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Justice Ministry proposing changes to divorce, child custody

The Justice Ministry has prepared a series of proposals aiming to bring Cyprus’ legislation on issues connected to family law and children’s rights, as well as how young offenders are dealt with, in line with those of the world’s most advanced countries.

A total of nine bills have been prepared amending the Family Law, which has remained the same for nearly 20 years.

The bills will now be sent to the Legal Service of the Republic for a legislative check before they reach the House.

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Commenting to Phileleftheros, Minister of Justice and Public Order, Ionas Nicolas, said changes including giving children a say on matters concerning parental custody, since the court will invite them to express their views.

It will also regulate other custody-related matters, for example stipulating that divorced parents will automatically share custody 50-50, unless the court decides otherwise.
For the first time in Cyprus, the two spouses will be able to declare that they want their marriage to be dissolved consensually, provided they have lived under the same roof for at least six months.

Another new provision to be introduced concerns property issues arising after divorce. According to Nicolaou, the law until now stipulates that the property acquired by marriage is divided as follows: One spouse receives 2/3 and the other 1/3. Now any property acquired during the marriage will be divided by half for each spouse.

In his statements after a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Nicolaou also noted the Commissioner for the Rights of the Child had submitted her report to the President of the Republic on Monday.

“I want to point out, he added, “that the Ministry of Justice has responded to a number of issues raised by the Commissioner over time in terms of child protection and rights.”

Nicolaou said he had completed a review of Family Law so that the child’s view was taken into account in all the proceedings concerning them, whether these are in the context of ensuring the right to communicate with parents or parental responsibility, as well as any other judgment given by the family court. That is, he explained, before the decision is taken by the court, the child must be taken into account as well as his or her right not to forgo communication with either parent.

The Ministry of Justice is also working on a new bill that provides that young offenders aged 14-18 will not be sent to court. As the Justice Minister said, juvenile offenders aged 14 and over (the younger ones have no criminal liability) would be treated differently by the judiciary.

That is, it has been clarified that extra-judicial treatment of children is will be assured and that the procedures followed will ensure a child-centred approach towards getting the young offender back on the right path.Essentially, there will be three stages in the treatment of the child offender:

● Firstly, if the offence is not serious, the Family Council will convene  so that the child enters a relevant rehabilitation programme.
● Second, if the offense is serious, then the child is referred to a Family Council so that there is a way of compensating their victim. In case of compliance, then the Attorney General will not prosecute.
● Thirdly, when criminal proceedings against a child are filed, the court may refer him to a dedicated programme before imposing a sentence. This programme would be within the child’s school or elsewhere and if they comply with it then no penalty will be imposed. If a penalty is imposed, then the child will serve it out of prison, in a space dedicated for the purpose.

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