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Society

Rights Group Says Greece Child Custody Reforms Too Risky

ΑΤΗΕΝS — Proposed legislation in Greece to give divorced parents an equal say in child-raising didn't take into consideration how it could jeopardize women and children and victims of domestic violence, Human Rights Watch complained.

The measure was put forth by the ruling New Democracy which controls Parliament, where it will likely be voted upon this month over the warnings fro the activists who said it could lead to lengthy court battles for exceptions.

“The proposed changes contravene international law, which requires that custody determinations be based on assessment of the best interests of the individual child, and do not ensure sufficient protections for domestic abuse victims and their children,” the group said.

While applauding the idea of co-parenting, a presumption of shared custody “ignores the dangerous reality for domestic abuse victims – overwhelmingly women – and their children,” said Hillary Margolis, HRW Senior Women’s Rights Researcher.

“The Greek parliament should put the safety of children and abuse victims first and reject these alarming changes,” she said, noting that during a public consultation that there was similar criticism about potential shortcomings.

That came from the Hellenic Society of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the Family Law Society, the Greek National Commission for Human Rights, the Lawyers Committee on Legal Issues of Co-Custody, the gender equality organization Diotima, and Refugee Support Aegean.

The proposed changes would permit courts to curtail parental communication with a child when there is “bad or abusive exercise” of this right or revoke custodial rights if a parent is unable to comply with obligations or performs this function abusively. 

But the rulings must be final or issued by the Supreme Court, a process that can take years, during which an allegedly abusive parent could maintain co-custody and communication with the child and co-parent, said HRW.

The group also said that in cases of “imminent danger” to a child’s mental and physical health, a prosecutor can take immediate protection measures and then has 90 days to bring the case to court without noting parental abuse.

The bill’s provisions would also contravene the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), ratified by Greece in 1983, HRW also said.

“A law that could force people to withstand ongoing domestic abuse is not in anyone’s best interests,” Margolis said. “The Greek government should recognize the risks women and children face in their own families and act to ensure that child custody can’t be used as another weapon,” she also added. 

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