Father's Rights in the Czech Republic

Child custody rights for divorced expat fathers

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff
Published on 15.08.2011 16:20 (updated on 15.08.2011)

While the law protects the rights of women and children during the divorce process, fathers are being increasingly sidelined and alienated – a result which benefits nobody.

When routine bites hard,
And ambitions are low,
And resentment rides high,
But emotions won’t grow,
And we’re changing our ways,
Taking different roads.

Then love, love will tear us apart again.
Love, love will tear us apart again.

So go the lyrics from the polemical song sung in the melancholic tones of the late Ian Curtis, lead singer of UK, band Joy Division. All too often this can be the plight of expat fathers whose dreams of ‘death do us part’ end in divorce. Ending a marriage is never easy, but add in the complications of differing nationalities and the emotive issue of children, and the situation is compounded from routine, to Kafkaesque-level nightmare.

Increasingly, the expat father is falling victim to a system which seems weighted against him and through no fault of his own, he is entrapped in a system which sees him forced to pay alimony set at a punitive rate and denied rights to see his children.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that expat fathers are often coming off as the losers in what should be a fair and equal process. For those looking for more detailed evidence, this is hard to come by for two reasons. Firstly, lawyers cannot talk about specific cases as they are bound by issues of client confidentiality. Secondly, no real research has been carried out in this area.

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Expat fathers face a number of specific issues when undergoing a divorce in the Czech Republic, according to Monika Rutland, a partner dealing in family litigation at the Prague law firm Rutland Ježek. “The biggest issues we face are, firstly, the length of time processes take to carry out. Secondly, there can be inadequate penalization of the mother for boycotting a father’s visits.”

In a case of denial of visitation rights by the mother, the law is enforced by the relevant court by the way of preliminary injunctions and orders. However, the courts are very reluctant to impose fees on mothers that boycott the father’s visitations, or the penalties are low (5000 CZK). This is just one example of how the system penalizes the father.

“Two other significant issues are the high levels of child support ordered to be paid by expat fathers, and finally a father being obliged to pay support even in cases where the wife caused the divorce by her infidelity,” added Rutland.

Child Custody

Child custody is obviously the largest and possibly the most divisive of these issues, according to Vladimera Pajerová, a partner dealing in family litigation at the Prague-based law firm Advokátky Pajerová. “If the parents are not able to agree, the court, in cooperation with the Authority for Children’s Social and Legal Protection, will decide to put the child in custody of one of the parents, or under joint custody,” says Pajerová.

If the court is unable to reach a qualified decision, they may order a psychological assessment by a qualified expert. The assessed criteria include: parent’s personality, relationship of the parent to the child, the child’s relationship to the parent, character, morality, and other background and social issues of the parents.

In the majority of cases, the child or children are put under the mother’s custody. A small percentage of children are placed under joint custody of both parents, and in a minimal number of cases under the father’s custody. As Rutland says, “The whole process can be lengthy if the parents cannot agree on visitation rights and the court involves a psychologist. It can take over a year for before the psychologist starts work on the case.”

Child Support

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“The courts use certain tables as a guidance but are not bound by them; a father can be ordered to pay higher support if the judge decides so,” says Rutland. “Please note that the father will have to pay the child support after 15 years of age only if the child enters a higher education facility and is not working full time.”
 
The basic table is for the following ages:
 
1.      0 – 5 years: 11 – 15 % of the net salary
2.      6 – 9  years: 13 – 17%
3.      10 – 14 years: 15 – 19%
4.      15 – 17 years: 16 – 22%
5.      18 plus years: 19 – 25%

Courts

The court that has jurisdiction over custody issues is the court of the last residence of the child – if the mother is Czech and the children are Czech citizens then the divorce and subsequent custody issues are decided in a Czech court. Only if the father absconds does the international rule of the Hague Treaty apply. In respect to other situations, international treaties decide the jurisdiction (read more on Hague Treaty here).

Taking the child out of the Czech Republic on a short term/long term basis

Generally, the courts prefer if the father stays in the Czech Republic for numerous reasons (visitations, child support enforcement).
 
When a father takes his child to another country without mother´s consent, the child should be returned to the country where he/she stayed immediately before the removal. Within the European Union, the jurisdiction in these situations is regulated by the Brussels II Regulation (Council Regulation No 2201/203 of 27 November 2003) concerning jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility. Many other countries (non-EU members) are bound by the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (read more on Hague Treaty – Child Abduction here).

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction  is an international human rights treaty and legal mechanism to recover children abducted to another country. However, the Hague Convention does not provide relief in many cases, resulting in some parents hiring private parties to recover their children. Covert recovery was first made public when Don Feeney, a former Delta Commando, responded to a desperate mother’s plea to locate and recover her daughter from Jordan in the 1980s. Feeney successfully located and returned the child.

Obviously, this was an extreme case, and expat fathers would be well advised to steer clear of any such course of action. While the father’s rights movement has grown up in many European countries, there does not seem to be such an organization as yet in the Czech Republic

Legal Assistance

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The Czech state does not provide legal assistance to fathers during custody proceedings.
 
English Speaking Support Resources

There are organizations that can assist with supervised visits and offer English-speaking assistants. “One of them is Area Fausta. Courts approve such organizations for supervised visits in cases where the mother is accusing the father of violence or child neglect,” says Monika Rutland.

However, the service is quite costly, at around 350 CZK per hour. This service is not offered by the state, so it is unlikely to be be a long term solution for many fathers due to the expense involved.
 
Useful Contacts
Area Fausta – Specializované pracoviště pro asistovaný styk rodičů s dětmi

Lawyers

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