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The changing role of fathers affects Hungarian Court practise

Fifty years ago fathers and mothers had strict roles that they played in family life. They had clear tasks and responsibilities, like mother’s primary duties were the household and the children, while fathers were to be the breadwinner and they had the responsibility for paying the monthly bills. Their sole rule around children limited to disciplining.

According to several studies, the roles of parents has changed in the last 50 years,  and they report about the “new father”.  He invests more time, taking active and involved role in childcare. There are less and less “mom things” and “dad things” to do, the gap in gendered tasks and duties are smaller today, than in the past. I think without any study, we all experience that, it is the undeniable reality in Hungary too.

No surprise, all countries in the western cultural area realized, that substantial political change is needed to facilitate dads becoming more involved in childcare, so they had modified their Family Codes. These modifications in the 2000s provided joint legal custody to dads after separation – it means they had the same right and obligations as mothers’. Moreover last year in 2020, a new European Parliament FEMM committee recommendation came into lite:  joint physical custody should be the new basic rule, because kids has the  „right to equal care and upbringing by both parents.” It means that children should spent the same amount of time with both of their parents after separation.

Hungary lags far behind the other countries of EU. There is no joint legal custody after separation, the court shall decide only one parent can have the right of custody. And weekly altering visitation is against the precedent decision of Kúria – highest court - made in 2020 June.

Despite all obstacles, some of Hungarian judges realized the increased need for accepting the fathers’ more and more relevant parental role. This can’t be sweep under the carpet anymore. It is a fact, that Hungarian fathers spend almost as much time with their kids, as the mothers who has a job. After separation, these fathers can’t be forced out of their parental rights, and their possibility to spend as much time with their children as they did before. 

There is no official statistic – no wonder – but acting attorneys realized the same tendency as all EU countries’ shows: fathers tend to give up custody fights after a year, but the few, who go through it, 30-40% wins the battle. The statistics, that shows men can win only 15-20% of these court cases are false, because they not distinguish cases resulted in an agreement, where father decides and agrees to waives their custodial rights than to fight on for more years. 

Moreover we got a breakthrough judgement of Fővárosi Törvényszék – second degree court – creating important cornerstone for weekly altering visitation in 2021 March.  They find it in the interest of the children to have weekly altering visitation during the custody battle of their parents. Because of weekly altering as a temporary decision until the final judgement, no parent will have the advantage to spend more time with the kids, they have to show their ability to communicate and cooperate what will be taken into account during the final judgement. 

Even though the family law system does not correspond with the needs of the current family structure of a Hungarian family and parental roles, luckily judges are trying to give us realistic judgements. So do not give up, keep on fighting for the basic rights of our children to live with both parents, and refer to EU recommendations! They mustn’t judge according to the 1950’s legal principles, sole child custody is the past for a very long time!

Dr. Blanka Illés
Attorney at law / Advo Alliance Group

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