What are the grounds for the dissolution of civil partnerships in Jersey?
The three year bar
It should be noted at this juncture that neither party may apply to the Court to dissolve their civil partnership unless, at the date of the application, a period of three years or more has passed since the formation of the civil partnership, unless the case is one whereby the applicant has suffered exceptional hardship, or the respondent has exhibited behaviour of exceptional depravity.
This is not to say, however, that the parties may not separate during this time. If you require further information in respect of separation, please click here to read our article.
Applicant and respondent
Once an application for the dissolution of a civil partnership has been made to the Court, the parties are referred to as “applicant” (being the party making the application) and “respondent” (being the party against whom the application is filed).
Grounds for dissolution
For couples who have been in a civil partnership for a period of three years or more, either party may apply to the Court to have the civil partnership dissolved on the basis that, since entering into the civil partnership:
- the respondent has behaved in such a way that the applicant cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent (commonly known as the ground of unreasonable behaviour)
- the respondent is incurably of unsound mind and has been continuously under care and treatment for a period of at least five years immediately prior to the application for dissolution being made
- the parties to the civil partnership:
- have lived apart for a continuous period of at least one year immediately prior to the application for dissolution being made and the respondent consents to the dissolution of the civil partnership (this being commonly known as the ground of one year’s separation)
- have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years immediately prior to the application for dissolution being made (this being commonly known as the ground of two years’ separation)
- the respondent has deserted the applicant without reason for a period of at least two years immediately prior to the application for dissolution being made.
This ground can be problematic as what may be considered by one person to be unreasonable, may not be considered to be unreasonable by another. That said, and as a guide, some of the following may be deemed to constitute unreasonable behaviour for the purposes of an application to dissolve a civil partnership:
- controlling behaviour by one partner over the other (including exerting financial and social control)
- consistently unpleasant behaviour, for example belittling or derogatory comments
- physical or emotional intimacy with a third party outside the partnership such that the applicant feels lonely, humiliated and/or betrayed
- physical or emotional abuse.
It should be noted that these are not the only factors to be considered when making an application on the ground of unreasonable behaviour. If you wish to make an application and are unsure whether the ground of unreasonable behaviour applies to your situation, please do not hesitate to call one of our family lawyers who would be happy to discuss this with you.
Grounds of separation
In order to make an application on the grounds of one or two years’ separation, the couple need not necessarily live in entirely separate accommodation, and indeed it is well-recognised that many couples cannot afford to do so. It is however essential that the couple live separate and apart in the sense that, although they may reside under the same roof, they each undertake their own household chores, and do not continue with shared sleeping arrangements, for example.
It is also important that applicants are aware that in instances where applications are made on the ground of on year’s separation, the respondent must have been given such information as will enable him/her to understand the consequences of consenting to an order of dissolution being made and the steps which the respondent must take to indicate their consent.
The Court may rescind any such order if the Court is satisfied that the applicant misled the respondent (intentionally or unintentionally) about any matter which the respondent took into account when deciding to give his or her consent to an order of dissolution being made.
Further, it is important for applicants to consider that the Court may refuse an application made on the ground of two years’ separation if the Court is of the view that such dissolution would cause grave financial or other hardship to the respondent. Should you find yourself in this position, we would be happy to talk this through with you.