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Right of custody

A parent’s right of custody is the parent’s obligation and right to care for their minor child.

The parent’s right of custody includes custody over the person (the right to care for the person of the child), custody over property (the right to care for the property of the child) and the right to decide on matters related to the child. The obligation to provide for the child also lies with the parent without the right of custody (e.g. the court has suspended or restricted a parent’s right of custody, transferred it to another parent or deprived it in full).

Right of custody (2.82 MB, PDF)

Right of custody over a person

Custody over a person is the obligation and right of a caregiver

  • to raise a child;
  • to exercise supervision over him or her and to ascertain the whereabouts of the child;
  • to take care of the general well-being of the child in any other manner;
  • to require surrender of a child from anyone who keeps a child unlawfully against his or her parent’s will;
  • to appoint a third person(s) who can have access to the child.

Custody over property

Custody over property is the obligation and right of a caregiver

  • to administer the property of the child
  • to represent the child in matters regarding property

Granting the right of custody

Parents who are married to each other have joint custody over their child. If the parents of a child are not married to each other at the time of the birth of the child, they have joint right of custody unless they have expressed their wish to leave the right of custody only to one of the parents upon submitting the declarations of intention concerning the acknowledgement of paternity.

Representation of a child

A parent who has the right of custody is the legal representative of a child. Parents who have joint custody have a joint right of representation. A parent may represent their child alone if they have sole custody over the child or the powers of decision in the matter in question have been transferred to the parent by the court.

If making a joint declaration of intention by the parents would cause a delay in conflict with the interests of the child, one parent has the right to enter into necessary transactions and perform necessary acts in the interests of the child alone. In such a case, the other parent must be immediately informed of the acts.

Terminating joint right of custody and transferring the right of custody to one parent

If parents who have joint right of custody live permanently apart or do not wish to exercise the right of joint custody any longer for any other reason, each parent has the right to request from a court in proceedings on petition that the right of custody of the child be partially or fully transferred to him or her. A court may resolve a dispute concerning the right of custody also in the proceedings concerning divorce.

Restricting, modifying and suspending the right of custody

The measures restricting the right of custody are applied by a court. The court applies the relevant restrictions in the interests of the child. The court is entitled to restrict, suspend and fully remove a parent’s right of custody over a child. The judicial procedure of modifying the right of custody is regulated by the Code of Civil Procedure (Section 550. Proceedings in family matters on petition).

Right of access

A child has the right to maintain personal contact with both parents. A parent without the right of custody over a child still has the right of access to the child. A parent’s right of access to a child may only be restricted by a court.

Powers of decision

If parents who have joint right of custody are permanently separated, they can decide on essential matters relating to the child jointly. The parent with whom a child resides has the consent of the other parent, or on the basis of a court decision, has the right to decide on everyday matters (usual care) for the child without consulting the other parent. As a rule, deciding on everyday matters means making the usual decisions that occur often and do not have a permanent effect on the development of the child.

For more information on the right of custody, see the Family Law Act.

Last updated: 14 January 2016