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Austria[1] [print]

Last edited: November 2005

 

Summary and Analysis

 

Austria ratified the CRC in 1992 and published it in the Federal Law Gazette the following year.[2] When the Committee of the United Nations on the Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child examined Austria's child laws in 1999 it welcomed, inter alia, Austria's efforts to increase protection of children from maltreatment and abuse through the system of children's and adolescents' ombudsmen at the federal and Länder levels. The country currently possesses a developed child protection system that guarantees children the right to be heard, attempts to ensure that children are informed of their rights, and has institutions that serve the needs of children in difficulty. While the country already provided children with many rights and services previously, in 2001 it passed an extensive law (the “Kindschaftsrechts-Änderungsgesetz,” i.e. the Parent and Child Amendment Act) that would ensure the full implementation of the CRC by reinforcing existing provisions and adding new ones.

 

The Austrian system now officially ensures that the child's opinions will be taken into account, corresponding to the child's age and maturity, in all matters that concern the child's life such as the family, school, any other child care, proceedings at court or with authorities, and the formulation of political goals and decisions. Children must also be heard in any court proceedings concerning their care and upbringing. Minors are usually heard by a guardianship court, or the youth welfare authority, a court expert or existing institutions of the Juvenile Court Assistance, or in any other appropriate way if the minor is not yet 10 years of age, if this is required by his development or health, or if a serious or uninfluenced expression of opinion cannot be expected. Children under 10 years of age are to be heard by the child psychologists of the Youth Welfare Office or in some other suitable way. The hearing may be refrained from if the hearing itself or the resulting delay jeopardize the well-being of the child or if, in view of the age and capability of the child to understand the matter on hand, a well-founded opinion cannot be expected. The law does not specify in what form psychologists or other agents should communicate a child's statements to the court or what criteria should be used to determine that no well-founded opinion can be expected from a child. Further, children above the age of 14 have independent capability to act in family courts in proceedings concerning their care, upbringing, or the right to personal contact.

 

The Austrian government has issued and widely distributed a brochure that would inform children of their most basic legal rights and obligations.[3] Children in difficulty also have access to a number of hotlines to assist them. Additionally, local ombudsman offices work to ensure that children's interests are protected in judicial and administrative procedures and that the public is aware of children's welfare and interests through the media and public debate. The ombudsmen are supported in their work by a staff of lawyers, psychologists, psychotherapists, and social workers. These offices directly and in conjunction with NGOs take a role in implementing the CRC. They provide information, give advice, and mediate between children and parents or other professionals with the goal of finding amicable solutions. Children can contact the offices by coming in personally, calling, writing letters, or sending emails. These offices are often mistaken for attorney's offices because of their name “Anwaltschaft” that translates as “the Bar.” While the law does not provide for representation of children in court, sometimes staff members from the ombudsoffices will accompany children in court for the sake of support, but it is more often the case that the offices contact the court by telephone or send statements supporting the child's case to the court.[4]

 

 

Sources of Law (in Order of Authority)

 

Original Text

 

Statutes

 

Kindschaftsrechts-Änderungsgesetz (KindRÄG) 2001[5]

 

§ 144. Die Eltern haben das minderjährige Kind zu pflegen und zu erziehen, sein Vermögen zu verwalten und es in diesen sowie allen anderen Angelegenheiten zu vertreten; Pflege und Erziehung sowie die Vermögensverwaltung umfassen auch die gesetzliche Vertretung in diesen Bereichen. Bei Erfüllung dieser Pflichten und Ausübung dieser Rechte sollen die Eltern einvernehmlich vorgehen.

 

§ 146. (3) Die Eltern haben in Angelegenheiten der Pflege und Erziehung auch auf den Willen des Kindes Bedacht zu nehmen, soweit dem nicht dessen Wohl oder ihre Lebensverhältnisse entgegenstehen. Der Wille des Kindes ist umso maßgeblicher, je mehr es den Grund und die

Bedeutung einer Maßnahme einzusehen und seinen Willen nach dieser Einsicht zu bestimmen vermag.

 

§ 182a. (1) Minderjährige, die das 14. Lebensjahr vollendet haben, können in Verfahren über Pflege und Erziehung oder über das Recht auf persönlichen Verkehr selbstständig vor Gericht handeln. Soweit die Verständnisfähigkeit des Minderjährigen dies erfordert, hat das Gericht - spätestens anlässlich der Befragung - dafür zu sorgen, dass dieser seine Verfahrensrechte wirksam wahrnehmen kann; auf bestehende Beratungsmöglichkeiten ist er hinzuweisen.

 

(2) Die Befugnis des gesetzlichen Vertreters des Minderjährigen, auch in dessen Namen Verfahrenshandlungen zu setzen, bleibt unberührt. Stimmen Anträge, die der Minderjährige und der

gesetzliche Vertreter gestellt haben, nicht überein, so sind bei der Entscheidung alle Anträge inhaltlich zu berücksichtigen.

 

§ 182b. (1) Das Pflegschaftsgericht hat Minderjährige in Verfahren über Pflege und Erziehung oder das Recht auf persönlichen Verkehr tunlichst persönlich zu hören. Der Minderjährige kann auch durch den Jugendwohlfahrtsträger, durch Einrichtungen der Jugendgerichtshilfe oder in anderer geeigneter Weise, etwa durch Sachverständige, gehört werden, wenn er das zehnte Lebensjahr noch nicht vollendet hat, wenn dies seine Entwicklung oder sein Gesundheitszustand erfordert oder

wenn sonst eine Äußerung der ernsthaften und unbeeinflussten Meinung des Minderjährigen nicht zu erwarten ist.

 

(2) Die Befragung hat zu unterbleiben, soweit durch sie oder durch einen damit verbundenen Aufschub der Verfügung das Wohl des Minderjährigen gefährdet wäre oder im Hinblick auf die

Verständnisfähigkeit des Minderjährigen offenbar eine überlegte Äußerung zum Verfahrensgegenstand nicht zu erwarten ist.

 

International Law

 

UN-Konvention über die Rechte des Kindes

 

Artikel 12

 

1)     Die Vertragsstaaten sichern dem Kind, das fähig ist, sich eine eigene Meinung zu bilden, das Recht zu, diese Meining in allen das Kind berührenden Angelegenheiten frei zu äussern, und berücksichtigen die Meining des Kindes angemessen und entsprechend seinem Alter und seiner Reife.

2)     Zu diesem Zweck wird dem Kind insbesondere Gelegenheit gegeben, in allen das Kind berührenden Gerichts- oder Verwaltungsverfahren entweder unmittelbar oder durch einen Vertreter oder eine geeignete Stelle im Einklang mit den innerstaatlichen Verfahrensvorschriften gehört zu werden.

 

Translation

 

Statutes

 

Parent and Child Amendment Act (2001)

 

§ 144. Parents must take care of and educate the minor child, manage his possessions, and represent him in all other affairs; the obligations of care and education and the management of possessions include legal representation in those areas. In fulfilling these obligations and rights the parents should proceed consensually.  

 

§ 146. (3) The parents have to consider the will of the child in affairs concerning her care and education, if this does not stand in conflict with the child's well-being or their personal circumstances. The measure of the child is increasingly important the more it can see the reasons and meaning for a measure and communicate her will after considering those.

 

§ 182a. (1) Minors who have completed their fourteenth year of life can act independently before the court in proceedings concerning their care, education and the right to personal contact with a non-custodial parent. If the cognitive capacity of the minor requires this, the court must ensure – at the latest during the questioning – that the minor can take charge of his procedural rights; he must be informed of counseling opportunities.

 

(2) The right of the legal representative to begin proceedings in the name of the minor remains untouched. If the demands of minors and those of their legal representatives do not coincide, the contents of all demands must be respected.

 

§ 182b. (1) The custody court must hear minors in proceedings concerning their care and education or personal contact with the non-custodial parents. The minor can also be heard by the party responsible for juvenile welfare, institutions of the juvenile court aid or some other manner, such as through an expert, if he has not finished his tenth year of life yet, if his development or health require it or if an expression of the serious and uninfluenced opinion of the minor cannot be expected.

 

(2) The questioning must not take place if it or a delay created by it would endanger the well-being of the minor or if a well-founded expression about the proceedings cannot be expected from the capability of the minor.

International Law

 

Convention on the Rights of the Child

Article 12

1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.

2. For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.

 

Additional Resources and Links

 

Das Oesterreichische Jugendportal – The Austrian Youth Portal

www.jugendinfo.at

 

Das Portal zum Recht – The Law Portal

http://www.jusline.at/

 

Universität Wien Rechtswissenschaftliche Fakultät – University of Vienna Law Faculty

http://www.juridicum.at/content/blogsection/8/124/



 

Endnotes

[1] This page is also available as a .pdf Document, and Word Document.

[2] The Austrian Federal Constitutional Law makes the CRC an integral part of Austrian law. Bundes-Verfassungsgesetz [Federal Constitutional Law] Art. 9, available at http://www.oesterreich.com/deutsch/staat/b-vg_1.htm. Domestic legal rules must be interpreted so that they do not contradict the CRC, but because the CRC was approved by the “Nationalrat” (National Council) with a reservation as to its execution, it cannot be directly applied as such but requires the adoption of laws.

[3] Jugendschutz in Oesterreich [Protection of Youth in Austria], available at http://www.bmsg.gv.at/cms/site/attachments/3/7/7/CH0124/CMS1065426991089/jugendschutz_final_20040505.pdf.

[4] See Ombudsmen Austria, available at http://www2.ombudsnet.org/Ombudsmen/Austria/austria.htm (English).

[5] Kindschaftsrechts-Änderungsgesetz (KindRÄG) (2001) [Parent and Child Amendment Act], available at http://www.ibiblio.org/ais/abgb1.htm, and also here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document. All translations to this law are unofficial.

 

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