Children and Divorce

When a couple decides to divorce, often, their biggest worry is how to tell the children and the impact on them.

Explaining divorce to children is much more complicated than simply describing what the concept means. It requires careful consideration of each child’s individual needs and sensitive, age appropriate discussions around how divorce will impact their lives.

Check out the resources below for advice around this incredibly important aspect of divorce or separation.


Read our blog article "How do I explain divorce to my child?"

Got questions?

Emotionally, this very much depends on how the parents tackle their separation / divorce and the extent to which they work together to protect the children from adult issues.


Check out;


i) Checklist 4 for our tips on how help your children in a divorce / separation scenario;

ii) Episode 3 of our Podcast series - “How to help you help your kids”. In this episode we talk to a divorce parenting expert about how parents can deliver the news of a change in the family dynamic to the children in the best possible way, how to help children to cope with those changes and how to co-parent well; and

iii) This excellent Guide prepared by Resolution which walks parents through a relationship breakdown and what to expect when it comes to the children.


Other common changes children normally encounter after separation or divorce are; having to move home, dividing their time between their parents, depending on the financial circumstances of their parents, it may not be possible for the children to attend as many activities or go on holiday as frequently and sometimes it may even be necessary for the children to change schools (from fee paying to States).


When children face changes to their routine, having full support from both of their parents will help to limit the stress of these changes on them.


The most damaging impact of a divorce / separation on children is parental conflict. When parents limit their children’s exposure to conflict, children can adjust to changes and thrive post changes in the family dynamic.

There are two common outcomes;


i) shared residence (where the children divide their time between their parents (this does not need to be precisely 50/50)); or

ii) where one parent is the primary carer and the children have reasonable contact with the other parent.


The appropriate outcome depends on what is in the best interests of the children. If you are struggling to agree on where the children should live or appropriate contact, seek legal advice.

It is usual that the non-resident parent will pay child maintenance to the resident parent where the children live primarily with one parent.


In a shared residence scenario, it may be appropriate that no maintenance is payable unless there is disparity in the income/capital positions of the parents in which case child maintenance may be payable.


To understand the appropriate amount, it is advisable to seek legal advice.  Every case is different and the outcome will depend on the specific circumstances of the case.

Parental responsibility means that a person or people have the right to make decisions about a child or children. This might be making decisions about what school they go to, what religion they follow or what health care they have.


For children born before 2nd December 2016:

Where a child’s father and mother were married to each other at the time of the child’s birth, they each have parental responsibility for the child. That means they both have the right to make decisions about the child.


Where the child’s parents were not married to each other at the time of the child’s birth, only the mother has parental responsibility and the right to make decisions. The father can ask for the right to make decisions by entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother or by going to Court and asking the Court to make a Parental Responsibility Order. A person with a Residence Order also has parental responsibility.


From 2nd December 2016:

Unmarried fathers who are named on their child’s birth certificate will have automatic parental responsibility, following a change in the law. The change does not apply to children born before the 2nd December 2016, even where the unmarried father is named on the birth certificate.

Reaching an agreement when it comes to the children is always the preferred outcome as otherwise the decision is left to a Judge which is rarely in the children’s best interests.


Have you really exhausted all options to reach an agreement? Check out;


i) Episode 2 of our Podcast series - “The many ways mediation can help” during which we talk to Family Mediation Jersey [hyperlink] about how mediation can help parents struggling to agree on child related matters such as where a child should live, contact arrangements or child maintenance;

ii) Episode 3 of our Podcast series - “How to help you help your kids” during which we talk to a divorce parenting expert about how parents can co-parent well; and

iii) This excellent Guide prepared by Resolution which walks parents through a relationship breakdown and what to expect when it comes to the children.


Obtain legal advice if you feel you have explored all options. If you are unable to reach an agreement with the help of your lawyer, they may suggest Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) (see FAQ on ADR methods available on matters relating to children).


Lawyer led Mediation is a process where parties meet with an independent third party mediator with their lawyers present. The mediator facilitates discussions to encourage agreement around the issues in dispute. It is possible to attend mediation to resolve issues about children, or finances, or both.


Having your lawyer present means that you can access legal advice during the mediation process to ensure that you are well informed about your legal position and before reaching an agreement.


ENE (Early Neutral Evaluation)

An ENE is a process in which an Early Neutral Evaluator will consider each parties’ arguments and will give the parties a judicial steer (i.e. set out what they would order if they were the judge in the case). This helps parents to negotiate the case where they have reached an impasse.


Mediation and/or ENE’s are more cost effective than a final hearing and the parties retain some control over the outcome. Both processes are without prejudice which means that they are held “behind closed doors” meaning that neither party can disclose to the trial judge (if necessary) what took place during either process if agreement is not reached.

It is really sensible to record in writing what you have agreed as this can avoid disputes at a later date.


A Parenting Agreement can be created which can cover as much or as little as you require. The higher the conflict, the more useful a detailed Parenting Agreement will be.


The common topics covered by a Parenting Agreement are – where the children should live, how they divide their time, handovers, communications between the parents, education, child care arrangements, health care, updating each other of important matters/sharing important documentation (such as school Reports etc), taking the children out of the Island on holidays and costs relating to the children.


If Court proceedings have been issued, and agreement has been reached, the agreement can be recorded in a Consent Order which can be ratified by the Court and made into a Court Order.

family legal services

Hi! I’m Advocate Carly James, a family law specialist in Jersey.

I know how daunting it can be to talk to a family / divorce lawyer and potentially commence a legal process relating to divorce, separation or your children.

If you would like to hear a little more about who we are, whether we would be a good match for you or when we can get started, get in touch and let’s start the conversation.

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