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07 Sep 2020

Family Law: Adoption, Paternity Disputes and Custody Disputes

One of the most primordial and at the same the most sensitive aspect within the area of family law, is the one dealing with children-related matters. The Law is and should at all times aim to protect the interests and wellbeing of children; since they represent the weakest and most certainly innocent, affected party in any kind of family law proceedings. Spanning from child protection in terms of adoption to safeguarding parental communication rights and regulatory provisions with regard to custody and alimony, this family law aspect is an essential part to the preservation of the society, and it is the one dealt with in this news piece. We would like to note at this point that protection from domestic abuse shall not be examined in detail in the present text as it shall be considered in a future piece.


Adoption is defined as the legal creation of an artificial family resembling the relationship between a parent and a child, instead between a child and an adult who is not the biological parent of the child. Adoption is the voluntary assumption of the responsibility to protect, look after and promote the development of a child who is not in the legal care of their biological parents, until adulthood. The creation of the artificial family implicates the creation of rights and responsibilities existing between a parent and a child as if the biological relationship was present. In Cyprus, to date, it is not permitted for single individuals or same-sex partners to legally adopt a child. There can either be inter-country adoption or adoption from another country.

The requirements to fulfill in order to be entitled to adopt, among include but are not limited to (a) that the natural parents or guardians of the child consent to its adoption; (b) that the child be resident of Cyprus during its adoption application submission; (c) at least one of the adoptive parents must be a permanent resident of Cyprus or have been a resident for at least 2 years prior to the submission of the application; and (d) that a research of the adoptive parents and/or family be conducted at the outset of the procedure.

The formal adoption procedure includes a court application; however it entails many other procedural requirements such as filing of documents with the authorities, immigration bureaucracy, issuance of certificates etc, and it can take six to eight months to be concluded.

Paternity Disputes

Where a child has been born within wedlock or 302 days from the dissolution of a marriage, then there exists a presumption of paternity towards the husband of the mother. Such presumption may be challenged filing an application to the family courts, however it may only be done so by the mother, the child or the husband and must only be filed within the following strict timeframes:

  1. the mother within one year of birth of the child or five years if there are good grounds for not proceeding earlier;
  2. the father one year from the date he is informed of the birth and the facts which suggest that his is not the father; and
  3. the child after turning 18.

In case that an application for the challenge of the paternity of a child has succeeded, or in the case that a child has been born out of wedlock, the child comes in the sole care of the mother and no other parent has rights over it until it’s father legally recognizes it, by a joint affidavit in court by the two parents; or through a judgement of the family court. It is worth mentioning that the child may also apply for court order for recognition by their biological father.

Child custody disputes and visitation rights

Upon estrangement of the parents (by a divorce or otherwise), an application can be made to the competent court for child custody proceedings. The Court shall rule on how parental care and custody shall be exercised based on the children’s best interest taking into account the relationships of the child with its parents and siblings, unless the parties have reached an agreement; if the child is mature, the Court will take into consideration their wishes.

Family Courts of Cyprus may issue 3 kinds of orders: a parental care order, a child custody order and a communications order.

It is worth mentioning that Cypriot family law also grants communication rights with the child to the grandparents unless a serious reason exists warranting the opposite.

A court order may be modified or recalled upon an application to court by either parent or the Director of the Social Welfare Services, during which it must be shown that the circumstances were altered from their status upon issuance of the first order.

Visitation rights are established for the non-custodial parent, and may either be agreed upon between the parents or they may be mandated by Court Order. In the case where the court concludes that the parents will not be cooperative, a detailed visitation schedule will accompany the court order, including days/dates and timings, as well as holiday schedules.

Maintenance payments for a child

We should briefly mention, even though we are covering the issue of alimony separately upon examination of the issue of property rights in family law, that articles 6 and 7 in the Relations of Parents and Children Law (216/1990) stipulate that both parents have the responsibility to support children.

The law provides for mandatory child maintenance (article 33(1)), identifying the parents as the jointly responsible for the children's maintenance proportionally to the capability of each parent, up to the age of 18 (i.e. legal age), even if the child has property. After legal age the children themselves need to file an application for maintenance by the parents in the case that maintenance is still deemed necessary (e.g. due to the existence of special circumstances, due to the child serving in the army or attending university, etc).

Should you be interested, you can read a general overview of the family law as well as our experts' analysis on family structures.

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