Jersey has its own set of laws regarding marriage and divorce which must be followed if you want your divorce proceedings to go as smoothly as possible.
We’ll explain the grounds for divorce, as well as outline the steps required for filing for divorce in Jersey and some of the associated costs. We also provide tips on the division of assets and child arrangements during divorce.
This content is for informational purposes only. If you need help with a divorce petition or any other issues relating to family law in Jersey, speak to one of our experienced team here.
Thinking about divorce? Petitions and hearings
Before you start divorce proceedings, there are some rules about the divorce process in Jersey that you should be aware of:
1) Under Jersey Law, you have to be married for at least three years before you can get a divorce. There may be exceptional circumstances to this rule that allow you to divorce within the first three years e.g. if it would cause exceptional hardship for the party seeking the divorce to remain in the marriage.
2) At least one spouse must have lived on the island for at least one year ending with the date of issue of proceedings.
3) Divorce petitions are heard each month by the Family Division of the Royal Court.
If both parties in a divorce agree on everything, a decree absolute and final financial can be made by the Registrar of the Family Division without any hearing in family court.
What are the grounds for divorce in Jersey?
A decree may be granted by the court for any of the following grounds for divorce:
- The petitioner has initiated the divorce believing that the respondent has committed adultery.
- Desertion by the respondent for a period of two years or longer.
- Unacceptable behaviour on the part of the respondent that makes it impossible for the petitioner to live with them anymore.
- Mental incapacity on the part of the respondent.
- Imprisonment of the respondent for fifteen years or longer.
- Separation from one another with agreement from both parties for a period of one year, or without agreement from either party for at least two years.
Separation is the most common reason for divorce.
The Court can dismiss a request for divorce if they think the petitioner has been cruel, took too long to provide the petition, or in some cases if that person has abandoned their spouse or been neglectful on purpose.
What is the process for divorce in Jersey?
- The petitioner who is seeking the divorce should seek legal counsel from a solicitor, advocate or become a Litigant in Person.
- The lawyer will create the petition based on evidence and documentation which they have been given and then submit it to the court.
- After the submission of the petition, the respondent must answer it.
- A decree nisi can be granted as an interim measure until a more formal decree absolute is made.
- Generally a decree absolute will not be granted until all arrangements in relation to children, finances and property have been dealt with, either by agreement or after a hearing in court.
After the decree absolute, parties may remarry if they wish.
Is divorce the right option?
Couples counselling is a great option for couples who are facing challenges in their marriage. It's often easily accessible, cost effective and provides the potential for real change. With counselling, couples can determine whether they can work through their issues and find renewed hope in their relationship.
Where children are involved, counselling and mediation can be a way of keeping the separation amicable should you proceed with the divorce and reduce the amount of time spent in family court. It is a good way of finding common ground.
When to seek legal help
Divorce can be a complicated process that can leave you feeling overwhelmed. A lawyer can assist with a divorce in Jersey by helping to navigate the legal system, ensuring that all necessary documents are properly filed and providing legal advice on how best to proceed, whether you are the petitioner or respondent.
They can also advise on potential solutions if it's determined that an amicable settlement is not achievable with the other party.
Do I need a lawyer to get divorced in Jersey?
A person who is managing their own divorce case without the help of a lawyer, solicitor or advocate is called a Litigant in Person. Without a lawyer you'd need to draft and file the divorce petition yourself.
The following forms are also required:
- Notice of proceedings
- Acknowledgment of Service
- Statement of Arrangements for Children [if applicable]
You will also require documents such as the original marriage certificate.
However, it is highly recommended that you use an experienced lawyer, particularly where finances and children are involved.
Splitting assets in a divorce
The distribution of assets refers to how your property or goods are split up when you divorce.
Assets acquired during marriage, such as property, bank accounts and pensions, are usually split between the two parties in a divorce.
Whether this is done equally or not depends on individual circumstances.
A court-led FDR (Financial Dispute Resolution) may also be used to help resolve any disputes over the division of assets. Ultimately, the aim is to reach an agreement that both parties are happy with before proceedings are finalised.
How much does divorce cost?
When going through the process of divorce, there are two main costs to keep in mind - the cost of obtaining a divorce and the cost associated with resolving financial and childcare matters.
To help contain costs, some couples choose to use mediation which can provide access to legal advice while keeping fees lower than traditional litigation.
Uncontested divorce vs contested divorce
If there is no disagreement between the two parties, then an uncontested divorce can be obtained. This means that all matters related to finances and childcare will have been settled and agreed upon without dispute. This usually results in shorter proceedings and lower costs, as there is less work for the lawyers involved.
A contested divorce happens when there are disagreements between the two parties that must be resolved. This can increase costs and the length of proceedings.
It is important to note that if there are disputes over finances or childcare arrangements, both parties will benefit from independent legal advice in order for the proceedings to move forward. Additionally, court fees may be applicable. If matters cannot be mutually agreed there will be a trial, evidence will be heard and the Court will make any final decisions required.
Financial settlement and divorce proceedings in Jersey
A 50/50 split of assets in a financial settlement is rarely a fair outcome.
There are a number of factors which are taken into account when splitting income:
- welfare and health of any minor children;
- age of the parties involved
- length of the marriage in question
- financial needs of each party
- income and potential future earnings of each party
- contributions to the welfare of the family
- conduct of each party
- the loss as a result of the dissolution of the marriage e.g. pensions
In Jersey, both parents have a equal responsibility for the care of their children and any decisions taken by them must be made in the best interests of their children.
When establishing arrangements for the children, priority is given to the welfare of the child. The Court will take into account factors such as the physical, emotional and educational needs of each child, as well as the ability of both parents to meet those needs.
In order for an agreement to be reached on children's matters, it is recommended that a Parenting Plan be written up which sets out each parent’s responsibilities and any other relevant information.
How does divorce law in Jersey differ from the mainland UK?
Although the process of divorce in Jersey is similar to that of the mainland UK, there are some distinct differences.
For example, in Jersey the court can grant a decree nisi (interim order) and final decree at different hearings rather than both being granted on the same day as in England and Wales. This allows couples more time to make arrangements for their finances and the care of any children before the divorce is finalised.
Additionally, in Jersey, there are no formal requirements to attend mediation prior to issuing proceedings. However, it is recommended by the court and can help couples reach an agreement without having to go through a lengthy trial process.