Going through a divorce can be challenging. If you, and/or your spouse, are considering a divorce, a great starting point is familiarising yourself with the process and procedures. In this article, we guide you through the key stages of a divorce, including explanations of key terminology, to help you through the process. Dissolution of a civil partnership follows a similar process but there are some differences. This guide focuses on divorce.
Requirements for divorce in Jersey
Divorce in Jersey is governed by the Matrimonial Causes (Jersey) Law 1949 and Matrimonial Causes Rules 2005. Divorce is different from annulment and judicial separation. To obtain a divorce, the following criteria must be met:
Married for at least 3 years;
Either both domiciled in Jersey or for one spouse to be habitually resident in Jersey for the year before divorce proceedings are issued; and
There must be grounds for divorce.
Grounds for divorce
The procedure to get a divorce in Jersey is different to that in England. Jersey does not yet have “no-fault divorce” which allows spouses to end their marriage because they both simply want to. This is something that the profession is actively advocating for. See more about our views on no-fault divorce here.
The grounds for divorce in Jersey can be fault-based or based on the amount of time that spouses have been separated. A petition may be presented by either spouse on the ground that the respondent (the spouse on the receiving end of the petition):-
has committed adultery;
has deserted the petitioner without cause for a period of at least 2 years;
has behaved in a way that one cannot reasonably be expected to live with the other;
is of unsound mind and continuously under care and treatment for a period of at least 5 years; or
is serving a sentence of imprisonment for life or for a term not less than 15 years.
Or alternatively, on the ground that the parties to the marriage:-
Have lived apart continuously for at least 1 year and the other party agrees to the divorce; or
Have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 2 years.
Starting divorce proceedings
To initiate divorce proceedings, one spouse – called the “petitioner” – will need to submit to the Family Division of the Royal Court a divorce petition, along with certain other forms including one that sets out the arrangements for any children. Along with these forms, the petitioner must also submit the original marriage certificate or a certified copy. It is important to note that a woman gets divorced in her maiden name and the names on the petition should exactly match those on the marriage certificate. There is a court fee payable for the court to process the divorce.
Once a petition has been made, the other party (the respondent) must answer it. They will either agree to the grounds or wish to defend the petition. If the respondent wishes to defend the petition they must provide an answer within a certain timeframe. This is known as a defended petition. If the respondent agrees to the grounds, an undefended petition, decree nisi will be pronounced. The decree nisi is the first stage in the divorce itself.
During the process of your divorce, it is likely to be necessary to consider and resolve any matrimonial finances. This will likely involve the need for both spouses to fully disclose their financial circumstances, including all assets, debts and income. This is important to ensure one party is not left unfairly disadvantaged following divorce. Matters such as spousal maintenance, child maintenance and property division may need to be addressed. It is always best to seek legal advice and a specialist family lawyer can advise what sort of settlement is fair and help negotiate it if required. Resolving matrimonial finances can be complicated.
In cases where there is a dispute regarding finances, the Family Court offers an alternative dispute resolution service called Family Foundation. This free and voluntary service aims to assist parties in resolving any financial issues, using mediators, legal advisors and other experts as required. A court order can be obtained if parties are in agreement. If the finances cannot be resolved by agreement then it may be necessary to make an application to the court.
It is best to finalise financial matters in a divorce and to record this in an agreement, called a consent order. That consent order can be converted to a court order if desired. That has its advantages which a lawyer can explain.
After a period of six weeks and a day from the decree nisi, the petitioner can apply for a decree absolute assuming it is wise to do so. It will be important to take legal advice on this because it is a very significant document and ends the marriage
While this guide provides a general overview of the divorce process in Jersey, it is important to note that each case will be unique. Seeking professional legal advice is strongly recommended to ensure a smooth and hopefully less challenging divorce. If you would like to speak to someone about divorce and separation, speak to our team for friendly and confidential advice on 01534 760 860.