These Custody Figures Present Malta’s Courts Are Biased Towards Fathers In A Massive Means
When it comes to custody, fighting in court is often difficult. However, research shows that fathers often get the short end of the stick.
A dissertation from the University of Malta by Kimberly Sammut found that 61% of the randomly selected cases between 2014 and 2018 gave the mother sole custody. Sole custody of fathers, which is linked to joint custody at 19%, and custody of third parties to only 1%.
It is worth noting that in most cases where the mother is declared the sole custody parent, this has been agreed between the two parents without interference from the courts.
And while cases in which the father received sole custody have fluctuated in recent years, the mother remains the preferred parent in court.
Attorney Robert Thake stated that mothers are seen as natural caregivers from the start, but the exercise of residency allocation is often absent.
“While I do not deny that mothers are often the best caregivers, it is generally the result of factual circumstances brought about by parents’ decisions during their relationship rather than a natural predisposition,” Thake told Lovin Malta.
While more women have entered the labor market in recent years, traditional gender roles are still ripe in Malta.
A report on gender equality published by the European Institute for Gender Equality in 2018 found that women in most EU countries still assume most of the responsibility at home, while women in Malta are overwhelmingly more involved in day-to-day care such as childcare and cooking and tend to do housework (85%) than men.
The work found a number of factors that explain why mothers were given more custody in court.
In cases where the child lives with his mother for the duration of the case, the courts are generally reluctant to change their living environment, even if the father applies for joint custody, arguing that it is not in the child’s best interests to do so.
This means that the child’s interest could be at the expense of the father’s custody rights.
In addition, in cases where it takes significant time to reach a final decision, fathers’ rights may be more compromised, with the result that children come of age before the process is completed.
“If the child’s interests lie with the mother and the father only receives sole custody when the mother is completely unfit or absent, there can be no doubt that the father is very prejudiced,” the work says.
The father who has been deprived of custody often loses his right to continue living in his marital home because removing the child would be against the best interests of the child.
In addition, the father is not exempted from the expectation of maintenance payments whether or not he is granted custody rights, which suggests that they are merely financial services providers.
And while it is true that courts sometimes encroach on parents’ rights, it is believed that such encroachment is the only way to protect the child’s best interests.
“What is worrying is the assumption that the fathers involved in custody battles can be deprived of the basic rights of their parents just to make the child’s life more bearable,” says the thesis, adding that the subject of child protection is not the other way around should be taken.
A growing number of parents are being forced to stay away from their children in Malta.
Last week, Lovin Malta reported on Kyle Borg, a 21-year-old father who is currently battling for the rights of his two-year-old son Hayes and taking care of the ordering and upkeep of third party debtors as he lives from paycheck to paycheck. His child was secretly taken away from his mother and taken to Scotland.
Anthony Cauchi of Happy Parenting Malta NGO for Happier Children regularly raises concerns about fathers who have severely restricted access to their children. The group even launched a Christmas campaign to raise awareness.
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