Responsibility for a child (parental responsibility) is the duty and the right of the parents who exercise this responsibility jointly. It covers giving the child a name, caring for the child, managing its property and representing it in any matter or legal transaction that concerns it or its property.
As a general rule, it is the child’s parents who have parental responsibility over it, provided they are husband and wife and live together; if either of them dies, or declared missing presumed dead, or in the absence of one of the parents, parental responsibility is exercised solely by the other parent.
In the same way, if there are other valid reasons why one parent is unable to exercise parental responsibility, or if one parent has no capacity to enter into legal transactions or has only limited capacity to do so, parental responsibility is exercised by the other parent.
However, the underage parent also has custody of the child. In the case of an adopted child, parental responsibility is exercised by the adoptive parents.
If a child is born out of wedlock, and continues in that status, parental responsibility is exercised by the mother, save where the father also recognizes the child, in which case he also exercises parental responsibility over the child.
If the parents are unable or unwilling to exercise parental responsibility or if for some reason their parental responsibility is terminated, the Family Court appoints a guardian with parental responsibility. Guardianship is awarded preferably to a relative. The court also lays down the scope of the parental responsibility granted to the guardian and the conditions for exercising it.
In the case of a divorce or where a marriage is annulled or declared null and void, and provided both parents are alive, the question of parental responsibility is determined by the court. Parental responsibility can be awarded to one of the parents or if they both agree and simultaneously fix the place of residence of the child, to both parents jointly.
The Family Court may divide the exercise of parental responsibility between the parents or grant it to a third person. In its decision, the court may take into account the relationship of the child with its parents and siblings, and any agreements of its parents on custody of the child and the management of its property, always bearing in mind the best interest of the child.
If the parents go to court, the judge can award parental responsibility to either or both parents, divide it between them, or award to a third party in part or in whole. In the event of divorce, separation or the annulment of a marriage, custody of a child is awarded to the parent with whom the child is to live.
Custody covers notably the child’s upbringing, supervision, schooling and education, place of residence, management of its property and its representation in any matter or legal transaction that concerns it or its property. The judge also sets the maintenance payments that the other parent is to make and determines the child’s right of contact with that parent.
The rule is that both parents together must decide on every matter relating to the exercise of parental responsibility. However, if the court decides that one of the parents is to have sole custody of the child, that parent acting alone may perform the ordinary actions relating to the custody of the child, carry on the ordinary management of the child’s property, or perform any actions of an urgent nature and receive any legal act addressed to the child.
Furthermore, the parent who been awarded custody of the child is the one who makes the maintenance claim on the child’s behalf against the parent who does not have custody. If the other parent is opposed to an action taken by the parent with custody, claiming that the action taken was not in the course of ordinary custody or of the ordinary management of the child’s property, nor was it urgent, or that the other parent is generally not in a position to carry out his duties, the aggrieved parent may seek redress in court, claiming that the action was a breach of duty or misuse of parental responsibility.
When the Family Court decides that the parents are to have joint custody of a child, they decide together on the exercise of custody, in the child’s best interests.
The court with jurisdiction for matters concerning parental responsibility is the Family Court. Applications are lodged with the secretariat of the Family Court, the trial date is set, and the applicant’s lawyer sees to it that a copy is served on the respondent. If it is to be served within the country, the copy is served on the respondent by a bailiff. If it is to be served abroad, The Hague Convention of 15 November 1965 on the service of documents abroad applies, provided the state at issue is bound by that Convention.
For a decision on parental responsibility that is issued by a court in another E.U Member State to be recognized and enforced, an application may be submitted to the Family Court for registration, recognition and enforcement of the decision issued by the foreign court, provided the two states, i.e. Cyprus and the other Member State, are bound by a relevant agreement.
The conditions for registration are set out in the agreement. The procedure is launched when the court registers the application by means of a summons accompanied by a sworn statement, in accordance with the Civil Procedure Regulations.
Where there was no adverse party in the procedure under which the decision was issued, the procedure starts with a unilateral application accompanied by a sworn statement. When the application is registered, a date for the hearing is set which can be no later than four weeks from the day of registration.
For the Family Court to have jurisdiction to hear a case concerning issues of parental responsibility, the parties must reside in Cyprus for at least three months. The applicable law, provided there is jurisdiction, is Cypriot law.