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Former Santander lawyer loses custody of her children for 'working too much' (The Daily Telegraph)

A successful female lawyer has vowed to take the Spanish state to court after losing custody of her children for allegedly working too much.

Elena del Pilar Ramallo Miñán, a solicitor formerly of Santander Bank, was ruled to have “spent too much time away from the conjugal home” when she had child-sharing responsibilities for her two daughters, aged seven and 13, revoked on International Women’s Day in 2018.

Ms Ramallo, from Galicia, northwest Spain, is to argue that the verdict “clashes head-on” with women’s rights to personal and professional fulfilment, and that the hearing gave unfair weight to the word of her ex-husband and her mother, the only witness to have been called.

The presiding judge, Carmen López, found that Ms Ramallo spent excessive time on business trips and conferences, rather than at home with her children, on the basis of testimony from their maternal grandmother, who had been on difficult terms with the mother for many years.

Ms Ramallo criticised the verdict as a “grievance to all women”, and claimed that she had fallen victim to a “social stigma” attached to high-achieving female professionals.

She has addressed an open letter to the Spanish courts in her local newspaper, using the language of ‘J’accuse…!’, novelist Émile Zola’s famous rebuke of the French judiciary that fuelled the Dreyfus Affair.

“As a mother, a woman and a citizen, I demand that nobody else in Spain may ever lose their children over the fact that they work and love their work,” she wrote.

Spain’s Supreme Court has stated that shared custody is the “desirable model”, and single custody would only be imposed under exceptional circumstances.

The family court in La Coruña heard complaints by the grandmother that Ms Ramallo, who has a PhD and is the author of seven legal books, did not pay enough attention to the girls and “was always anxious to devote herself to her career.”

Her ex-husband said that she was “not in the right state of mind” to share custody.

However Ms Ramallo insisted that she had “never marginalised” her role as a parent. “Like millions of women, I have had to dedicate thousands of hours to my work, stealing them from my sleep,” to excel as both lawyer and mother.

The controversy came as the Spanish election campaign, in which the conception of a ‘glass ceiling’ has been a prominent fault line, neared its climax.

While the current Socialist-led government has sought to make maternity and paternity leave equal and transferable, far-right Vox would seek to reverse this if part of a fresh coalition.

“The patriarchy lives on, accusing educated, independent women, who have careers involving travel and professional responsibilities, and who also get divorced, of being bad mothers," Ms Ramallo added.

The custody ruling gave no opportunity for appeal.

Ms Ramallo is seeking advice on which legal pathway to take and is expected to proceed through the Provincial Court of La Coruña.

Published by The Daily Telegraph.

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