Latvian Radio reports on efforts to resolve child custody cases

About 900 children are involved in parental disputes over custody rights in Latvia every year, reports the latest edition of Latvian Radio's Atvērtie Faili (Open Files) investigative show. 

In a half-hour program (above), according to AF, in order to win custody, an extremely adversarial, protracted and expensive situation can develop in which the father and mother hire lawyers and psychologists, and write complaints to the authorities.

More importantly, children can be left in the middle and may suffer serious  and unncessary psychological damage because of the manner and length of proceedings under the current system. The show asks why the state allows parents to drag their children into custody disputes for years. 

Atvertie Faili delved into several individual cases – which would be too complex and would take up too much space to outline in detail here. 

However, the show reported that according to Valentina Gorbunova of the State Inspectorate for the Protection of Children's Rights (VBTAI), although no one compiles data on how long an average custody case lasts, it is usually several years: "There have been situations where often children reach adulthood, living in such an escalated situation for three or five or six years."

In order to understand how to improve the execution of court decisions by the so-called 'Orphans' Courts', a working group has been established by the Justice Ministry. So far, the first expert discussions have been held, in which officials of various ministries, bailiffs, employees of the courts and VBTAI, as well as representatives of other fields, participate. 

For example, one proposal is to make it mandatory for parents to attend mediation to try to reach an agreement before they can litigate for custody. But legal changes are likely to take a long time – and until then hundreds of children will remain subject to potentially damaging disputes for custody between their parents.

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