Judicial regulation of child custody in the Czech Republic

Decisions on regulating parents' relationships with their children sometimes must be referred to the courts. Most often, when the parents disagree, it is impossible otherwise. Certain proceedings in matters of the court's custody of minors can be complicated and emotional for parents and children.

The parties to the court proceedings are:

  • Both parents (may be legally represented),
  • The minor child, who is represented by a so-called conflict guardian (sometimes the Office),
  • Other persons concerned (exceptionally).

For the parents, court proceedings can be unpleasant because many strangers will be more interested in their family life and privacy than before (judge, guardian, possibly social worker, family counselor, mediator, expert witness, etc.).

Court proceedings can be initiated at the place of residence of the child and are exempt from court fees. Therefore, representation by a lawyer is not necessary. In addition to a lawyer, you can be assisted free of charge by a child welfare authority (the competent municipal or city authority), guardianship departments of courts, or legal advice centers.

Course and strategy of the court proceedings

In the interests of children, parents, and their legal representatives should not use conflict strategies. They should avoid a situation where one parent leaves court as a loser. If one parent is the loser, then the child always loses.

In most cases, one (or both) of the parents must initiate the court proceedings by filing a petition with the competent court (here, attention to the international jurisdiction of courts in international families).

The petition must specify what the court is to decide on behalf of the parents - custody, access (contact with the parent, at the non-resident parent), child support, the child's residence, or any other relevant matter concerning the child.

The court considers the statements of both parents and the statements of the child's guardian and may request reports from experts or educational establishments. The judge always finds the child's best interests and should ascertain the child's wishes (the judge will meet the child himself or ask a social worker). For more information on children's participation in the proceedings and determining the child's best interests, see here.

Parental responsibility belongs equally to both parents. Each parent has it unless the court has deprived them.

The court decides a judgment that is binding once it has become final.

Suppose the situation in the family is critical, and the child's rights need to be safeguarded without further delay. In that case, the court may rule through an interim measure. Interim measures are often in force until the court finally has them provisionally enforceable, and the court decides on them within a week.

International families and court proceedings

Court proceedings with a cross-border element tend to be more complex than purely Czech proceedings for several reasons:

  • the need to serve court documents abroad,
  • difficult communication with parents in a foreign language,
  • different cultural patterns and expectations of court proceedings, and
  • the application of a law other than Czech law under which the proceedings will be decided.

In addition to factual complications, there may also be legal complications, see below: jurisdiction, legal effects of judgments abroad or from abroad. The Office has tips from its practice on facilitating proceedings before Czech courts and for foreigners. To find out more, contact us.