In large part, this is because there’s been no judicial centralisation. So a local first-instance court can be dealing with a mortgage foreclosure one minute and then – the next (and possibly for the first time) – an international child abduction. A lack of funding and experience among judges and lawyers in this specialized field has compounded the problem. The result? Cases lasting many months, courts erroneously making welfare-based decisions, and appeals taking a year to resolve.
But now Spain is raising its game. With effect from this month, abduction cases will be channeled through regional family courts, and an overall six-week rule will be imposed (for first-instance and any appeal together). It remains to be seen whether the priority assigned to such cases materializes in practice, but even ahead of these changes coming into force we’ve noticed an increased velocity at the appeal level.
Divorce is having a makeover too, although unlike the abduction changes these aren’t coming into force just yet. So, with effect from July 2017, instead of consensual divorces not involving children clogging the court system, couples will be able to agree to divorce before Spanish notaries (thereby helping plug the hole in notarial turnover caused by the decimation of property transactions).