Puerto Rico[1]

Last edited: November 2005

 

Summary and Analysis

 

Children in Puerto Rico are represented by Procurador Especial de Protección a Menores, or Special Attorneys for Protection of Minors, or by a Procurador of Family Relations.  The Governor names thirteen Procuradores Especiales,  who are well-qualified attorneys of four or more years of experience after passing the bar, to serve twelve-year terms.

 

The role of the Procurador Especial is to ensure the minor is informed about decisions that affect him or her.  The Procurador Especial plays a dual role in representing the child's wishes, while taking into account the child's best interests.  The judge can interview the minor in the presence of the Procurador or in the presence of a social worker, or may obtain the testimony of a minor through the use of a closed circuit television system when the tribunal sees it as appropriate.   

 

While Procuradores are appointed for a specific protective proceeding, tutors are appointed for children as more long term representatives, and are specially qualified for a number of roles including roles, for example, of administrating the child's properties and investments.

 

Sources of Law

 

Statutes

 

Original Text

 

Leyes de Puerto Rico Anotadas, tit. 1, § 412, Capitulo 18 (Carta de los Derechos del Nino)[2]

El Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, con plena conciencia de que es su responsabilidad lograr el maximo desarrollo y bienestar de todos los ninos del pais, declara que todo nino en Puerto Rico, desde su nacimiento hasta los veintiun (21) anos de edad, y sin menoscabo a las leyes vigentes, tendra derecho a:

(6) No ser separado de su hogar propio a menos que, a traves de un proceso judicial, se pruebe que la separacion es para el bienestar y el mejor interes del menor.

(14) En los procesos antes los tribunales, en materias que afecten su estado, condicion o circunstancias, tendra derecho a ser escuchado y a recibir el debido reconocimiento, siempre y cuando los factores relacionados a su edad, capacidad y nivel de madurez lo permitan.

(15) Que el tribunal designe un representante que vele por su bienestar y sus mejores intereses en los procesos sobre custodia y privacion de la patria potestad cuando ha sido victima del maltrato, explotacion, negligencia o abuso sexual. El defensor no solo lo representara en el tribunal, sino que velara por la agilizacion de los procesos en la agencia publica o privada que deba hacer las determinaciones permanentes sobre su cuidado.

 

Ley para el Bienestar y la Protección Integral de la Niñez, Law Num. 177, August 1, 2003 (Puerto Rico), Artículo 32 (Representación Legal)[3]

Durante el procedimiento judicial de los casos de maltrato, maltrato institucional, negligencia y/o negligencia institucional hacia un menor, la parte demandada podrá comparecer asistida de abogado. Si no tuviere representación legal y no tuviere medios para sufragar tal representación, el tribunal le nombrará un abogado. Los demandados podrán renunciar a su derecho a estar asistidos de abogado en todo momento, incluyendo renuncia de custodia. No obstante, el padre o la madre podrán renunciar a la patria potestad de sus hijos sólo si están asistidos de abogado.

Los intereses de cualquier menor de quien se alegue en el tribunal que es víctima de maltrato, maltrato institucional, negligencia y/o negligencia institucional serán representados por un Procurador Especial de Protección a Menores, nombrado por el Gobernador para dicha función y /o por un Procurador de Relaciones de Familia.

 

Ley para el Bienestar y la Protección Integral de la Niñez, Law Num. 177, August 1, 2003 (Puerto Rico), Artículo 45 (Derecho del Menor a ser Escuchado) [4]

En cualquier procedimiento al amparo de esta Ley el menor tendrá derecho a ser escuchado. El Juez podrá entrevistar al menor de edad en presencia del Procurador o de un trabajador social del mismo Tribunal. Las declaraciones vertidas formarán parte del récord. El tribunal podrá admitir y considerar evidencia escrita u oral de declaraciones vertidas fuera de¡ tribunal por un menor, y dará a esa evidencia el valor probatorio que amerite. También podrá obtener el testimonio de un menor mediante la utilización del sistema de circuito cerrado, cuando el tribunal, luego de una audiencia, lo entienda apropiado.

 

Ley para el Bienestar y la Protección Integral de la Niñez, Law Num. 177, August 1, 2003 (Puerto Rico), Artículo 56 (Procuradores Especiales de Protección a Menores) [5]

Se crean trece (13) cargos de Procuradores de Familia Especiales para Situaciones de Maltrato, Maltrato institucional, Negligencia y Negligencia Institucional, nombrados por el Gobernador, con el consejo y consentimiento del Senado, con la encomienda de instar, en representación del Gobierno del Estado Libre Asociado, las acciones que procedan como resultado de las investigaciones realizadas sobre maltrato, maltrato institucional, negligencia y/o negligencia institucional hacia menores. Estos procuradores, creados a tenor con lo dispuesto en la Ley Núm. 342 de 16 de diciembre de 1999, según enmendada, serán denominados en virtud de esta Ley como Procuradores Especiales de Protección a Menores. Disponiéndose que estos procuradores también podrán desempeñar todas las funciones de los Procuradores Especiales de Relaciones de Familia creados en virtud de la Ley Núm. 75 de 6 de junio de 1968, según enmendada, cuando el Secretario de Justicia, conforme las necesidades del servicio así lo determine.

 

Hasta donde sea posible y tomando consideración de la edad y madurez de los menores, los Procuradores Especiales les mantendrán informados de las determinaciones que les afectan.

 

Los Procuradores deberán tener cuatro (4) años de experiencia profesional, gozar de buena reputación moral, intelectual y profesional, según lo determinara la autoridad nominadora. La duración del término de nombramiento será de doce (12) años y permanecerá en sus cargos hasta noventa (90) días luego de vencido su término, si no han sido renominados o cuando sus sucesores tomen posesión del cargo, lo que ocurra primero. Los Procuradores tendrán el salario equivalente al de los Procuradores de Familia, así como los beneficios que el cargo conlleva. La Oficina de Gerencia y Presupuesto asignará al Departamento de Justicia los fondos adicionales necesarios para el nombramiento y desempeño de las funciones de dichos Procuradores Especiales de Protección a Menores.

 

Ley para el Bienestar y la Protección Integral de la Niñez, Law Num. 177, August 1, 2003 (Puerto Rico), Artículo 59 (Procedimiento para la Expedición de Ordenes de Protección)[6]

(a) Inicio de la Acción. El procedimiento para obtener una Orden de Protección se podrá comenzar:

(1) Mediante la presentación de una petición verbal o escrita; o

(2) Dentro de cualquier caso pendiente de custodia o privación de patria potestad que existiere; o dentro de cualquier procedimiento al amparo de esta Ley; o

(3) A solicitud del Procurador de Familia o el Procurador de Protección a Menores o cualquier fiscal en un procedimiento penal, o como una condición para una probatoria o libertad condicional.

 

Ley para el Bienestar y la Protección Integral de la Niñez, Law Num. 177, August 1, 2003 (Puerto Rico), Artículo 62 (Notificación a las partes y a las agencias de orden público) [7]

(a) Copia de toda orden de protección deberá ser archivada en la secretaría del tribunal que la expide. La Secretaría del Tribunal proveerá copia de la misma, a petición de las partes o de cualesquiera persona interesada. Además, se notificará simultáneamente al padre, la madre o persona encargada del menor, la oficina local del Departamento y a la Oficina de los Procuradores de Familia asignados a la región judicial correspondiente, Procurador Especial de Protección a Menores y al Tribunal de Primera Instancia, Sala de Relaciones de Familia o Sala de Asuntos de Menores, al Cuartel de la Policía más cercano a la residencia del menor dentro de las veinticuatro (24) horas de haberse expedido.

 

Leyes de Puerto Rico Anotadas, tit. 32, § 2661 (Inscripcion de nombramiento de tutor )[8]

Acreditado el nombramiento de tutor testamentario de un menor o incapacitado y que el nombrado ha constituido la fianza que le haya sido senalada por el que le nombro o que se le haya relevado de fianza, se mandara a instancia de parte inscribir el nombramiento en el registro de tutelas librandose para ello el oportuno mandamiento en el que se consignaran todos los datos que determina la sec. 823 del Titulo 31.

 

Leyes de Puerto Rico Anotadas, tit. 32, § 2664 (Nombramiento del tutor)[9]

Acreditados estos extremos en la forma dicha nombrara el tribunal al pariente a quien corresponda la tutela y a falta de estos a una persona de reconocida probidad, senalando la fianza que debe prestar y una vez que se haya constituido esta, se librara para su inscripcion en el registro de tutelas el nombramiento a que se refiere la sec. 2661 de este titulo en la forma alli indicada. Hecha la inscripcion se procedera del modo que expresa la sec. 2662 de este titulo.

 

Leyes de Puerto Rico Anotadas, tit. 32, § 2665 (Habilitacion sin prestacion de fianza)[10]

Cualquier tutor puede ser habilitado por el tribunal para representar, sin presentacion de fianza, a un menor o incapacitado en todos aquellos actos en que fuere necesaria su intervencion; pero se entendera que el susodicho tutor debera llenar previamente los requisitos de la sec. 2661 de este titulo tan pronto tuviere precision de hacerse cargo de la administracion y custodia de los bienes de sus pupilos.


Translations

 

Annotated Laws of Puerto Rico, tit. 1, § 412, Chapter 18 (Bill of Rights for Children)[11]

The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, being fully aware that it is its responsibility to achieve the maximum development and welfare of all the children of the Commonwealth, declares that every child in Puerto Rico, from birth to twenty-one (21) years of age, and without impairing the laws in effect, shall be entitled to:

(6) Not be removed from its own home unless, through a judicial process, the removal that is approved is for the welfare and best interests of the child.

(14) In the actions before the courts, in matters which affect its state, condition or circumstances, the child shall be entitled to be heard and to receive the due recognition, provided that the factors related to its age, capacity and level of maturity allow it.

(15) Have the court designate a representative to watch over its welfare and its best interests in the procedures on custody and deprivation of patria potestas when it has been a victim of abuse, exploitation, negligence or sexual abuse. The defender shall not only represent it before the courts, but shall also ensure the expediting of the procedures in the public or private agency that must make the permanent determinations regarding its care.

 

Law for the Welfare and Protection of Children, Law Num. 177, August 1, 2003 (Puerto Rico), Article 32 (Legal Representation)[12]

During the judicial proceedings in cases of mistreatment, institutional mistreatment, negligence and/or institutional negligence of the minor, the party that is being questioned (ie the persons being accused) can be assisted by an attorney.  If it does not have legal representation or if it does not have the means to acquire such representation, the tribunal shall name an attorney.  The accused may renounce their right to be assisted by an attorney at any time, including renouncing custody.  Not withstanding, the father or the mother can renounce the patria potestad of their children only if they are assisted by an attorney.

 

The interests of any minor that is present before the tribunal that is the victim of maltreatment, institutional maltreatment, neglicence and/or institutional negligence shall be represented by a Special Procurador for the protection of minors appointed by the governor for said position and/or by a Procurador of Family Relations.

 

Law for the Welfare and Protection of Children, Law Num. 177, August 1, 2003 (Puerto Rico), Article 45 (The Minor’s Right to be heard)[13]

In any procedure upholding this law the minor will have the right to be heard.  The judge can interview the minor in the presence of the Procurador or in the presence of a social worker of the same Tribunal.  The declarations will form part of the record.  The tribunal may admit and consider written evidence or oral evidence of declarations outside of the tribunal for a minor, and will give to this evidence the value that they merit.  It may also obtain the testimony of a minor through the use of a closed circuit system when the tribunal sees it as appropriate. 

Law for the Welfare and Protection of Children, Law Num. 177, August 1, 2003 (Puerto Rico), Article 56 (Special Procuradores of the Protection of Minors)[14]

Thirteen charges of special Procuradores for Families for Situations of Maltreatment, Institutional Maltreatment, Negligence, and Institutional Negligence are named by the governor with the advice and consent of the senate, with the commission to urge, in the representation of the Puerto Rican Government, the actions that occur as the result of the investigations concerning maltreatment, institional maltreatment, negligence and/or institutional negligence of minors.  These Procuradores, created  in accordance with what is provided by Law Number 342 of 16 December 1999, according to the amendment, will be named in virtue of this law as Special Procuradores for the Rights of Children.  These Procuradores also will be able to fulfil all the functions of the special proxies of family relations, created in virtue of Law Number 75 of 6 June 1968, later amended, conforming with the needs of the service when the secretary of justice so determines it.

 

The Procuradores shall maintain the minors informed as much as possible about the decisions that affect them, taking into consideration the age and maturity of the minor.

 

The Procurador should have 4 years of professional experience, be in good moral, intellectual and professional standing as determined by the named authority.  The duration of the term of appointment shall be 12 year and will continue for 90 days after the end of his/her term if he is not reappointed, or when his successor takes possession of the charge—whichever occurs first.  The Procuradores Especiales shall have salaries equivalent to the proxies for families Procuradores de Familia, as well as the benefits that the charge brings.  The Office of Management and Budget shall assign to the Department of Justice the additional funds necessary for the naming and fulfillment of the functions of said special Procuradores for the protection of minors.

Law for the Welfare and Protection of Children, Law Num. 177, August 1, 2003 (Puerto Rico), Article 59 (Procedure for the Expediting of Orders of Protection)[15]

(a)  Initiation of the action: The procedure to obtain an Order of Protection may be begun:

(1) Through the presentation of a written or verbal petition, or

(2) In any case pending custody or patria potestad that exists; or in any procedure that supports this law; or
(3) through the solicitation of the Procurador for the Family or the Procurador for the Protection of Minors, or through any official in a penal procedure, or as a condition for a probation or conditional liberty.

 

Law for the Welfare and Protection of Children, Law Num. 177, August 1, 2003 (Puerto Rico), Article 62 (Notification of parties and the agencies of public order) [16]

The copy of all protective orders shall be archived by the secretary of the tribune who issued it.  The secretary of the tribunal shall provide a copy of the same at the request of the parties, or at the request of any interested person.  In addition, the following will be notified simultaneously: the father, mother or person in charge of the minor; the local office of the Department and the Office of Family Procuradores assigned to the corresponding judicial region, the special attorney for the protection of minors and the Tribunal of First Offense; Hall of Family Relations or Hall of minors; and the police office closest to the minor’s residence within 24 hours of being issued.   

 

Annotated Laws of Puerto Rico, tit. 32, § 2661 (Recording of appointment of guardian)[17]

After the appointment of testamentary guardian for a minor or incapacitated person, when the appointee has furnished the bond fixed by the appointing person, or when the said appointee has been relieved from furnishing any such bond, on the petition of the proper party the recording of such appointment shall be ordered to be made in the registry of guardianship for which purpose the proper order of court shall be issued wherein shall be stated all the details provided by § 823 of Title 31.

 

Annotated Laws of Puerto Rico, tit. 32, § 2664 (Appointment of guardian) [18]  

The aforesaid facts having been established in due form, the court shall appoint the relative upon whom the guardianship devolves, and in the event of there being none, the court shall appoint a person of well-known integrity fixing the bond to be furnished by such person and upon the furnishing of such bond the order of court for the recording in the registry of guardianship referred to in § 2661 of this title in the form and manner therein stated, shall be made. After such recording, the matter shall be proceeded with as provided by § 2662 of this title.

 

Annotated Laws of Puerto Rico, tit. 32, § 2665(Qualification without giving bond) [19]

Any guardian may be qualified by the court, without giving bond, to represent a minor or incapacitated person in all such cases where his intervention shall be necessary; but it shall be understood that the above-mentioned guardian shall previously fulfill the requirements of § 2661 of this title as soon as he be under the necessity of taking charge of the administration and custody of the property of his ward.

 

 

 



Endnotes

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

[2] P.R. Laws Ann., tit. 1, § 412 (2004), available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[3] Ley para el Bienestar y la Protección Integral de la Niñez, Law Num. 177, August 1, 2003 (Puerto Rico), Artículo 32, available at www.lexjuris.com, click on “Leyes Por Temas” on the left, click “familia,” click on Ley para el Bienestar y la Protección Integral de la Niñez, Ley 177 de 2003 Deroga la Ley Núm. 342 de 1999”, and also here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[4] Ley para el Bienestar y la Protección Integral de la Niñez, Law Num. 177, August 1, 2003 (Puerto Rico), Artículo 45, available at www.lexjuris.com, click on “Leyes Por Temas” on the left, click “familia,” click on Ley para el Bienestar y la Protección Integral de la Niñez, Ley 177 de 2003 Deroga la Ley Núm. 342 de 1999”, and also here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[5] Ley para el Bienestar y la Protección Integral de la Niñez, Law Num. 177, August 1, 2003 (Puerto Rico), Artículo 56, available at www.lexjuris.com, click on “Leyes Por Temas” on the left, click “familia,” click on Ley para el Bienestar y la Protección Integral de la Niñez, Ley 177 de 2003 Deroga la Ley Núm. 342 de 1999”, and also here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[6] Ley para el Bienestar y la Protección Integral de la Niñez, Law Num. 177, August 1, 2003 (Puerto Rico), Artículo 59, available at www.lexjuris.com, click on “Leyes Por Temas” on the left, click “familia,” click on Ley para el Bienestar y la Protección Integral de la Niñez, Ley 177 de 2003 Deroga la Ley Núm. 342 de 1999”, and also here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[7] Ley para el Bienestar y la Protección Integral de la Niñez, Law Num. 177, August 1, 2003 (Puerto Rico), Artículo 62, available at www.lexjuris.com, click on “Leyes Por Temas” on the left, click “familia,” click on Ley para el Bienestar y la Protección Integral de la Niñez, Ley 177 de 2003 Deroga la Ley Núm. 342 de 1999”, and also here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

7 P.R. Laws Ann., tit. 32, § 2661 (2005), available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

8 P.R. Laws Ann., tit. 32, § 2664 (2005), available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

9 P.R. Laws Ann., tit. 32, § 2665 (2005), available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[11] P.R. Laws Ann., tit. 1, § 412 (2004) (official translation), available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[12] Law for the Welfare and Protection of Children, Law Num. 177, August 1, 2003 (Puerto Rico), Article 32 (unofficial translation), available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[13] Law for the Welfare and Protection of Children, Law Num. 177, August 1, 2003 (Puerto Rico), Article 45 (unofficial translation), available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[14] Law for the Welfare and Protection of Children, Law Num. 177, August 1, 2003 (Puerto Rico), Article 56 (unofficial translation), available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[15] Law for the Welfare and Protection of Children, Law Num. 177, August 1, 2003 (Puerto Rico), Article 59 (unofficial translation), available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[16] Law for the Welfare and Protection of Children, Law Num. 177, August 1, 2003 (Puerto Rico), Article 62 (unofficial translation), available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[17] P.R. Laws Ann., tit. 32, § 2661 (2005) (official translation), available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[18] P.R. Laws Ann., tit. 32, § 2664 (2005) (official translation), available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[19] P.R. Laws Ann., tit. 32, § 2665 (2005) (official translation), available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.