(July 2, 2008) On June 13, 2008, a proposed law amending the Brazilian Civil Code was sanctioned by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, allowing parents to share the custody of their children in cases of separation or divorce. Under the previous legal regime, only unilateral custody of children was allowed. The new law regulates a position that judges were adopting in custody cases to allow parents to share the custody of their children, even though that type of arrangement had not been foreseen in the legislation. Now, judges have the necessary legal tool to grant shared custody whenever possible. It can be requested by both parents or by one of the parents or decreed by the judge.
In shared custody cases, parents have equal responsibilities and rights and duties, and the decisions regarding the child's well-being, such as which school to attend, extra-curricular activities, selection of a pediatrician and dentist, are made by both of them. Visitation now may not be limited to the days established by the judge, as in the past in cases of unilateral custody, when the non-custodial parent had to wait until visiting day to see the child. All relevant matters are to be negotiated, with the judge having the child's best interest in mind. In addition, in cases of disrespect of the shared custody arrangement, sanctions may be imposed by the judge. (Lula Sanciona Projeto de Lei da Guarda Compartilhada de Filhos de Pais Separados, O GLOBO (O)NLINE, June 13, 2008, available at http://oglobo.globo.com/pais/mat/2008/06/13/lula_sanciona_projeto_de_lei_da_