What are the rights of fathers in Latvia?
August 22, 2023
In Latvia, both parents equally exercise parental rights and duties. When it comes to resolving parental disputes in court, a judge would often be required to rule, among other things, on a) the custody rights and b) the access rights. In this article we will discuss what are custody and access rights within the meaning of the Latvian law.
According to the Latvian law, custody is a set of rights and duties of parents to care for the child and his or her property and represent the child in his or her personal and property relations. Custody can be exercised either jointly by both parents or separately by just one of them.
The law says that parents shall continue exercising custody rights jointly even if they separate or divorce. Therefore, a father has the same custody rights by operation of law. The definition of custody rights as used in the law is to be understood in a broader sense. It shall not be narrowed to just the physical care over a child when a father spends time with his child. Exercising custody rights means participation in the taking of decisions concerning care, health, protection, upbringing and other issues concerning a child. Therefore, even if the father is residing in a different country, he can still exercise custody rights and shall be consulted by the other parent on all important issues relating to his child, e.g., medical care, change of country of residence, education, change of school, extracurricular activities, etc.
However, custody rights can be limited either by mutual agreement between the parents or by an order of the court. In some cases, a judge can rule that it is in the interests of a child to determine that one of the parents has separate (sole) custody. Although, according to the case law the establishing of separate (sole) custody in favour of one the parents shall not result in the cancellation of custody rights of the other parent, the latter’s custody rights are significantly reduced. Separate custody means that the parent exercising it can take important decisions solely and dispense with the views of the other parent. Different reasons can lead to a ruling satisfying separate custody claim of one of the parents, but the other parent’s lack of interest and involvement in the life of a child can be one of those reasons, especially if the court finds that it can harm the interests of the child. In such cases a judge may find that it is in the interests of a child to establish separate custody for one parent, so that he or she can take the required decisions without the need to consult the other parent.
But in those cases where there is no written agreement between parents on separate custody and no court order establishing separate custody, the parents shall have equal custody rights.
Access rights (contact rights/visitation rights) means how, when, and how often does the parent that is living separately from the child can see and spend time with his or her child. According to the Latvian law, a child has the right to maintain personal relations and direct contact with any of the parents. Each of the parents has a duty and the right to maintain personal relations and direct contact with the child. This is applicable also if the child is separated from the family or does not live together with one of the parents or both parents. The parent who does not live with the child has the right to receive information regarding the child, especially information regarding child’s development, health, educational progress, interests, and domestic environment.
In simple terms, access rights are attributed to the parent with whom the child does not live. For example, if a mother of a child for some reason prohibits the father from seeing or contacting their child, the father shall seek protection of the access rights in the court. Access rights are usually granted by the court in a form of a schedule of visitations during which the father has access to the child to spend their time together.
The Supreme Court of Latvia had recently ruled that in cases where parents are separated or divorced, the parent living separately from the child shall have an opportunity to have contact with the child in an amount that is quantitatively and qualitatively comparable to the capabilities of the other parent. The Supreme Court had also found that, in a case requiring determination of the schedule of visitations, a parent who lives separately from the children should not be put in a disadvantageous position as compared to the other parent. It is essential and in accordance with the children's interests to provide as equal an opportunity as possible for both parents to be involved in the child's life and spend time together.
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Family law is one of the main areas of expertise of Belyaev & Belyaev.
If you have been sued and require protection of your custody rights in the court of Latvia or if you are willing to enforce your access rights through the court, please feel free to contact our firm using the form below or by email.
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