When the Children (Jersey) Law 2002 came into force in 2005 it represented a revision to both the approach and language for the Court.
Decisions (in contested matters) as to where children live and who they see can be very difficult. Courts can be faced with having to resolve children disputes in the rubble of disintegrating parental relationships and in what can be a polarised and toxic landscape.
Both parents may feel the children would be better off with them to the (potential) exclusion of the other parent.
This adds to the issues for the Court when there may be a lack of clarity and certainty as to the changes (if any) which should be made for the benefit of the children.
The guiding factor, specifically set out in the Children Law, is that of the paramountcy principle – the needs of the children are the paramount concern of the Court.
The Court is assisted in this task by the provision of a check list in the law and the Court is referred to specific factors to which it shall have reference when making decisions.
Recent changes across the English Channel
The Law in England and Wales has recently been developed in the hope of better reflecting the ever-evolving family dynamics at the start of the 21st Century.
These changes are: –
- The language of orders has changed (“child arrangement orders” and “live with orders”). This in place of contact and residence – but the issue remains the same – who a child sees and where they have their home(s).
- The introduction of a statutory presumption that both parents shall have a role in the lives of their children. In simple terms the law provides (in Section 11 of the Children and Families Act 2014) that “to presume, unless the contrary is shown, that involvement of that parent in the life of the child concerned will further the child’s welfare”.
Any means which attempts to reduce conflict in arrangements for children are to be encouraged. It will be interesting to review the changes made across the channel to see if these changes would benefit children and parents in Jersey.