News and Insights
3 January 2024
Just before Christmas the draft Children and Civil Status (Amendments) (Jersey) Law was lodged. If approved by the States Assembly it will greatly improve the rights of same-sex parents and their children as well as bringing the rights of heterosexual civil partners and their children in line with married couples.
For the first time legal parent status and parental responsibility are to be given to parents where their child is born to a surrogate mother. All these changes are to be welcomed and will bring Jersey Law in line with many aspects of the modern family.
The draft Law also deals with two other important aspects of parental rights that will affect many parents in Jersey. The proposed new Law removes the presumption that if there is a child born to a married couple then it is assumed that the man is the child’s father even if the biological father is different. This means that Jersey Law will now deal with this issue on the basis of who is the biological father rather than by marriage.
The other very crucial right that the new Law attempts to address is to allow step parents to acquire parental responsibility where there is agreement between parents who already have this right. This is a very important change that will potentially mean that step parents can acquire rights over their step children. However, it is not clear what happens, if for example, the biological father will not agree to this.
The Children Law in England several years ago made this change but it clearly states that this can be done by agreement or by the court ordering this if there is no agreement.
The proposed Jersey Law is not clear in this respect as currently the court can only order parental responsibility for a step parent if they also make a residence order. In many cases a residence order is not sought by a step parent and it may well be that this is something that the States Assembly needs to consider during its debate.