Divorce and child custody in Ukraine. Family law in Ukraine| V.Reshetov & Partners law firm in Ukraine

Introductory note: this article has resulted from our experience of working with foreign clients and their children after or during the divorce. Every case was unique and required a different legal approach.

If you face an issue of custody or guardianship of a child, please address our lawyers as soon as possible. Your discussing the issue now may well help you resolve the difficulty in the future. 

What custody of a child means?

The word combination of child custody, sole custody or sole responsibility are used by foreign parents when explaining to a Ukrainian lawyer what they want to be granted as a result of court proceedings. But the essence of these words in Ukraine and abroad is completely different.

Custody, according to an English law dictionary, is the legal right or duty to take care of or keep a child, which may be granted by a court to a parent after divorce or as a result of court proceedings.

The Ukrainian legislation gives us the word ‘opika’ but with a different meaning.

Opika and pikluvannia (custody and guardianship) are a special form of state-provided care of underage children deprived of their parental care. It can be provided for the upbringing of underage children who are left without parental care due to their parents’ death or illness, or if their parents’ parental rights were terminated. 

As we can see, the Ukrainian legislation regards custody as granting of the parental rights to third persons, who are not parents of a child, and it is possible only when the child was left without his/her parents’ care.   

What can one do about parental rights and duties in Ukraine?

In Ukraine, both father and mother have equal rights and duties towards their children regardless of their being or not in a marriage with one another. Termination of a marriage or parents living separately from a child does not affect the scope of their parental rights and does not relieve their duties towards their child.

What happens when parents have equal rights towards their child but they have different views on the child's upbringing?

Yes, parents have equal rights but after divorce, they may find themselves in somewhat uneven conditions in respect of their child. Often it appears that the decisions about the child are taken solely by the parent living with the child. And it has become common practice that if the other parent does not agree with infringement of his/her parental rights there is no other way than bringing a claim to court.  

How are disputable issues about children settled?

Such issues may be resolved either by concluding an amicable agreement certified by a notary or in court.  If the other parent breaches your agreement about the child’s upbringing, you can claim that the child lives with you.

What can disputable issues be settled in court?

The most common issues to be considered by the court regarding a child are:

  • access to the child or in what way a parent takes part in the child’s upbringing, place and time of their communication;
  • a place where the child should live;
  • taking the child away from third persons (not parents);
  • termination of parental rights;
  • permission to take the child abroad without getting the other parent’s consent or accompanying;
  • returning the child abroad at his/her permanent residence if he/she was kidnapped by the other parent;
  • taking the child away from the other parent without termination of the latter’s parental rights; 

The key factor that gives an advantage to a parent is the issue of who the child was left to live with after a divorce. If a child lives with a parent for a long time, goes to school, is used to his/her usual situation, it is rather difficult to claim to for a change of the child’s residence. If it happens so that a divorce is unavoidable and the children issue will emerge for sure, it is much advisable to think it over beforehand. 

What is better joint or sole custody of a child?

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