This may appear confusing but as the two legal systems generally treat child matters in the same way the outcome of cases in Spain or the UK will be broadly similar. Firstly it is important to distinguish parental responsibility from custody and payments.
Shared parental responsibility means that parents should discuss and resolve important matters for the children such as decisions on their schooling, welfare and any particular religious or cultural matters that form part of the child’s daily life. While this can be difficult when a relationship breaks down the parents do need to focus on what is best for the child and importantly need to realise that taking these matters into court can be more stressful and takes the decision making away from the parents.
Custody and visits have a fixed pattern in Spain in the absence of an agreement to share custody. Now the Spanish courts will consider joint custody for parents if they can show that the children have stable and regular times with each parent. It does not need to be exactly 50/50 split of time but sometimes children do genuinely share homes with each parent.
If there is no agreement the courts normally award every other weekend, 4 weeks in the summer and alternate Christmas and Easters to the non custodial parent. This will apply in Spain from the time the breakdown takes place even when the child is very young so it is important to appreciate this before applying to the court or trying to limit access. The advantage of this approach is that it brings certainty for both the children and the parent who does not have custody.
The obligation of both parents to provide for the children is ongoing until the children finish full time education. The UK approach is set out in the Child Support Act which fixes percentage rules in relation to income. If neither parent can show a fixed income the Spanish courts have a less precise approach but they do insist on each parent making a proper contribution. If there is difficulty in showing the earnings of a parent the court can call for tax and other records. Evidence should be provided for the needs of the custodial parent such as rental or mortgage, utility payments etc. Where the non custodial parent cannot provide evidence of income the court will look at lifestyle and proof of expenditure to come to a fair decision for the children.
For more information on Family Law or any other legal matter, please contact De Cotta Law, with offices in Calahonda, Coin, Nerja and Tenerife: