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National Council adopts changes to child custody law

This is a “significant reform of family law,” stressed the Minister of State, Serge Telle, at the time of the vote on the bill. Draft Law No. 922, on ‘alternate residence,’ or joint custody, has recently been adopted by the National Council. The draft introduces this notion in Monegasque law, evolving with society’s needs. The bill is “in the primary interest of the child”, stressed Thierry Poyet, rapporteur of the bill before the High Assembly. This new legislation lowers the possibility of an alternate residence for children from six to three years of age.

“While the government had initially retained the age of six, it was preferred that it be three years, in order to provide more flexibility to families. Although the pronouncement of alternate residence should remain relatively rare under the age of six, it will allow the judge to resort to it when the best interests of the child commands it, “explained the rapporteur.

“If everyone likes to say that alternate residence is the most complete form of co-parenting, your rapporteur does not want to impose it as the right solution or the wrong one, but simply as an alternative and flexible one that allows the judge to rule in the interest of the child.”

What about the head of household?

In the background, this law works for an international levelling – most of the countries of Europe have integrated alternating guardianship in their legal arsenal. But it also works towards equality of men and women in the Principality, in regards to the status of head of household.

In affect, in the case of alternate residences, Article 9 provides for the payment of half of family allowances by each of the parents. “Your rapporteur is obviously aware of a legal difficulty arising from the identification of social benefits, which are not currently defined in the Act, nor does it lay down a system of family benefits. In the same way, it is equally aware that the technical tool is aimed at the half distribution of these same benefits.” However, Thierry Poyet points out that “in the eyes of the Commission, these arguments are not sufficient to delay the approval of a measure that garners more equality of men and women.”

A point of view by the Minister of State said that “the government shares this subsidiary concern, in cases where the father would not be able to open family allowances.”

Everyone seems to be confused on this question, but all of the elected representatives agree that the evolution of the status of head of household is necessary. Béatrice Frescko-Rolfo (HM) is favourable to the bill. She considers it good for “the maintenance of a strong relationship between the parents and the child which must prevail over any other consideration.”

She declared: “it is time to start a more comprehensive definition of the head of household. In an alternate residence, there are two separate households, for 15 days the mother must be considered head of household. There are things to do about this concept.”

The subject also angers Jean-Louis Grinda (UM), saying: “it’s currently a discriminatory practice. This bill is like a do-it-yourself project. Women and their children do not have the same rights as men and their children. A divorced woman would have more rights than a married woman. It is the height of absurdity. It is the forces of money that are fighting these changes. It is high time to leave the Middle-Ages.”

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