Judge Guenoveva Ilieva has been conducting civil trials at the Regional Court of Varna for nine years. These include litigation cases concerning parental rights, restriction and privation of these rights and protective measures for children victims of various forms of violence, in accordance with the law on the protection of children.
In February, she was invited by the team of the «Hedgehogs» Social Rehabilitation and Integration Centre in Sofia. This is one of the nine social service centres for children and families run by the association «Child and Space». The psychologists working there are part of the association’s therapeutic team whose work is oriented by Lacanian psychoanalysis. Over the last three years, more and more parents in the process of separation refer to the Centre. These parents are accused by their children for alienation, domestic violence, or unilateral decisions. Judge Ilieva says that for these people the fact of their being parents throws them in despair.
She has accepted to answer our questions on the topic of Pipol 10.
Question: Judge Ilieva, the topic of Pipol 10 is «Wanting a Child? Desire for Family and Clinic of Filiations». What can you share on this subject, based on your practice?
Answer: What I observe in my work is the following – only one parent has the desire for a child. Like this mother, for instance, who wants to be a single parent, without a partner. Her idea is that her child does not need a father.
Question: Why does such a case come to court, that is to you?
Answer: The reason why this case must be referred to court is the desire of one parent to deprive the other parent of his parental rights. During the trial, it was established that there was no emotional connection (bond) between the man and the woman prior to the birth of the child, that there was no shared desire for a child, the child being born from a fleeting sexual contact between the two. The absence of a real bond between these two persons, who did not have the chance to get to know each other, is the reason why they cannot regulate the schedule of contacts or agree on how to raise the child, or, if I have to use modern terminology, they cannot be parents together.
Question: What was your ruling in this case?
Answer: The ruling was that the mother’s request to deprive the father of his paternal rights was rejected. The reason being that the father had assumed the necessary responsibilities regarding the child – firstly, by acknowledging it and by giving it his family name and during the first months of the child’s life, he had actively participated in its upbringing. The subsequent rupture regarding the father and child contacts is the result of the inability of the child’s mother and father to settle these important issues, because they have no words to talk about them.
Question: Can it be said that, in this case, the court’s function was, to some extent, to give words to this woman and this man in order to open up a dialogue and a mutual understanding concerning the upbringing of their child?
Answer: Yes, certainly. And the argument for this is that, in this case, the best interests of the child impose and oblige to regulate the relationship between the child’s father and mother. In my ruling, I wrote that they «should implement those decisions immediately». That is to say, to regulate the relations between them, and not to come up with a request to deprive the father of his paternal rights.
Question: What are your observations on modern forms of family and filiations?
Answer: In my practice, I observe cases in which people from the parents family circle – grandparents – take over the functions of mother and father, in the absence of any objective or subjective obstacles being established for the mother and father as to their parenthood.
Question: Do you mean that despite the fact that the mother and father are alive and look after their children, the grandparents want to take over their functions?
Answer: Let me illustrate it with the following example. A man and a woman who have two children separate when the latter are very young. For ten years, the mother has been exercising her parental rights, based on a general parental consent, and the father is in contact with them without any hindrance, especially when he is in Bulgaria. After the father’s definitive return to Bulgaria, he decided to keep the children with him, without the knowledge and the consent of the mother. He accuses her of emotional violence against their children. The mother had started a new family after their separation, she lives with a new partner with whom she has a third child, while the father remained single. Throughout the legal proceedings, it was established that the accusations against the mother were based on claims of the paternal grandmother, who interpreted the words of the adolescent children in her own way. It is clear that this grandmother wanted to be a parent with her son. This father had blindly trusted his own mother’s interpretation of the two children’s words (her grandchildren).
In these serious parental conflicts in which the parents find themselves, they are in fact incapable to work out their relations after their separation and use the court and all the other institutions which are called upon to protect the interests of their children, by trying to relay to them the responsibility, not only for the children, but also for the failures of their encounter and their partnership.
The paradox is that after having resolved these cases thanks to the intervention of the court, the parents continued to disobey both the law and judicial act.
Question: How do you explain that?
Answer: My explanation for these results is that in fact it is more about the parents who fight between them, which has nothing to do with the children. These are battles between a man and a woman, not between a mother and a father. In my practice, I have witnessed a number of cases in which man and woman were not good partners for each other, but each of them was able to be a successful parent.
Question: Why did you agree to share your experience with the «Hedgehogs» Social Rehabilitation and Integration Centre?
Answer: I accepted this invitation because I was very keen to share my observations of my encounters with parents and children who find themselves in an impasse, as well as to listen to the point of view of professionals who, like me, try to establish a conversation between the two parents and between parents and children, yet using words different from mine.
We share the same task – to protect the life and health of children by respecting their best interests – but we see things from a different perspective.
The other reason why I accepted the invitation from «Hedgehogs», lies in my desire to establish the foundation of a dialogue between us, which is something missing from everybody’s work – we will not meet, nor talk to each other.
Translation: Adeena Mey
Revision: Polina Agapaki
Photography: © Laporte Françoise – https://www.francoiselaporte.com/