Child maintenance and parental responsibility
When should child maintenance be paid in Jersey?
Parents have a financial responsibility to their children in relation to child maintenance costs, whether the parents are married or unmarried. Usually, the non-resident parent pays an agreed amount of child maintenance to the parent who lives with the child or children and is their main carer. These financial contributions should be used to cover the day-to-day costs of supporting the child — housing, clothing, food, etc.
If care of the children is shared equally between the separated parents, the higher-earning parent would usually be expected to pay child maintenance to the parent on a lower income — this ensures that the child enjoys the same standard of living as if the couple had stayed together.
Child maintenance is usually paid until a child reaches 16 or 18 — depending on when they leave full-time education. If the child chooses to continue on to university, the issue of maintenance will be reviewed and if it is decided that financial support should continue, this will usually be paid directly to the child. There is no fixed rule on a parent’s responsibility to support their child beyond the age of 18 — it will depend on the individual case and the financial situation of the parents.
How is Jersey child support decided?
There are two methods by which the resident parent can obtain child maintenance.
The first is by way of an agreement between the parents as to the specific amount of maintenance based on both parents’ income, their financial circumstances and the needs of the child. Parents may also agree to contribute to additional expenses for the child, such as school trips, school uniforms and dentist and doctor’s fees.
If the parents are unable to reach an agreement regarding child maintenance costs, the resident parent may wish to make an application to the Royal Court. Both parents will be required by the Court to complete forms disclosing their finances and their assets.
In determining the level of child maintenance which should be paid, the Jersey Court will consider a number of factors, such as the income, earning capacity and any other financial resources which each parent has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future, together with their financial needs and obligations. The Court will also have regard to the financial needs of the child and, if applicable, the child’s income, earning capacity and other financial resources that he or she may have.
The Jersey Courts have now moved away from using the UK Child Support Agency Guidelines as a starting point and will arrive at what the court considers as a reasonably affordable figure, given all of the circumstances of the case which ensure that the needs of the child are met and, without causing real hardship.
Once the Court has made a decision as to the level of maintenance payable, the decision will be reflected in an Order of the Court, which is binding on both parties. Should the non-resident party default, the resident parent may enforce the order in the Petty Debts Court.
An order for child maintenance can be made as part of divorce proceedings, but it is important to note that financial support will be required whether or not the parents were ever married.
What if my circumstances change?
The amount of child maintenance can be adjusted if the contributing parent’s circumstances alter, for example, if they become redundant. Equally, if the parent who has been the recipient of child maintenance payments has a change of circumstances, for example, a significant increase in income, the amount should be amended accordingly. The contributing parent can apply to have the original order adjusted by the Court.
What if the agreed child maintenance payments are not made?
If one parent frequently fails to make the agreed payments, the other parent can seek legal assistance to recover any outstanding money and enforce the resumption of payments in the future via an order from the Petty Debts Court or the Royal Court.
As with the main application in your divorce here at Parslows Jersey, we will always strive to reach amicable financial settlements. If this is not possible, our experienced advocates can assist you in seeking the necessary support from the Court to ensure that your child or children receive the appropriate level of child maintenance after you and your partner separate.