13. 10. 12. - 18:55
Justice Minister and Minister for Women reach
By Family law correspondent Matthias Loinig
On 10th October, the Austrian Minister for Women and the Justice Minister revealed that there will be a reform of family law in Austria.
The reform will come into force on 1st February 2013. In an interview with family law correspondent Mr Loinig, international family law attorney Britta Schönhart said:
"The reform of Austrian family law which has stood for the last century is long overdue. Naturally, politics were shaped by the prejudices of the European Court of Human Rights and the discretion of the Constitutional Court of Austria. I would like to think that this reform is a typical Austrian solution, because I fear that in practise we will meet further problems that weren’t considered beforehand.
Which problems do you think will arise?
"In reality, it is still a single judge who remains in control of settling a conflict between parents. In such a case the judge will always be able to say that a conflict is so grave that joint-custody would not be in the best interest of the child – in this way, the well-being of the child may be overlooked. However, perhaps in a case like this, joint-custody would be curbed. Therefore, there will still be this ‘loophole’ which many conservative judges will choose to use. This will mean that the focus will be once again on the parental conflict and not focused on the well-being of the child.
Which elements of the reform do you view in a positive light?
"In any case, what is positive is that a joint-custody case must now be submitted and considered. In this way, few cases will be concealed wherein the decision between the parents was actually misjudged and the conflict between the parents risked spiralling out of control. But I believe that the percentage of such cases will remain low."
What can be expected when the reform comes into force?
"There will certainly be a flood of applications and old cases are sure to be rolled out and disputed again. Also, cases that have already been resolved will end up back in court. The courts will be overburdened and there will be long waiting times. Many judges will simply reject these applications as highly contestable cases where joint custody threatens the wellbeing of the child."