Greater protection for children to come into effect

Changes to the Children Law rules, designed to protect children in family disputes from being removed without authorization from Cayman, will go into effect on Aug. 3.

The Children Law, which came into force in 2012, provides protections for all children in the Cayman Islands. The rules of the law were last amended in 2012, to ensure that the best interests of the child are taken into account during domestic disputes before a court.

According to Conor Fee, who practices family law with experience in child-related contact and residence disputes, the law currently gives the court the power to make four different types of orders concerning children. The courts can issue a residence order, which determines where and with what parent a child lives; a contact order determining when a child sees a parent he or she does not live with; a specific issue order, which determines certain aspects of the child’s life like where they might go to school; and, finally a prohibited steps order. Mr. Fee, an associate at Samson & McGrath Attorneys-at-Law, describes the prohibited steps order as “prohibiting a parent from doing something he or she might ordinarily be allowed to do with a child,” like taking the child abroad. Fee says it is often used in an emergency order to prevent an abduction.

The new amendments to the rules deal exclusively with the prohibited steps order. Mr. Fee says that when such an order is made, it is typically good practice for attorneys to provide a copy of the order to the Immigration Department, so that if a prohibited person tries to remove a child from Cayman, that attempt is flagged. The changes to the rules will make that filing a requirement.

“This will increase the protection afforded to children here because it is now automatic that immigration will be notified of any restrictions on a child being removed from the islands, and will not allow that child to travel abroad,” Mr. Fee said.

The new rules will also allow the court the option of making a further six possible orders in cases that the court finds additional safeguards are necessary. For example, the court would now be able to make an order requiring a person that the court has deemed a “prohibited person” (the person the prohibited steps order has been made against) to take an oath to state whether he or she has the child’s passport and can require that person to surrender the passport to the court. The court can also order a prohibited person to state whether they know of anyone else who has that child’s passport.

The court can also order the “prohibited person” to state whether they know of any pending passport applications for the child. Fee says this “could be useful where a child has dual nationality and so the surrender of one passport may not prevent the child travelling on another passport.”

The new powers are added to both the grand court and summary court rules, so the new powers will apply equally in both courts.