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Jersey Divorce and Civil Partnership Dissolution | FAQs

Divorce

What are the Grounds for a Jersey Divorce

There are a number of grounds for divorce in Jersey:-

  • Adultery: That the other party has committed adultery (that is, has had sexual intercourse with someone else during the marriage);
  • Behaviour: That the other party has behaved in such a way that he or she cannot reasonably be expected to live with the other party;
  • Desertion: That the other party has deserted him or her for the last two years at least. In practice, desertion is not often used as a ground for divorce;
  • One year’s separation: That the parties to the marriage have lived apart for at least the last year and the other agrees to be divorced;
  • Two years’ separation: That the parties to the marriage have lived apart for the last two years (whether or not the other agrees to the divorce).

How do I apply for a Divorce?

The person applying for the divorce must first issue what is called a Petition.

A Petition is a legal document setting out the basis on which the divorce is sought and the facts to be relied on.

The person applying for the divorce is called the Petitioner. The Petition is issued by sending it to the Court, with the marriage certificate and a fee.

If there are children involved, the Petitioner must also send the Court a statement setting out the arrangements for the children.

How do I serve Divorce papers?

Once the Court has approved the Petition and it is issued a copy must be given to the other party to the marriage. This person is called the Respondent.

The Respondent must complete and send to the Court a form to say that he or she has received the Petition and whether the case is to be contested. This is called an Acknowledgement of Service (form 4).

What happens once the Petition has been served?

In the Acknowledgement of Service, the Respondent must say whether he or she will defend the claim for a divorce. If he or she does, they must send the Court what is called an Answer; that is a written statement saying why he or she denies that the Petitioner should have a divorce.

In most cases, the Respondent does not defend the Petition and the Petitioner can complete the Acknowledgement of Service (form 4) This is the stage at which the Petitioner satisfies the Court that he or she should be granted a divorce.

This is done by sending the Court a sworn statement, called an Affidavit, in which the Petitioner tells the Court that everything stated in the Petition is true, and provides certain other information.

When do I get a decree nisi?

If the Court is satisfied with the paperwork submitted it will grant a Decree Nisi. A Decree Nisi is not a final decree of divorce.  In other words you are not yet formally divorced

When can I get a decree absolute?

However, once six weeks have elapsed after the grant of a Decree Nisi, the Petitioner can apply for a Decree Absolute. It is the Decree Absolute which actually brings the marriage to an end. If the Petitioner fails to apply for a Decree Absolute the Respondent will be able to apply.

Undefended divorce

The vast majority of divorces proceed as “undefended divorces”; in other words, the Respondent does not oppose the divorce itself and agrees to divorce on the basis of one-year separation. There is often little point in a person defending divorce proceedings because if one party to a marriage thinks that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, then almost by definition it will have done.

Arrangements for Children

If there are children involved, the Petitioner is unlikely to be able to apply for a Decree Absolute, unless the Court is satisfied that satisfactory child arrangements have been made for them. When the Petition is filed, a statement is given to the Court setting out the arrangements that have been made for the children. If the Court is concerned that the arrangements may not be satisfactory, it can require the parties to attend a hearing, at which the arrangements for the children will be considered.

Civil Partnership Dissolution

What are the Grounds for civil partnership dissolution?

Under Jersey Law the Court may grant a final order for of your civil partnership dissolution on one or more of the following grounds:

  • The Respondent has behaved in such a way that the applicant cannot reasonably be expected to live with the Respondent;
  • The Respondent is curably of unsound mind and has been continuously under care and treatment for a period of at least 5 years immediately preceding the application:
  • The Respondent has deserted the applicant without cause for a period of at least 2 years; and
  • The parties to the civil partnership:-
    – Have lived apart for a continuous period of at least one year immediately preceding the application and the Respondent consents to the dissolution of the partnership;
    – Have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 2 years immediately preceding the application.

What is the procedure for applying for civil partnership dissolution?

Step 1 – Preparation of the Cause Application

The Cause Application is drafted.

The Application sets out the particulars of your civil partnership, the grounds for dissolution and the relief that you want.

The person who issues the Cause Application is the Applicant and the other person is the Respondent.

Step 2 – File the Cause Application with the Court

The Cause Application is filed with the Royal Court, together with:

  • Original or certified copy (from the Office of the Superintendent Registrar) of your civil partnership certificate;
  • Notice of Proceedings (Form CP3);
  • Acknowledgment of Service (Form CP4);
  • Statement of Arrangements for children (if appropriate); and
  • Court filing fee.

Step 3 – Serving the Cause Application papers on the Respondent

The Royal Court will review your Cause Application and associated documents.  If it is satisfied that the documents are in order, it will issue a Court file number and return the documentation to you for service.

If the Respondent is in Jersey, then the Cause Application must be served personally on the Respondent through the Viscount’s department.

The following will be served on the Respondent:

  • Cause Application;
  • Notice of Proceedings;
  • Acknowledgement of Service;
  • Statement of Arrangements for children (if applicable).

Step 4 – Return of Acknowledgment of Service

The Respondent has 8 days after being served with the Cause papers to complete and return the Acknowledgment of Service to the Royal Court.  The Respondent will confirm whether he/she intends to defend the Cause Application.

Step 5 – Setting the Cause for Hearing (undefended cases)

If the Respondent confirms that he/she does not intend to defend the Cause Application, you can proceed to apply for the Cause to be set down at the next undefended hearing.  In order to set the Cause Application down, you will be required to apply for the Greffier’s Certificate and complete an Affidavit (depending upon which ground you have based your application).

If the Registrar is satisfied with the paperwork, the Registrar issues the Greffier’s Certificate and sets a date for the pronouncement of the Conditional Order.

Step 6 – Hearing

In the case of an undefended hearing, the Court will consider the documentation filed without the parties being present.  The parties may be required to attend if there is a dispute about costs.

Step 7 – Conditional Order

If the Court is satisfied with the Cause Application and supporting documents the Conditional Order will be pronounced. If the Court is satisfied about the arrangements for each child, this is stated in the Court Minutes and a Certificate of Satisfaction will be issued to you.

Step 8 – Decree Absolute

From six weeks and a day after the Conditional Order has been pronounced, the Applicant is entitled to apply for a final order for dissolution of the civil partnership.

If the Petitioner does not apply, the Respondent may apply for the Conditional Order to be made final three months thereafter by filing a Summons.

The Conditional Order will not be made final unless the Registrar is satisfied with the arrangements

Financial Provisions on Divorce

What is the process?

When dealing with a couple’s financial provisions on divorce, there are two ways in which you can proceed. The first being voluntarily and the second being an application to the Royal Court for ancillary relief / financial provision.

It is important to note that an application for ancillary relief can only be filed once a petition for Jersey divorce or judicial separation is before the Royal Court.

The usual process for disclosure upon an application for financial provisions on divorce

The first stage in the disclosure process, whether it be voluntarily or through Royal Court proceedings, is for both parties’ legal representatives to set a date for exchanging the Affidavits of Means.

An Affidavit of Means is a document which lists information in respect of an individual’s financial situation. The document covers a wide range of circumstances which could apply in any given case, for example; details of any property owned, details of all bank accounts held, any pensions, shares or investment policies, details of any loans and liabilities, any personal belongings of a particular value and details of that person’s individual needs and the needs of the children (where applicable).

The Affidavit of Means is then accompanied by supporting disclosure; the usual documentation provided are the following:

  • Proof of any maintenance being paid, whether spousal or child contributions;
  • Details of any mortgages and their repayment terms for any properties owned;
  • An up-to-date valuation of any properties owned;
  • Details of your individual borrowing capacity from a bank provider;
  • Twelve months’ worth of bank statements for all accounts held; depending on the circumstances, three years’ worth may be sought;
  • Details of any life insurance policies;
  • Valuations of any pensions held; the usual information sought is the ‘cash equivalent transfer value’ (CETV);
  • Details of any debts, loans and credit cards;
  • Documentation to support monthly outgoings, where applicable; and
  • Six months’ worth of wage slips, and proof of the previous year’s December wage slip.

Once the Affidavits of Means are exchanged, where necessary, there may be a provision for questionnaires to be exchanged. Questionnaires are done on the basis of the information received; the other side then has the right to request for further disclosure where proportionate. Replies are then exchanged shortly thereafter, to provide the information sought in the questionnaires.

Proposals are then negotiated by the legal representatives as to any offers for settlement.

In the event of Royal Court proceedings for financial provisions on divorce, there may be further filing tasks where appropriate.

Where an agreement has been reached, the parties may enter into a consent order which will be binding when ratified by the Royal Court. Alternatively, the Court may make an order for financial provisions on divorce in the absence of any agreement at a final hearing.

Children

Who is responsible for the welfare of the children when a marriage breaks up?

Where children are born during the course of the marriage, both parents have parental responsibility.

How is Parental responsibility defined?

Parental responsibility is defined as:

“All the rights, duties, powers, responsibility and authority which by law a parent has in relation to a child and his property”.

The courts are often asked to decide disputes between divorcing parents relating to their children.

The guiding principle of family law is that the interests of the children are paramount.

What law governs how disputes over children are dealt with?

Disputes concerning children are dealt with in accordance with the Children Law.

The underlying philosophy of this Act is that courts should not become involved unnecessarily with disputes between parties concerning their children. The courts take the view that litigation concerning children can be harmful to the children and should therefore be discouraged. The idea is that, wherever possible, parents should sort out their differences through negotiation.

What factors do the Court consider when deciding on a dispute about children?

The Court will take into account a number of factors when deciding on a dispute relating to child.

These include:-

  • The wishes and feelings of the child, so far as they are ascertainable, taking into account the age and understanding of the child;
  • The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs;
  • The likely effect on the child of any change in the child’s circumstances;
  • The child’s age, sex, background and characteristics of the child which the Court considers relevant;
  • Any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
  • The capability of each of the child’s parents (and of any other person in relation to whom the Court considers the question to be relevant) to meet the child’s needs; and
  • Finally, the Court will look at the range of powers available to it under the Children Act and the proceedings in question.

What type of orders can the Court make?

Orders which the Court can make include the following:-

  • A residence order – an order settling the arrangements to be made as to the person with whom the child is to live;
  • A contact order – an order requiring the person with whom the child lives to allow the child to visit, stay with or otherwise have contact with some other specified person;
  • A specific issue order – an order giving directions to decide a specific question in connection with any aspect of parental responsibility;
  • A prohibited steps order – an order that a specified step shall not be taken in respect of the child without the Court’s consent.

Who can apply?

Either parent in a divorce may apply to the Court for any of the above orders. In this way disputes as to who the child should live with, who the child should see, where the child should go to school, whether or not the child should be allowed to be taken out of the country, etc, can be determined by the Royal Court.

Notification

Please note that the information provided on this website is for general information purposes only and is designed to provide you with an outline of the legal services we offer.  Whilst we endeavour to ensure our information is correct and useful, we make no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information offered.  Information on our website does not constitute legal advice and Parslows Jersey accepts no liability for any loss or damage arising out of, or in connection with, the information found in this website.  Please consult a lawyer at Parslows Jersey in the event that you require professional assurance that our information, and your interpretation of the same, is correct.

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