective allegations of the parties. Based on the new system, the judge will have a special Table of necessary expenses of the child, based on which he or she will determine the necessary expenses (for the payment of which both parents will be liable in accordance with their financial status). It is hoped that the institution of a more objective method of calculating child support will put an end to endless court battles, litigation, fighting and mutual accusations which are detrimental to the children that are caught in the middle of their parents’ dispute.

Writer’s comment: We stand 100% behind these amendments but will wait to see the final legislation before deciding; after all, there is plenty of precedence when it comes to great aspirations and plans that remain exactly that: aspirations and plans.