A divorce formally ends a marriage. It is different to an annulment and different to just being separated.
To get divorced you need an order from the Court that confirms your marriage is dissolved. That is called a decree absolute and until that document is issued you remain legally married. Decree absolute is significant because you need to it change your name on your passport, for example.
The procedure in Jersey to obtain a divorce is different to England. A woman gets divorced in her maiden name.
To obtain a divorce you need to be:
Married for at least three years;
Either both be domiciled in Jersey or for one spouse to be habitually resident in Jersey for the year before divorce proceedings are issued (these are legal terms that you should check with a lawyer if in any doubt);
There must be grounds for a divorce. It is not enough to say “we don’t want to be together anymore so let’s get a divorce tomorrow”. That cannot happen, unfair as it might seem.
The grounds for divorce in Jersey are either fault-based or based on the time you and your spouse have been separated. You can get divorced after you have been separated for one year if you both agree, otherwise you need to wait for two years and then the other person does not have to consent. You either need to be separated for a requisite period of time – for one year if you both agree to a divorce, or for two years if the other person does not agree.
If you feel you want a divorce sooner, you might be able to apply for one if your spouse has committed adultery and you find it intolerable to live with him/her any longer because of it or if your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with him/her. It is also possible to get a divorce if your spouse has deserted you at least two years before the application for divorce, is in prison for 15 years or more, or if he/she is of unsound mind and has been continuously under care and treatment for at least five years prior to the divorce petition.
The court in Jersey deals with divorces at six times of the year. A divorce petition is submitted, with a form outlining the arrangements for any children. It is processed and returned and then served on the other party (called the respondent). The respondent has a set time to return the documents and, if there are no issues, it can proceed. The court then issues decree nisi – the first stage. Six weeks and a day after that the petitioner can apply for decree absolute if it is advisable to do so. Decree nisi is significant because the court can approve any agreement relating to finances only after decree nisi has been issued.
If you need help sorting out your finances it is best to seek legal advice. You do not necessarily need to use a lawyer to deal with every aspect if you do not want to. Sometimes people like to get general advice but have the discussions with their spouse themselves; other people prefer a lawyer to front it all. Whichever you prefer we can help you. We can let you know what sort of settlement is fair and help negotiate it if you wish, whether that be by correspondence, a meeting or, if necessary, in court.