The Jersey Law Commission

simplifying and modernising our island’s laws

Jersey Law Commission proposes radical reform to divorce law

Monday 26 October 2015

Today, the Jersey Law Commission publishes a report recommending radical reform to the Island’s divorce law.

Click here to read the full report 2015 Topic Report on Divorce

Among the changes proposed are:

  • A completely new law to replace the Matrimonial Causes (Jersey) Law 1949, which is no longer fit for purpose in the 21st century. The new law would emphasise reconciliation processes to save marriages where possible. Where this is not possible, the next best outcome is for the couple to be helped to reach an agreement for themselves about how the marriage will be ended. Under the proposed new Law, where there is no dispute in respect of children or finances, a divorce should be able to be fast-tracked to obtain a divorce order within 3 months. Court proceedings should be the exception rather than the rule, reserved for any issues that the couple have not been able to resolve themselves.
  • The grounds for obtaining a divorce should not be based on factors such as adultery or “unreasonable behaviour”. The proposed new Law would introduce “no fault” divorce to the Island.
  • The 3-year waiting period before divorce proceedings can be started would be abolished in the proposed new Law; Jersey law should be brought into line with the law in Guernsey and Scotland.
  • Jersey law should enable a couple to make a financial ‘clean break’ after divorce.
  • Jersey law should permit married couples to enter into legal binding agreements (sometimes referred to as “pre-nups” and “post-nups”) about what should happen if their marriage should come to an end, provided certain safeguards are in place.
  • A Resolution Service should be set up, administered separately from the court system, to provide alternative dispute resolution services, mediation, arbitration and counselling services for couples who feel their marriage is coming to an end.

It will now be for the States of Jersey to decide whether to accept the recommendations and, if so, how to implement them.

Advocate Barbara Corbett, appointed by the Law Commission to lead the project, said:

“The current Jersey law doesn’t encourage or facilitate reconciliation when a couple are separated prior to starting the divorce proceedings or during the proceedings – on the contrary, Jersey law actively discourages couples from trying to save their marriage. The Law Commission’s proposals support the institution of marriage and recommend ways in which marriage can be saved wherever possible”.

“It should be possible to obtain a divorce without apportioning blame. If a couple agree that their marriage is at an end they should be able to apply jointly for a divorce. There should be no need for court proceedings.”

Mr Clive Chaplin, chairman of the Jersey Law Commission said:

“The Law Commission exists to help bring about practical improvements in the Island’s legal system. Divorce is a matter of great significance to many people in Jersey. Between 240 and 260 couples start divorce proceedings every year. Many couples have children who, along with the wider family and the couple’s friends and colleagues, are all affected by the breakdown of a marriage. The Law Commission’s project provides a blueprint for better law that may help save some marriages and, where that’s not possible, make the process of ending marriages easier”.

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This entry was posted on October 26, 2015 by .
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