Spain has a very dysfunctional way of dealing with gender violence, and especially in protecting children from abusive environments. A recent story in El Pais showed that 97% of men with protection orders against them still visit their children. Since 2008, 20 children have been killed during these visits.
From seeing someone go through the court system here in Sant Cugat (everything goes through the court in Rubi, which is pretty bad), here are some of the things that shocked me:
The speedy trial:
- If you call the police while you are being abused, they will take away the abuser and put in him jail pending a hearing which happens within a couple days.
- This hearing IS THE TRIAL, so if you don’t have your shit together and can present a coherent case with evidence, etc, it can be difficult to even get a protection order. There isn’t really a chance to work with a lawyer, collect evidence, get translations, etc.
- If you believe you were treated unfairly, you can appeal, but it will probably take years to get anywhere.
- Basically if you are in an abusive relationship, but haven’t got the courage to call the police yet, you should at least be talking to a lawyer to prepare a case so that when you do finally make the call to 112, you won’t lose your chance to make a case.
- Expect your ex to lie outrageously. Remember that there is no penalty for lying in court if you are the defendant.
- Be very careful of how you answer questions like, since it can mean the difference between shared or exclusive custody later on:
- “Is your partner a good father?”
- If you say yes, this will be held against you. The correct answer is: “No. A good father does not hit his wife”
- “Does he hit the children?”
- Again, if you say no, this will be held against you. The correct answer is: “He has a tendency for violence. I don’t know how he acts when he is alone with the children.”
- “Is your partner a good father?”
- Expect your partner to take your kids and try to use them as a negotiating ploy. If there is no court ordered custody agreement, your partner keep the kids as long as he likes as long as he tells you where they are.
- Witnesses may be afraid to testify: there should be a provision for the identity of witnesses to be protected, but as far as I know there isn’t.
- Audio recordings: even if you have a recordings of your partner yelling or threatening you, it is difficult to get these admitted in court.
- Medical evidence: there isn’t a standard way for the court to get a doctor to testify as to the nature of any wounds etc. Good luck finding someone in the short amount of time you have before your speedy trial.
Criminal vs civil tracks
- There are two completely separate “tracks” that your case can take, criminal (try to send your ex to jail) or civil (getting a divorce/custody hearing).
- Unless you are pursuing the criminal route, you can’t present evidence of criminal behavior in the civil route.
- Neither can the criminal route determine your divorce settlement.
Leaving the country
- If the kids have a passport, put it in a safe place.
- Almost all countries (with a couple exceptions like Japan and Cuba) will immediately force your kids to go back to Spain (with or without whoever took them) with barely a judicial hearing.
- Your partner can file criminal child kidnapping charges against you and/or gain full custody of the kids while you are gone.
- Fundamentally you don’t gain anything by doing this, and it will be held against you.