8.25.12 Updated on:

What to do if you are seeking a divorce

If you want to divorce, you may still be living with your partner or may have been separated for some time. It is possible that your partner has left you and you do not know where they are.

If you are still living together, the first thing is for you both to start living apart. You might like to first read how separation and divorce can affect housing rights.  Please see Ending relationships and housing.

It is possible to separate but live in the same property, see Judicial and legal separation.

If you have been separated for some time, have a maintenance order in place and you both have settled housing, this can form the basis for the divorce settlement and guide the Court as to what allowances for each party is suitable.

Where you have been deserted by your spouse without cause for a period of two years, you can apply to the Court for a divorce. You can also get a divorce if you have lived apart for one year if both parties agree or two years if the other party does not agree.

The person who is asking for the divorce is called the Petitioner and the person being divorced is called the Respondent. When you ask for a divorce it is called a petition. You petition for a divorce.

Legal help

If you and your spouse can agree on the division of any assets, it is possible to manage your divorce yourself. You can get help on how to do this from the Beginning divorce proceedings section on the Judicial Greffe website.

In some cases you may be wise to get legal help for your divorce, especially if there are children involved. Legal Aid may be available.

Citizens Advice Jersey cannot recommend specific lawyers, but can give you a list of Specialist Lawyers.

When can a divorce be heard in Jersey

Other than in special situations, a request for a divorce cannot be heard by the Court during the first three years of the marriage.

At least one spouse in the marriage needs to have been living on the island for one year before they can file for divorce.

Divorce petitions are heard by the Family Division of the Royal Court six times a year. If a divorce is undefended, a decree nisi can be made by the Registrar of the Family Division without any hearing. 

What are the grounds for divorce?

A decree is a court order and the Court may grant one for any of the following reasons:

  • The respondent has committed adultery and the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the respondent
  • Desertion without cause for a period of at least two years
  • Behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent
  • Incurable in the soundness of mind
  • Imprisonment for a term of not less than fifteen years
  • Separation for one year where you both agree to the divorce or two years if your partner does not agree to the divorce

Separation is the most common reason for divorce.

Except in separation cases, the Court is able to dismiss a petition if they believe the person asking for the divorce has been guilty of cruelty, unreasonable delay in presenting the petition or, in certain cases, desertion or wilful neglect or misconduct.

What is the divorce process?

  1. The person in the marriage who wants the divorce should get legal support from a solicitor or advocate, unless you are a Litigant in Person.
  2. The lawyer will then draw up the petition based on evidence given to them and the papers will be submitted to the court.
  3. At that stage, the respondent will need to instruct their own lawyer to answer the petition and to agree arrangements for any children, financial and property matters.
  4. When these matters have been agreed, a decree nisi can be granted.
  5. The decree nisi is a conditional divorce that does not become final until the decree absolute is granted some six weeks later. This period gives the opportunity to the public to object to the divorce.

In some cases, the financial settlement is difficult to agree, so the divorce hearing goes ahead with these ancillary matters to be finalised at a later date. Neither party has to be in Court for the hearing. The decree absolute must then be applied for some weeks later.

What is Litigant in Person?

A Litigant in Person is someone who is managing their own divorce case without the help of a lawyer, solicitor or advocate.

The Judicial Greffe have produced a draft divorce petition and Guidance notes for completion.

The following forms are also required:

The forms need to be filled out and the petition and original marriage certificate need to be taken to the Family Division of the Judicial Greffe together with Court stamps to the value of £300 in order to start proceedings. If you have difficulty in paying court fees, an exemption certificate may be issued by the Viscounts Department.

Distribution of assets

The distribution of assets means how your property or goods is split up when you divorce.

It is less expensive and time consuming if you can reach agreements without using lawyers.  Family Mediation Jersey or Family Foundation may be able to help.

What is the cost of divorce?

In most divorce cases there is no order for costs and so each party pays their own legal costs.

Defended costs

  1. If the Respondent in the divorce case feels strongly that they should not pay costs, then it is up to them to tell their lawyer to discuss this and agree with the other party on costs.
  2. The respondent in a one year separation divorce is in a stronger position, because their permission is needed for the divorce to go ahead.
  3. The respondent is in a weaker position if the reason being given for the divorce is unreasonable behaviour or adultery. Even then costs are not automatically given to the Petitioner unless they do not reply to the petition.
  4. A respondent who is worried about costs when they receive divorce papers must send back the Form 4 signed and asking to be heard in the matter of costs. This stops an order on costs being asked for by the petitioner and given by the Court when the respondent does not reply.

Estimating Costs

At present there is no standard scale of fees for divorce work, which means there is no system for working out how much is likely to be. The total cost of the divorce can be broken down into two parts: the cost of getting the actual divorce and the cost of the work involved in sorting out the financial and childcare matters. It is not unusual for legal costs when using a lawyer to be more than £25,000.

What are taxed costs?

When the Court makes an order for costs to be paid by either party, the costs are taxed or decided by the Judicial Greffe, i.e. an amount which is based on a scale. It is not the amount that you have spent and is likely to be much less.


Who pays for the divorce?

In most divorce cases there is no order for costs asked for, and so each party pays their own legal costs.


How long do you have to be married to file for a divorce?

Other than in special situations, a request for a divorce cannot be heard by the Court during the first three years of the marriage.


What is Litigant in Person?

A Litigant in Person is someone who is managing their own divorce case without the help of a lawyer, solicitor or advocate.