The following is a list of information and advice we have gathered which may be useful to single parents, particularly for those who used to live in the UK. We have been given this information in good faith but regret we cannot guarantee its accuracy. Click on the question below to expand.
The most important first step at the breakdown of any marriage or relationship where children are involved is to regularise the situation as soon as possible by obtaining a court order to determine who has the legal custody of the children.
Sole custody is not always easy to obtain as Spanish law prefers parents to have joint parental responsibility. Custody would only be denied to a parent who was considered unsuitable by way of previous record of domestic violence, drug addiction or similar. In most cases children aged 12 and over are consulted on their views over parental care with the help of a court official and psychologist.
If a parent is absent and not contactable, the other parent is within their rights to return with the children to their homeland and start custody proceedings in that country.
Legal aid (assistencia juridica gratuita) is available in Spain through the Colegio de Abogados or local court and forms can be downloaded from the internet to start the process.
Abogados can give fixed prices for specific procedures but costs will obviously increase if circumstances are complicated and contested.
There is also family mediation available again through the Colegio de Abogados but there is a cost for this, although if successful it may save the expense of legal fees at a later time.
Maintenance (pension alimentos) is obligatory for children and there is EC regulation to enforce this if parent defaults.
Travel outside country of residence requires permission from other parent and failure to do so can be pursued under the Hague Convention (see www.guardian-angels.es, FAQs, “I want to take my children out of Spain”)
Divorce is much easier to obtain in Spain with no grounds required only application required by one partner to end marriage.
In certain circumstances there is a one-off €400 crisis payment available for families who are struggling – ask at your ayuntamiento. Social Services can also be contacted via your ayuntamiento if needed.
The subject of leaving the country with a child when separated or divorced is covered in law by the Hague Convention – click here to read details but here are some relevant extracts.
The Convention provides that the removal or retention of a child is “wrongful” whenever:
“a. It is in breach of rights of custody attributed to a person …………. under the law of the State in which the child was habitually resident immediately before the removal or retention.”
“From the Convention’s standpoint, the removal of a child by one of the joint holders without the consent of the other is wrongful. The Convention requires the return of any child who was “habitually resident” in a contracting nation immediately before an action that constitutes a breach of custody or access rights. The Convention does not define the term “habitual residence,” but it is not intended to be a technical term. Instead, courts should broadly read the term in the context of the Convention’s purpose to discourage unilateral removal of a child from that place in which the child lived when removed or retained, which should generally be understood as the child’s “ordinary residence.”
However, to defend against the return of the child, the defendant must establish to the degree required by the law of the state where the court is located:
(a) that Petitioner was not “actually exercising custody rights at the time of the removal or retention” under Article 13; or
(b) that Petitioner “had consented to or acquiesced in the removal or retention” under Article 13; or
(c) that more than one year has passed from the time of wrongful removal or retention until the date of the commencement of judicial or administrative proceedings, under Article 12; or
(d) that the child is old enough and has a sufficient degree of maturity to knowingly object to being returned to the Petitioner and that it is appropriate to heed that objection, under Article 13; or
(e) that “there is grave risk that the child’s return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation,” under Article 13(b); or
(f) that return of the child would subject the child to violation of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, under Article 20.
The CSA (Child Support Agency) is the UK Government Department that calculates an absent parent’s maintenance payments and they also have the power to deduct payments from the absent parent’s source of pay. A lot depends on if both parents are British Citizens, married or not and if the child(ren) is/was born in the UK. The CSA can help expats, even if the father or partner is in a different country.
These other two websites give free legal advice and may also be helpful – http://www.wikivorce.com/divorce/Divorce-Blogs/305-Tips-for-abandoned-wives.html and http://www.inbrief.co.uk/
Have you spoken to social services in your area? They should be able to help. Go to the local church as they should be able to help with food, etc.
Caritas is run internationally by the Catholic church but they help everyone. Normally they give out bags of food. There might be a Caritas near you. You can find out by visiting their website http://www.caritas.org/. Caritas Española operates through 68 diocesan offices, which manage the work of 65,000 volunteers. In Spain, Caritas works to support vulnerable and marginalized people, the poor and needy, immigrants and young people in difficulty, among others. It supports research into the causes of poverty and regularly produces publications on related issues.
Also, try the Salvation Army, tel: 89249 9567.
There is a centre for disadvantaged children and young people is located just outside Málaga city called CIUDAD DE LOS NIÑOS. The centre is run by brothers from the Catholic religious order “Hermanos Obreros de María” and is approved and monitored by the Andalusian Regional Government. On-site residence is provided for destitute children and those removed from parent custody, while the on-site school is also open to children from low-income families and caters to their special learning needs. The centre is located at Finca los Asperos in Malaga. For more information, tel: 952 179 150 or e-mail Brother Juan Correa at Email: [email protected]
The Red Cross (Cruz Roja) is a well known worldwide charitable organization. In Andalucia and all over Spain there are hospitals run by the Cruz Roja. They do all sorts of charitable work and they also run first aid courses at very reasonable prices. Most of the staff and volunteers are likely to be Spanish speakers. They have centres and help points all over the Costa del Sol and Andalucia. For more information contact: Head Office, Cruz Roja Malaga, Paseo de la Farola, 29016 Málaga. Tel: 952 217 631 / 2 e-mail: [email protected]
Here in Spain, families with three or more children are entitled to “familia numerosa” benefits. Each person in the family, children and parent(s) receive their own card. These cards get you discounts on all sorts of things – transport, theme parks, electricity, IBI and basura charges, some shops etc.
You can apply for these cards at Social Services in Javea (2nd floor). Ask at the enquiries window and say you want to apply for familia numerosa. Take your I.D., the children’s birth certificates/family book if you have one and proof of address. The cards come by post but take about a month to arrive.
Single parents can go to see the lawyer at Social Services in Jávea. We believe her name is Rosa. She is on the second floor and you need an appointment – there’s no
charge and you can talk to her about whatever you want and then she advises you what to do. Many single parents are entitled to legal aid (a free lawyer) if needed for court etc. This can be arranged through Rosa at Social Services or, more quickly, at the Denia Court. They give you a form to fill in and a list of paperwork required but as soon as the application goes in, any pending court case etc. is put on hold until the free lawyer is assigned, then you go to see him or her without having to pay for anything (consultations, lawyer’s letters, court etc.) You get a letter through the post telling you who you’ve been assigned – it may be possible to request an English-speaking lawyer. The important thing is that it is not necessary to pay out to see lawyers if you are entitled to legal aid.