How can you prepare child relocation from or within Greece? What if your child has been relocated without your consent?
Greece is an EU member state, so in a cross-border family situation, such as a child relocation, the Council Regulation (EC) No 2019/1111 (Brussels II ter), which replaced (EC) No 2201/2003, applies.
Greece is also a Contracting State to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and the 1996 Hague Convention on Parental Responsibility and Protection of Children.
Elias has a broad experience with family law, including cross- border family disputes such as international child abduction cases, while also practicing criminal law. Elias works in Greece from his own law firm. He is a pro bono member of the NELFA legal team (Network of European LGBTIQ* Families Associations).
Elias has volunteered to keep this page about Greece up to date.
Lawyers and mediators in Greece
We provide a list of lawyers and mediators in Greece, who can assist you in drafting an international parenting plan, in preventing conflicts over the primary residence of the children, and in negotiating and litigating over the children in the event of relocation or child abduction.
Traveling with children: Greece
A parent visiting Greece from abroad with a child or wishing to travel outside Greece with it, needs the consent of the other parent, in the form of a solemn declaration, in case that custody is jointly exercised (so both parents determine the child’s place of residence). If one parent exercises sole custody of the child, he/she must provide any official document proving that.
The same rule applies to issue a child’s passport: in case that the parent wanting to travel abroad with the child does not have sole custody, he/she needs the consent of the other parent in the form of a solemn declaration, in order to apply for a passport.
Child relocation: Greece
As it has already been mentioned, a change in the child’s place of residence that substantially affects the contact rights of the parent with whom the child does not reside, requires the prior written agreement of the parents or a prior court decision issued at the request of one of the parents. The court may order any appropriate measure.
Although the law does not require a final decision on the matter, meaning that the right to relocate with the child abroad can be granted even via a court decision issued in the proceedings of temporary measures, some courts hold that a final decision by the competent Family Court is required, because otherwise, a decision taken as a temporary measure may lead to the creation of a situation that cannot be changed and de facto to the final ruling of the case. It is unanimously held though that a temporary order (not the same thing with a court decision issued in the proceedings of temporary measures according to Greek Law) is not a court decision and it does not suffice for the child’s relocation.
The issue whether the contact rights of the other parent are substantially affected by the relocation is dealt in concreto by the court, based on the specific circumstances of every case. Generally, the criteria are considered to be met in a case of relocation abroad.
The court decision considers the best interests of the child, according to the specific circumstances of any singular case. Namely, the court takes into account the best interests of a particular child raised by particular parents and in specific circumstances. And the child’s best interest means that the child’s basic living needs are fulfilled, as well as the emotional and developmental needs of the particular child at the particular time.
In particular, account is taken of the age of the child, the reasons for the move, the effects of the change of residence on the child’s emotional stability and relationships, the conditions and characteristics of the new family and social environment compared to the existing situation, the child’s will, and the way that the contact rights of the left behind parent could be adapted to the new circumstances.
Especially in the case of a parent moving abroad, the court examines the child’s knowledge of the foreign language, his/her connection with the living conditions in the other country and the child’s ability to adapt to the new environment, which requires greater effort on part of the moving parent. At the same time, the court considers the motivation of the parent requesting the removal, to exclude the possibility of the request being abusive (meaning that the purpose of the removal is to exclude the left behind parent from the child’s life and to make the communication between them practically impossible). The conduct of the other parent is also critical, i.e. whether he has previously actually exercised his/her contact rights. The opinion of the child himself/herself in this matter is important and should be heard and taken into account by the court accordingly and in accordance with the maturity of the child. Finally, the court must look for the choice that will favor the future well-being of the minor and his or her peaceful psychological development.
The court’s power to order any appropriate measure has the meaning that the court can balance the communication deficits that the removal will create, so that ultimately there will be no significant restriction of the communication between the child and left behind parent. Additional measures that the court may order to allow the removal are the provision of alternative means of communication, the payment of expenses (i.e. the costs of travel and accommodation of the parent with the contact right in the new place of residence or the cost of the move of the child to the place of residence of the contact person) the arrangement of the exercise of the contact right at intervals of a longer duration and a shorter frequency. Another decisive factor is whether the moving party has accurately designed a realistic relocation plan with the child and can carry it out.
Furthermore, when the change of residence of the parent with whom the child resides is due to the parent seeking or securing employment in the new place of residence, which ensures better living conditions for the parent and the child, the court must take into account any proposal by the parent who moves to make up for the lack of contact with the other parent due to the change of residence or to facilitate this (e.g. to cover part of the other parent’s travel, accommodation, etc.) or to increase contact time with the other parent during the period of school holidays.
In case that one parent proceeds unilaterally to the child’s removal in breach of the above, this may constitute an abuse of parental responsibility and lead to the granting of sole custody to the left behind parent. In case that the child is being relocated abroad, this means that the left behind parent, even in the case he maintained only contact rights with the child, can ask for the return of the child to Greece pursuant to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
Child abduction: Greece
Greece is a Contracting State to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and the 1996 Hague Convention on Parental Responsibility and Protection of Children. The obligations that the Conventions create are elaborated in Laws n. 2102/1992 and 4020/2011 respectively. Both conventions are applied in accordance with Council Regulation Council Regulation (EC) No 2019/1111 (Brussels II ter), which replaced (EC) No 2201/2003.
The Greek Ministry of Justice is set as the Central Authority for the implementation of the 1980 Hague Convention. As a Central Authority it can help you to locate your child in Greece, in case that you are not sure of his/her exact place of residence, and to promote a voluntary return, by means of mediation. You have to bear in mind though that the Ministry of Justice can neither initiate the return proceedings on your behalf nor represent you at the court proceedings (in the past it used to cooperate with the Legal Counsel of the State for this purpose, but that service is no longer available). You will need to contact a lawyer yourself directly in order to initiate the return of your child.
Legal aid is possible under circumstances and after an application of the beneficiary to the competent court, but in that case, you cannot choose the lawyer who will be assigned to deal with the return proceedings.
In Greece, the competent court to deal with a return application is the First Instance Court of the place where the child has been moved (or where the moving parent is residing), i.e. First Instance Court of Athens, if the child has been moved to Athens. In other words, there is no specially designated court to deal with return applications.
For speed reasons the matter is ruled with the temporary measures proceedings. This means that from the moment that you file the application the hearing has to take place in less than one month. Before the hearing you can also ask for a temporary order claiming for the other party to hand over the child’s passport or to get a prohibition to exit the country, until the hearing takes place. It is held that that one can claim the return of a child with the aforementioned temporary order but since the temporary order is not a court decision, this is highly disputed and there is no relevant court precedent.
The decision is expected to be issued in less than one month after the hearing. An appeal must be filed within 30 after the court decision is served to the opponent (or 60 days in case the party served is residing abroad). The appeal procedure has to be completed within 6 weeks, because of the special nature of the Convention, but this is hard to be accomplished in practice.
As in all family proceedings where children are involved, the judge can take into account the child’s opinion on the matter, accordingly to the child’s age and level of maturity. The judge dealing with the case sees the child privately in his/her chambers. There are no legal professionals present neither are parents and there are no records of the discussion. Furthermore, the judge is not obliged to mention what was discussed with the child in his/her decision. The child’s opinion is not binding for the judge’s decision.
Other Greek proceedings
If any proceedings in respect of the child have been initiated in Greece, these shall be stayed pending the return decision.
Mediation and voluntary return will be promoted at all stages.
The court decision ordering the return of the child can be directly executed. The other party has the right to appeal and apply for a suspension of the decision but it is held that the execution of the decision cannot be suspended.
The court can direct who is to make arrangements for the return and who is responsible for the costs.
Coercive measures that can be enforced are both financially penalties and arrest of the abducting parent. Not complying to this court decision is a criminal offence itself, which means that a penal procedure can be initiated leading to the immediate arrest of the non- complying parent.
If you think your child is in Greece, but you do not know exactly where, the Greek Ministry of Justice, as a Central Authority, can help you locate your child.
If you fear that your child will be abducted from Greece to another country, or otherwise disappear from view, various measures can be taken:
- obtain an order so that child’s passports to be handed over to you.
- obtain orders to prevent the removal of the child such as the granting of sole custody or prohibiting the other parent from exiting the country with the child.
Each parent can apply for legal aid, if the required financial standards are met.
Criminal law : Greece
The Greek criminal courts are competent both for acts committed abroad by a national and for acts committed abroad by a foreigner but against a Greek citizen (Articles 6 and 7 of the Criminal Code).
The abducting parent may be prosecuted for child abduction under Article 324 of the Penal Code when the right of custody, in the exercise of which the choice of the child’s place of residence is decided, has been granted solely to one parent, excluding the “abducting” parent. Otherwise, the abducting parent commits the offence of “vigilant justice” under Article 331 of the Penal Code.
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Case law in Greece
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