A brief guide to Jersey divorce procedure
By Natalie Jenner, Partner at Parslows Jersey
A Jersey divorce can only be granted by the Royal Court of Jersey under their divorce procedure.
When can I commence the divorce procedure?
It is not possible to apply for a divorce until at least three years after the date of the marriage.
Furthermore, either or both of the parties must live in Jersey, or at least one of them must have lived in Jersey for the past year, at the time proceedings begin.
Grounds for 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).
- Applying for a divorce | divorce procedure
In relation to the divorce procedure, 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.
- Service of the divorce papers
Once a petition has been 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).
- 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 Aknowledgement 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.
If the Royal Court is satisfied with the paperwork it will grant a Decree Nisi.
A Decree Nisi is not a final decree of divorce. 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.
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.
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;
- from the point of view of resolving disputes about children or money, it does not matter which party obtains the divorce.
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About Parslows Jersey
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