Spain’s one-year delays in divorce decisions hurt children

AN INCREASE in numbers of divorce cases and demands for shared custody are causing worrying delays, which could be affecting children in Spain.
Psychologists and social workers attached to courts, who have to produce psychological evaluations for judges to decide on custody matters, are so overloaded with work that in some parts of the country there are year-long waiting lists.
In cases of divorce, an evaluation is requested either by a judge or by the families themselves to find the best possible solution for children and help the judge award custody.
Reports are also needed to change visiting rights.
Spanish Family Lawyers’ Association (AEFA) president Gonzalo Pueyo has said that the delays are a big problem and blamed the situation on cutbacks.
The issue was discussed at a meeting between AEFA representatives and the Justice Minister Rafael Catala last Demcember.
“We told him there was a problem and that more psychologists and social workers needed to be assigned to the courts. He took note,” Pueyo said.
Lawyers are also requesting that specific courts for family matters are brought in across the country to avoid what lawyer and head of the family section of Madrid’s College of Lawyers, Isabel Winkels, referred to as first, second and third class justice depending on where people live.
While in the centre of Madrid specialist courts produce family evaluations in approximately one month, in other areas these can take a whole year.
The ombudsman’s office has also expressed concern about the delays.
Most complaints to the office regarding civil proceedings were found to be regarding family law matters and particularly divorce and evaluation delays.
The office is particularly worried about how these delays affect children. Lawyer and former judge Beatriz Rodriguez explained: “It’s important to get divorce settlements through as quickly as possible to end emotional conflicts. It has been proved that conflicts are reduced and most families get on with adapting once a settlement is through, whether or not they agree with it.”

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