Jersey should consider giving children legal rights to see both parents following divorce, says Sinels lawyer
Advocate Matthew Godden, a family law expert at Sinels Advocates, believes Jersey should consider changes to its family law if a move by the UK Government to give children legal rights to see both parents following divorce proves successful.
The UK Government has agreed to amend the Children’s Act 1989 to give children legal rights to maintain relationships with both parents after separation or divorce and is also putting an extra £10 million into mediation to stop cases going to Court.
Advocate Matthew Godden, who heads the Personal & Family Law team at Sinels, believes The States of Jersey should, and most probably will, wait and see how the changes to the UK law unfold.
“If it is successful, then it could be something Jersey may want to consider,” he says. “At Sinels, we would first recommend mediation or other alternative methods of resolving disputes to parents as a way of helping them to work together for their children. Mediation and courses, for example, the Bridge offers a course entitled ‘Keeping Children in Mind’, are good ways to encourage parties to consider the needs of their children first.”
In general, his views are:
- The emphasis must be placed by Courts, lawyers and all professionals in Jersey on the child having an ongoing relationship with both parents, but there are advantages to the Courts maintaining the flexibility to decide each case on an individual basis.
- The Courts in Jersey have a firm view that children have a right to see both parents and they will always strive to enforce that if it is in the child’s interest. It is a very emotional issue but it can be difficult for children to spend equal time with both parents, even if that is what the parents want.
- Further, a legal right to ‘equal access’ may be hard to enforce in all cases and there are still many cases where equal care is not desirable. It is also difficult on a practical level for children to see both parents equally. It is also argued that children would suffer more when strict time limits are imposed.
Sinels Advocates holds free family law clinics on the first and third Wednesday of every month for matrimonial matter such as this. Please contact 620500 to arrange an appointment.