Avalon Legal Information has replied to this question saying that:

Nobody can decide to take the law into their own hands and obstruct or stop a child’s access towards the other parent. Besides the fact that this is very cruel on the children who, now more than ever, need continuity and contact with both parents, this is also against the law.

The law clearly states that if there is a contract or court decree that orders a custodial parent to grant access to minors, s/he is guilty of an offence if this access is refused without a “just cause” (Art 338(ll) of the Criminal Code).

Image: Facebook / Avalon Legal Information

The law does not specify what is a “just cause”, and it is at the Court’s discretion to see whether a reason can be considered as “just” or not. Normally, medical reasons (i.e. illness, covered by a medical certificate) are considered “just cause”.

No legal notice has been issued that makes Covid-19 a “just cause” to deny access. When the Superintendent of Public Health, Professor Charmaine Gauci, was specifically asked about this situation where access is divided between two parents who do not live in the same household, she mentioned the importance that children maintain contact with both parents, but where possible each parent should limit contact with persons outside their homes, and that any other people who live in the same household do not change.

In cases of denial of access, the parent being denied should lodge a police report EVERY TIME access (as regulated by the contract or court decree) is being denied.

One can also file an urgent application so that the case is heard by the Family Court. Since the courts are currently closed, one first has to request that the Court Registry (where applications are filed) is opened urgently. This request is presented to the Duty Magistrate, who will grant such permission on a case-by-case basis if the application is manifestly urgent.

There is an additional fee of €102 to file this request (to open the Court Registry urgently), but the Family Court is waiving this fee to reduce financial stress on families who may need this service. However, the request to open the Court Registry urgently still has to be made BEFORE the urgent application is filed.

MALTESE VERSION:

COVID-19: NISTA MA NIBGĦATX IT-TIFEL / IT-TIFLA MA’ MISSIERU (JEW MA OMMU) F’DAŻ-ŻMIEN?

Ħadd ma jista jiddeċiedi li jieħu l-liġi b’idejh u jtellef jew iwaqqaf l-aċċess tat-tfal lejn il-ġenitur l-ieħor. Apparti li din hija xi ħaġa krudili ħafna fuq it-tfal, li issa iktar minn qatt qabel għandhom bżonn kontinwita u kuntatt maż-żewġ ġenituri, din hija wkoll kontra l-liġi.

Il-liġi tgħidlek li jekk hemm kuntratt jew digriet li jordna ġenitur jagħti aċċess għat-tfal, huwa ħati bi ksur tal-liġi jekk jirrifjuta dan l-aċċess mingħajr raġuni valida (Art 338(ll) tal-Kodiċi Kriminali). Il-liġi ma tgħidx x’inhi “raġuni valida”, u hija fid-diskrezzjoni tal-Qorti li tara raġuni tistax titqies bħala valida jew le. Ġeneralment, raġunijiet mediċi (jiġifieri mard, b’ċertifikat) jiġu interpretati bħala raġunijiet “validi”.

Ma ħareġ ebda avviż legali li jgħid li l-Covid-19 hija raġuni valida sabiex jiġi mċaħħad l-aċċess. Meta s-Supretendent tas-Saħħa Pubblika, il-Professur Charmaine Gauci, ġiet mistoqsija speċifikament dwar din is-sitwazzjoni ta’ aċċess maqsum bejn żewġ ġenituri li ma jgħixux taħt l-istess saqaf, semmiet l-importanza li t-tfal ikollhom kuntatt mal-ġenituri tagħhom, iżda fejn hu possibli l-ġenituri ta’ kull dar għandhom jillimitaw il-kuntatt ma’ nies oħra barra mid-dar, u li n-nies li jgħixu fid-dar ma jinbidlux.

F’każ li l-aċċess ikun qed jiġi mċaħħad, allura wieħed għandu jagħmel rapport l-għassa KULL DARBA li l-aċċess kif irregolat f’digriet jew kuntratt ikun qed jiġi imċaħħad.

Wieħed jista wkoll jagħmel rikors b’urġenza biex il-każ jinstema quddiem il-Qorti tal-Familja. Peress li l-Qorti bħalissa hija magħluqa, trid l-ewwel issir talba biex jinfetaħ b’urġenza ir-Reġistru tal-Qorti, li trid tiġi ippreżentata quddiem il-Maġistrat tal-Għassa biex jagħti l-permess li jinfetaħ ir-Reġistru jekk il-każ ikun manifestament urġenti. Fil-Qorti prinċipali, hemm spiża addizzjonali ta’ €102 għal din it-talba (biex jinfetaħ ir-Reġistru b’urġenza), iżda l-Qorti tal-Familja se tirrinunzja għal din l-ispiża biex jitnaqqas il-piż fuq familji li jiġu bżonn dan is-servizz. It-talba biex jinfetaħ ir-Reġistru b’urġenza, pero, xorta trid issir QABEL ma jiddaħħal ir-rikors.

Source: Avalon Legal Information