Women and Justice: Keywords


Código de la Familia (Family Code - Law No. 1289 of February 14, 1975) (1994)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Property and inheritance rights

Divorce in Cuba results in the dissolution of matrimonial ties and all other effects described in Article 49 of the Family Code. Pursuant to Article 50, divorce can be obtained by judicial decree or notarial deed. Prior to the enactment of the Second Final Disposition of Law No. 154 (“Law No. 154”), divorce in Cuba could only be obtained by means of judicial decree. However, Law No. 154 liberalized the means to obtain a divorce by allowing divorce to be effected by notarial deed. Divorce can be achieved by the mutual agreement of the spouses or when the tribunal confirms that the specific circumstances make divorce in the best interest of the spouses and the children and, as a result, for society. The law considers that a marriage has “lost sense”   for the spouses and their children and, hence, for society as a whole, when there are causes that create a situation in which, objectively, marriage is no longer, or cannot in the future be, the union of a man and a woman which allows them to exercise the rights, satisfy the obligations and achieve the objectives mentioned in Articles 24 through 28 (inclusive) of the Family Code. The law makes clear that each of the parties can exercise the option of divorce at any time during which the motivating cause exists. If the spouses have lived together for more than one year or had children during the marriage, the tribunal will award alimony to one of them in the following cases: (1) to the spouse that does not have a paying job and lacks other means of sustenance (this type of alimony is provisional and will be payable by the other spouse for six months if there are no minor children being taken care of by the receiving spouse or for one year if there are such minor children, so that the receiving spouse can obtain a paying job); and (2) to a spouse which as a result of incapacity, age, illness or other insurmountable impediment is unable to work and lacks other means of substance. In this case, the alimony will continue as long as the obstacle persists.

El divorcio en Cuba resulta en la disolución de los lazos matrimoniales y todos los demás efectos descritos en el Artículo 49 del Código de la Familia. En conformidad con el Artículo 50, el divorcio se puede obtener por decreto judicial o escritura notarial. Antes de la promulgación de la Segunda Disposición Final de la Ley No. 154 ("Ley No. 154"), el divorcio en Cuba solo podía obtenerse mediante un decreto judicial. Sin embargo, la Ley No. 154 liberalizó los medios para obtener un divorcio al permitir que se efectúe mediante escritura notarial. El divorcio puede lograrse mediante el acuerdo mutuo de los cónyuges o cuando el tribunal confirma que las circunstancias específicas hacen que el divorcio sea en el mejor interés de los cónyuges y los hijos y, como resultado, para la sociedad. La Ley considera que un matrimonio ha "perdido el sentido" para los cónyuges y sus hijos y, por lo tanto, para la sociedad en su conjunto, cuando hay causas que crean una situación en la que, objetivamente, el matrimonio ya no es, o no puede ser, en el futuro. La unión de un hombre y una mujer les permite ejercer los derechos, cumplir con las obligaciones y lograr los objetivos mencionados en los Artículos 24 a 28 (inclusive) del Código de la Familia. La ley deja claro que cada una de las partes puede ejercer la opción de divorcio en cualquier momento durante el cual exista la causa motivadora. Si los cónyuges han vivido juntos durante más de un año o han tenido hijos durante el matrimonio, el tribunal otorgará la pensión alimenticia a uno de ellos en los siguientes casos: (1) al cónyuge que no tiene un trabajo remunerado y carece de otros medios de sustentarse (este tipo de pensión alimenticia es provisional y será pagadero por el otro cónyuge durante seis meses si el cónyuge que recibe no cuida a los niños menores de edad o por un año si hay tales hijos menores, para que el cónyuge que los recibe pueda obtener un trabajo remunerado); y (2) a un cónyuge que, como resultado de una incapacidad, edad, enfermedad u otro impedimento insuperable, no pueda trabajar y carezca de otros medios de sustancia. En este caso, la pensión alimenticia continuará mientras persista el obstáculo.

Married Persons (Protection) Act (2000)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Domestic and intimate partner violence, Sexual violence and rape

Under the Married Person (Protection) Act, a married woman can apply for an order that she is not “bound to cohabit with her husband,” for legal custody of children under the age 16, and for maintenance.  A married woman’s application for one of these orders must include either a husband’s assault on her of requisite seriousness, desertion, cruelty, willful neglect to provide maintenance, the husband is a “habitual drunkard,” the husband had a venereal disease and insisted on sex, the husband compelled her to prostitution, or adultery.  The same orders are available to a husband, but on more limited grounds: the wife is a “habitual drunkard,” cruelty, adultery, or desertion.  The Supreme Court may still make an order for the judicial separation of a husband and wife and for the payment of alimony, which is separate from the legal options available under this Act.

Families and Children Act (2000)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage

The Families and Children Act governs the rights of a child, legal capacity and disabilities of children, guardianship and custody of children, status of children, support of children by government, maintenance rights and duties of members of the family as between themselves, maintenance of persons in public institutions, maintenance during divorce, separation or nullity, parentage of children, care and protection of children, foster-care, approved children homes, adoption, and the establishment of the National Committee for Families and Children.

Domestic Case Law

Roe v. Patton United States District Court for the District of Utah (2015)

Gender discrimination

Plaintiffs Kami and Angie Roe sued the Executive Director of the Utah Department of Health in his official capacity and sought a preliminary injunction seeking a court order to enjoin the defendants from applying sections of the Utah Uniform Parentage Act differently to male and female spouses of women who become pregnant via sperm donation. The provisions of the Utah statute provide that a married man can become the legal parent to a child conceived by his wife through sperm donation by filing mutual consent in writing, but defendants have declined to apply this same rule to a married woman in respect to her wife. Instead, they have required that she undergo a step-parent adoption process. The court balanced the failure of defendants to provide a rational basis for the unequal treatment with the fact that the plaintiffs and similarly situated wives would suffer irreparable harm if the injunction to compel the defendants to equally apply the statute was not granted. As such, the court granted the preliminary injunction.

Gonzalez v. Munoz California Court of Appeal (2007)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

Maria Elena Gonzalez (“Gonzalez”) filed for a temporary restraining order against her former partner, Maurelio Francisco Munoz (“Munoz”). She complained that Munoz violently attacked her on numerous occasions including burning her with hot grease, choking and beating her, and abusing her three-year-old daughter Flor. The trial court granted a temporary ex-parte restraining order to keep Munoz from Gonzalez and Flor. The court also issued personal conduct and stay-away orders, and granted physical and legal custody of Flor to Gonzalez with no visitation rights for Munoz. At a subsequent hearing regarding the orders, Gonzalez and Munoz both appeared without counsel and spoke through an interpreter. At the beginning of the hearing, the court told the parties it would make some “temporary orders under certain circumstances regarding custody and visitation” but could not make a paternity judgment. The court advised Gonzalez and Munoz that they would need to file a separate paternity suit to resolve issues related to custody and visitation of Flor. Munoz indicated he was not Flor’s parent but requested “reasonable visitation” on weekends. The court issued a restraining order that excluded Flor and extended for one year the portion of the prior restraining order that kept Munoz away from Gonzalez. But it did not address custody or visitation. Gonzalez then asked the court about child support, an indication she did not understand the discussion about a separate paternity proceeding. In a subsequent hearing a judge granted Munoz weekly supervised visits with Flor despite the abuse allegations. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court and found it erred and violated Section 6340 of the California’s Domestic Violence Prevention Act (the “Act”) when it failed to issue permanent custody of Flor to Gonzalez. The Act directs the court when applying the Act to “consider whether failure to make any of these orders may jeopardize the safety of the petitioner and the children for whom the custody or visitation orders are sought.” The Court of Appeal noted that, given Flor’s potential exposure to violence from Munoz, the trial court was charged with eliciting evidence about Flor’s parentage and whether the earlier custody and visitation orders needed to be modified or extended to “ensure the mutual safety of Gonzalez and Flor.” Also, because Munoz failed to show or to claim a parent-child relationship with Flor, the trial court should have extended the restraining order to cover Flor and entered the permanent custody order Gonzalez requested. The Court of Appeal admonished bench officers to play a “far more active role in developing the facts,” even at the expense of a particular court’s procedures, to avoid the high potential for danger to the Act’s target population—“largely unrepresented women and their minor children.” It noted the “special burden” on bench officers who “cannot rely on the propria persona litigants to know each of the procedural steps, to raise objections, and to otherwise protect their due process rights.”

Castle Rock v. Gonzales Supreme Court of the United States (2005)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Domestic and intimate partner violence

The Court held that a policeman could not be sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for failing to enforce a restraining order. Jessica Gonzales was granted a restraining order against her husband during their divorce proceedings. In violation of the restraining order, Gonzales's husband took her three children, and despite repeated efforts by Jessica to have the order enforced, the police took no action. During this time, Gonzales's husband killed the couple's three children. The Court reasoned that because Colorado law did not make enforcement of a restraining order mandatory, there was no individual right to its enforcement. This case was admitted before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (as Gonzales v. United States) and is awaiting a decision on the merits.

J.Y. Interpretation No.365 (1994)

Gender discrimination

Article 1089 of the Civil Code, which stipulates that in situations of parental disagreement in exercising parental rights over a minor, the father has the right of final decision, is in violation of both Article 7 of the Constitution (stating that both sexes are equal under the law) and Article 9 of the Amendment (eliminating sexual discrimination).  Therefore, Article 1089 should be examined and amended.  The current Article is void within two years of this interpretation.

2002 (A) No. 805 Supreme Court of Japan (2003)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

The defendant husband of Dutch nationality, married but separated from his Japanese wife, forcibly took his two-year-old daughter away from her mother, with the purpose of taking her away to the Netherlands.  The court held that the defendant kidnapped his daughter in a "malicious manner" when he pulled her by the legs, hanged her upside down and wedged her between his arm and waist, a criminal offense of kidnapping for the purpose of transporting the kidnapped person to a foreign country, under Article 226(1) of the Penal Code.   

2004 (A) No. 2199 Supreme Court of Japan (2005)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

The defendant husband, who had joint parental authority with his wife, forcibly took his son away from his mother.  The court held that the defendant's act constituted kidnapping, as there were no special circumstances which made the defendant's actions necessary, and the act was "violent and coercive."  In addition, the court found that the act of kidnapping the child could not be justified even though the defendant had parental authority.

International Case Law

Atala Riffo and Daughters v. Chile Inter-American Court of Human Rights (2010)

Gender discrimination

Karen Atala Riffo, a judge in Chile, and her husband separated in 2002 and agreed that she would retain custody of their three daughters. After a few years, Ms. Atala began to live with her female partner. In response, her husband filed for custody claiming that the mother’s homosexuality was detrimental to the children. The lower court confirmed the grant of custody to the mother, finding that there was no evidence that homosexuality was pathological conduct that would make Ms. Atala unfit as a mother. On appeal, however, the Supreme Court of Chile granted custody to the father, on the basis that the mother’s sexuality would cause irreversible harm to the children’s development. Ms. Atala took the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (“IACHR”), marking the first time that the IACHR heard a case related to LGBT rights. The IACHR held that sexual orientation is a suspect class and that the Chilean courts had discriminated against Atala in the custody case in violation of the American Convention’s right to equality and non-discrimination. In 2012, the court ordered Chile to pay Atala USD $50,000 in damages and $12,000 in court costs. The Chilean government agreed to abide by the IACHR’s ruling.