For over ten years already citizens of Estonia have been having a possibility of exercising the right of free movement in Europe and choose the most suitable place to live and work. This has certainly brought along positive effects, however there are problems as well. When moving from one country to another without taking into consideration the child protection aspects in the country of new residence, a family can have a different interpretation of matters of welfare of their children. At the same time children have the right to be protected against any abuse, abuse and neglect. Furthermore, the children have the right to be protected against separation from their families, unless it competent authorities decide that such separation is unavoidable and is in the best interests of the child. Every child has the right to safety and care. In complex situations children need unconditional protection and their families and persons close to them need appropriate counselling. Cross-border child protection work involves cases where a child in need or one of the parents comes from, has resided or is still residing in another country.
A cross-border child protection case (hereinafter Case) is managed by the child protection worker of the child’s habitual residence. The child’s habitual residence and the registered place of residence of the family do not necessarily coincide, and therefore information about a cross-border case is also needed by the local municipality (including in another country) of the registered place of residence of the child or the child’s parent(s). The country that requests information about the child or the family generally arranges translation.
What information may I ask from and must provide to a child protection worker of another country?
NB! Estonian personal ID codes and digital signatures are not effective outside Estonia!
Custody matters in case of divorced parents
Parents who have decided to part ways often have many disagreements, but these disagreements must not prevent children from having a relationship with both parents. According to § 143 (1) of the Family Law Act a child has the right to maintain personal contact with both parents. Both parents have the obligation and right to maintain personal contact with their child. Subsection (2) of the same section stipulates that a parent shall refrain from any action which is harmful to the relationship between the child and the other parent or which hinders raising of the child. The same provision applies if a child is cared for and raised by another person.
Parents have four options in terms of the procedure of access to the child on which they can agree
Free legal assistance
It is also possible to consult an attorney to find out legal aspects of the matter: what rights does each of the parties have www.juristideliit.ee. If there is evidence that the other parent wishes to abduct and take the child to another country, the parent can file an application to a court of law seeking provisional legal protection and free legal aid at www.kohus.ee. If the parents share the right of custody, then a written consent formulated as an application would be sufficient for the child to leave the country.
In Estonia cross-border cases are handled by a child protection worker who is working in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Social Insurance Board and the consul of the state where the child is staying.
Cross-border cases with children, in which Estonia could be involved, include
a) by social workers of another country
b) by the other parent
Matters of international child abduction fall under the purview of the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction sighed on 25.10.1980 in The Hague (i.e. the Child Abduction Convention). Estonia acceded to the convention on 01.07.2001. The key objectives of the Convention is to put the interest of children first in child custody matters, protecting children at the international level against hazardous impacts caused by them being taken and held unlawfully, as well as creating harmonised rules to ensure their immediate return to the country of their habitual residence and securing rights of visitation of children. Other significant legislation includes the Brussels II bis Regulation (2201/2003) and the 1996 Hague Convention, which both contain provisions governing placement and measures for the protection of children, as well as cooperation between authorities.