Father wins custody of baby because mother lives in 'backwards' rural area 'miles from anywhere'

·3-min read
The judge argued that the child would be happier in the city than in the countryside - Jochen Schlenker /Robert Harding World Imagery
The judge argued that the child would be happier in the city than in the countryside - Jochen Schlenker /Robert Harding World Imagery

A mother in Spain has lost custody of a one-year-old boy because she lived in a small village in the “backwards” rural region of Galicia, where he could not possibly “grow up happy”, it emerged in a ruling made public on Monday.

Judge María Belén Ureña instead ruled in favour of the father because he is based in a city, despite the fact that he works full-time and lives on the other side of the country.

In what was described by the woman’s lawyer as an “insulting” description of the western Galicia area, Ms Ureña said the village of Torea was in “backwards” Galicia, “miles from anywhere” and lacked “sufficient options for the adequate development of the child’s personality so that he would grow up happy”.

Marbella, where the father lived and worked as a doctor, had a good hospital and a range of schools, which the judge argued was more important.

Lawyer Claudia Traba said that the ruling was unfair on her client, a 30-year-old unemployed mother who had been left “a wreck” after handing her son over.

“I’ve never known a case like it,” Ms Traba told the newspaper La Vanguardia.

The mother was appealing and had lodged a complaint against Judge Ureña for failing to be “impartial” in the case, she added.

Judge criticised over prejudices

While the village of Torea has almost no facilities and only 300 inhabitants, it is just a 15-minute drive away from the coastal town of Muros, which has a school, library and health centre.

Politicians from the Galicia region have expressed their anger at the judge’s “prejudice”.

“It’s very hard that a woman should have the custody over her child put in doubt, and even more so when the arguments are based on the prejudices of a judge who thinks that growing up in a rural environment is restrictive and even negative,” said Ana Pontón, of the BNG Galician nationalist party.

The couple reportedly met in Madrid before deciding to move to Marbella for his work.

After their child was born in August 2020, however, the relationship soured and the mother moved back to her native Galicia without legally separating from the child’s father.

In her ruling, Ms Ureña criticised the mother for this “unilateral” move, stating that the father had offered to agree to shared custody and to provide for the woman’s accommodation in Marbella.

The ruling is unusual in not granting custody to the parent who has more time available to look after the child, but the judge said it was sexist to assume a woman has “special qualities or abilities to provide better care”.

The mother must also pay 150 euros in monthly child maintenance and will only be able to visit her son every other weekend in Marbella, some 700 miles away.

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