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Isabel Winkels, family lawyer: “Poor custody affects the development of the minor”

Isabel Winkels (Madrid, 1964), is a lawyer specialized in family law. 10 years ago she founded the Family section at the ICAM (Illustrious Bar Association of Madrid). Later, she formed the Family and Law Platform with another group of judges, lawyers and friends, whose objective is to achieve the specialization of all Family Courts. The largest type of judicial procedure in Spain is Family.

With a German father and Spanish mother, Isabel Winkels is quick as lightning. She knows how to combine her passion for Family Law and the lawyer’s caution. She works very hard and continues studying to stay up to date in an increasingly complex field. She receives me in her office at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

In 2021, there were 12.5% ​​more divorces (86,851) than in 2020. Joint custody increased slightly to 43.1%. In 53.1% of the cases it was awarded to the mother. How do you interpret this data?

I think there is beginning to be awareness, although it is still not enough. The truth is that the Supreme Court is one of the main equalizers in matters of co-responsibility and co-parenting between men and women, contradicting the civil code itself.

The TS says that whoever wants shared custody has to prove prior involvement, because custody must be based on the well-being of the children. And this is how it is demonstrated: maintaining past criteria for the future.

Young couples often come to me and want to know, intelligently, how this is regulated. 56% of couples go into crisis. I tell him: from minute one, get your act together. If you have to take him to the doctor or ask for sick leave because the child is sick, you take turns. In the same way, you take turns with tutoring, activities… When there is that co-responsibility, there is no woman who opposes shared custody.

She is a founding partner and secretary of the Family and Law Platform. She is currently collecting signatures to promote and create the specialization of Family Courts throughout the national territory. Why are there so few specialized courts?

I really don’t know, because there are formulas so that all citizens can have access to a judge specialized in Family matters. The thing is that, de facto, we have first and second class citizens.

First, those who live, for example, in the capital of Madrid, where there are 14 specialized family courts, with an assigned prosecutor who is present at all hearings and with an assigned technical team made up of a psychologist and a social worker. The average resolution of contentious conflicts is between 6 and 8 months.

But if you live in Majadahonda, you have a mixed court where the judge, in addition to settling the measures inherent to your breakup, raises the body of a traffic accident, a robbery with force, an eviction due to non-payment, medical negligence…

“Family matters are increasingly complex. There are different types of families, surrogacy… Many international issues”

During the Covid confinement there was a diversity of judicial criteria regarding the custody of minors. Is this normal? Does it happen in other countries?

In other surrounding countries they are specialized. I imagine they did have an agreement. Here many courts did not meet and did not adopt any criteria. Among those who did – we on the platform did specific studies of what the majority criteria were – there was a diversity of criteria.

If you lived here, it was understood that, with shared custody, you could skip confinement to exchange the children. But other courts interpreted it not. If it was a visitation regime, some admitted the transfer of minors for weekend visits, but they eliminated the visit during the week because it was too risky. Others everything. Each one interpreted the regulations in a different way.

There are recurring complaints that judges do not read the reports in a divorce or separation trial and that the resolution is left to chance.

In specialized family courts, judges normally enter the courtroom with the reports read or studied. In a mixed court there is an absolute lack of time. Before the hearing, the judge was able to have a guard of detainees. If they also have gender violence competencies, I won’t even tell you.

Family matters are increasingly complex. There are different types of families, surrogacy… Many international issues – such as international adoptions and abductions – are increasingly common. All of this has a mechanic. You know it and you solve it quickly, or you run the risk of having resolutions that are real nonsense.

Lawyer Isabel Winkels.

She is also specialized in international Family Law. What prevails between the different legislations?

In the Western environment, the stability of the minor is protected; generally, depending on your place of residence.

For example, in the case of Shakira and Piqué?

As far as I know, there is no lawsuit. They have been trying to reach an agreement since before the summer. It is a very complicated case. Shakira voluntarily came to Spain and had her children here. Now that the relationship has broken down she wants to return to Miami. There is her life and she wants to resume her professional career that she relegated, in part, to dedicate herself to her children. But she wants to go with them. He, who has continued playing football, says: no, the children were born here and I want them to stay in Barcelona.

If they do not agree, it is up to the judge to decide. Tests with the famous technical team: psychologist and social worker. They have to talk to the children and see what connection they have with the mother and father. What is going to be best for those children? Go with the mother and separate from her father or stay here and separate from the mother.

It is a lot of responsibility for a judge…

There are frankly complex cases in which you would not like to be in their place. In a case like this and in the majority, both are partially right and both have their right to request what they request. How do you solve that? As a family we usually say that there is no winner and no loser, but in this case yes.

“If we had good procedures, gender violence would decrease”

What can be done when one parent manipulates the children against the other?

It’s very difficult. There, the courts, with the psychosocial team that cares for the child, have the ability – with warning – to make a change of custody, because the priority is to preserve the child from manipulation… It is not easy.

Plus, you end up encountering child bombs. That one parent against the other, the other against the one… And do you often know in the end what happens? That neither of them ends up wanting custody of him, because they have managed to turn him into a spoiled, hateful, impertinent, insulting child… In the end, the child explodes, starts making trouble at school…

He competes in the ICAM (Illustrious Bar Association of Madrid) elections. Is the precariousness of new lawyers worrying?

One of the axes of our candidacy is absolute support for young people. They don’t have it easy. Give them legal security when they start their jobs, help and promote them, above all, with training because legislation is increasingly complex and jurisprudence is nuanced.

We are a candidacy that represents security, solvency and continuity. We want a College for all lawyers in which equality, conciliation and defense of professionals and, of course, support for young people prevail.

Did you always have a vocation for family law?

No. When I finished my degree, I was lucky enough to enter a firm with some magnificent lawyers who trained me. It was civil law in general. I was there for 7 years and then I decided to start out on my own.

A friend of mine had a very complicated family problem against one of the great family law attorneys, Concha Sierra. She asked me to take it to her. I didn’t want to because she didn’t specialize in family. Another lawyer took him. And, when she showed me the order of provisional measures that she couldn’t have gotten worse, she suggested she try it. We literally turned the tables. That got me hooked and I started studying Family. At that moment I recognized that I was passionate about her and I got really into it.

There are about 90,000 divorces or separations a year, plus all the cases that appeal…

The largest type of judicial procedure is the family procedure. It is the one that affects citizens the most and is often resolved without specialists. If we had good procedures, gender violence would decrease. When do we reach moments of aggression within families? When the procedures become chronic with resolutions that are not peaceful and very prolonged in time.

Another point of our program is to continue promoting specialization, trying to influence the necessary legislative reforms so that this is finally contemplated by the legislator. Furthermore, they committed to it.

Is there a collapse of the courts?

Yes, fat. In some sectors more than others. At work it is tremendous. And with family too. In Madrid they are more agile, but in the non-specialized courts the perfect collapse ends up occurring and the family is bogged down.

What are your greatest satisfactions?

Note that Family Law is increasingly taken more seriously. Even lawyers who do not deal with Family go to specialists because they are aware that they are playing with sensitive material, such as minors.

What are the biggest frustrations?

That continues without taking into account the complexity. Just as lawyers are increasingly aware of this, many judges still are not. You need to specialize.

Bad custody affects the development of the child who, sometimes, ends up becoming a child bomb, or whose parents end up requesting restraining orders for their children. Not always, but in many cases it is due to poorly adopted resolutions and endless family procedures. We all have those records where you almost watch the kids grow up. A horror.

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