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Parental responsibility, residence & contact

Children Law in Jersey

The long-awaited Jersey Children Law 2002 came into force on 1st August 2005. The new Law completely changes much of the previous law regarding parents and their children. The new law also impacts on, and gives rights to, people such as grandparents and step parents. Out go the concepts of ‘custody’, ‘care and control’ and ‘access’. These are replaced by ‘parental responsibility’, ‘residence’ and ‘contact’ which are explained below.

1. Parental Responsibility

A mother automatically has this, as does a father who was married to the child’s mother when the child was born or the child was born after December 2016, plus he would need to be named as the father on the birth certificate. A father who does not automatically have parental responsibility can acquire parental responsibility either with the agreement of the mother or by Court order.

Parental responsibility is a difficult concept to explain but it broadly encompasses all important decisions about the child e.g. education, health, religious upbringing.

2. Residence

This is an order which sets out the arrangements as to who a child is to live with. It is possible for more than one person to have a residence order in their favour; known as shared residence.

3. Contact

This is an Order to allow the child to visit or stay with the person named in the order. Contact can be direct (i.e. face to face) or in direct (e.g. letters and phone calls). When the Court is deciding on contact, the welfare of the child is the overriding consideration. It is therefore almost always in the interests of a child to have contact with the parent who does not have residence.

Other important changes:

Removal from Jersey

This requires the written consent of everyone with parental responsibility for the child or leave of the Court. However, the person with residence may automatically remove the child for a period of less than one month.

Change of Name

This cannot be done without the consent of everyone who has parental responsibility for the child.

Prohibition Steps orders

This is an order that no step, which could be taken by a parent, shall be taken without the consent of the Court e.g.

  1. Removing the child from Jersey
  2. Removing the child from or changing school
  3. Changing the child’s name

Specific Issue Order

This is an order by the Court giving directions for determining a specific question that has arisen regarding the child.

Non natural parents

Anyone else may apply for any order under the Law if they first obtain leave of the Court to do so.

Financial relief

It is possible under the Law to apply for periodical payments or lump sum orders for the child. This provision can also be used by the child themselves if they are over 16 e.g. for training and continuing education.

The new Law also makes changes in respect of public law children cases (e.g. the child in care), which are not discussed in this article.

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