Family Law Jersey - Questions and Answers

21st October 2020
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How do I apply for a divorce in Jersey?

A divorce is obtained by making an application (divorce petition) to the court. You can do this yourself or by instructing a lawyer. We would always recommend that you seek legal advice. We offer a free 30 minute information session if you are not sure where you stand.

 

Do I need a lawyer to get a divorce in Jersey?

We recommend that you seek expert legal advice when filing for divorce. However, you can apply for a divorce yourself by completing the necessary forms and filing them with the court. When you do not have a lawyer you are known as a litigant in person.

If you want to arrange the divorce yourself there is some very helpful information on the Jersey Citizen’s advice website. There is also some general guidance for litigants in person here.

You may qualify for legal aid. See our legal aid section below.

 

Where can I find the divorce forms in Jersey?

You can go into the Family Court and ask for the forms you need, or you can access them online here.

 

Legal Aid in Jersey. Is there free legal advice in Jersey?

You may qualify for legal aid in which case you should be able to get some advice from a lawyer at a discounted rate or there may be no charge depending on your financial circumstances.

Details about the legal aid scheme can be found here.

Some law firms also provide free information about divorce. We provide free 30 minute information sessions. If you want to speak to us you can contact us on 01534 733030 or e-mail enquiries@corbettlequesne.com

 

How much does it cost to get a divorce in Jersey?

Some firms offer a fixed fee for a divorce although clients should be aware that they can be charged extra for additional work or if there are any complications, which there often are. Corbett Le Quesne will give you an estimate depending on your circumstances.

This is a list of court fees.

 

How do I find a divorce lawyer in Jersey?

This may be one of the most stressful periods of your life. You need an expert in family law and someone you trust and who will support you through this challenging time. Word of mouth is a good way to find a good lawyer, so ask the people you trust for recommendations.

You can find a list of the full members of the Jersey Family Law Association here.

Citizens’ Advice Jersey provide a list of family lawyers in Jersey (this is in alphabetical order according to the name of the law firm).

If you are awarded legal aid you will not be able to choose your lawyer. You will be allocated a suitable lawyer according to who is the next advocate on the legal aid list.

 

How do I choose a family lawyer in Jersey?

We are specialist family lawyers and we offer free 30 minute information sessions so you can meet with us and discuss your issues before you decide if you want to instruct us.

If you want to look around, we recommend that you look at a lawyer’s profile on their website, have a look at whether the firm’s ethos aligns with yours and whether they have the expertise and experience necessary to suit your needs.

You may qualify for legal aid. Have a look at our legal aid section to find out more.

 

What are the Grounds for Divorce in Jersey?

You have to meet certain criteria in order to be granted a divorce in Jersey. You should seek expert advice as every situation is different. In summary the grounds for divorce are as follows:

  • Separation for one year, with the consent of both parties

  • Separation for two years, the consent of the second party is not necessary

  • Adultery

  • Desertion

  • Unreasonable behaviour

  • Unsound mind

  • A lengthy prison sentence

When can you get divorced in Jersey?

Click here to see the Court Timetable 

 

Will I have to sell the family home?

This is a big concern for lots of people, especially if they have small children. The court’s first consideration is housing the children. Depending on the assets available this may mean retaining the home or buying a new property or providing funds towards renting a property.

The family home is considered a special asset. It does not matter if your name is on the property or not, both parties have an interest in the property through the Family Court’s discretion. The  court will look at all the circumstances of the case when determining what should happen to this important asset.

A clean break is seen as the best option in most cases. This means the court will aim to divide all of the assets when the parties divorce and not leave them intertwined or relying on each other.

 

Will I have to go back to work?

All of the circumstances will be taken into account. If you have very young children and you can afford to stay at home and care for them, the court would not expect you to return to work immediately.

A clean break between a couple is always considered to be the best outcome so that each party can move forward with their lives. The court will not order long term ongoing spousal maintenance to subsidise someone’s income when they could be working themselves unless there is a real need to do so. Each party has an obligation to maximise their income and earning capacity is taken into account.

 

How much money will I get?

Each situation is unique. Expert legal advice following full disclosure of the assets is advisable but not always necessary. The starting point is an equal division of the assets, but there are many factors that will be taken into account.

The factors that a court will consider when reaching a decision are:

  1. The income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources which each party has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;

  2. The financial needs, obligations and responsibilities each party has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;

  3. The standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage;

  4. The age of each party and the duration of the marriage;

  5. Any physical or mental disability of either of the parties;

  6. The contributions made by each party to the welfare of the family, including any contribution made by looking after the home or caring for the family;

  7. The conduct of the parties, but only if it would be inequitable for the court not to take this into account;

  8. The value to either of the parties of any benefit (for example, a pension) which s/he will lose the chance of acquiring because of the divorce.

Do we have to go to court to get divorced?

It is not necessary to go to court to obtain a divorce. It is usually only necessary to actually attend court if you and your spouse cannot agree matters relating to the care of the children or finances.

Court proceedings are expensive, and as the legal costs come out of the family pot, it makes sense to limit them as much as possible. Very few cases end up in a full-blown trial, many are settled “at the court door”, when people are under great stress and frequently feel pressured into accepting a settlement rather than going through a court hearing. As this is the case it makes sense to try to reach agreement early on in the process.

Having said all that, sometimes court is the only and best option. The benefits of going to court include finality and a feeling that you have been heard. However, a fair outcome determined by the court can mean that both parties are unhappy with the final decision.

 

How can we reach agreement when we want different things?

Think about the bigger picture and what you want to achieve rather than focusing on small details. Also, try to think positively about the future. There will inevitably be changes but planning your new life following divorce can be exciting. Look at what you are gaining from your new circumstances, not what you are losing.

Obtaining legal advice about what you can expect to achieve should reduce the issues between you.

You can have a lawyer and still negotiate an agreement in an amicable way. We have the specialist skills to help you achieve the best result without resorting to litigation

Read our blog post on the Dos and Don’ts of Divorce.

Start with the things you can agree on.

It is usually very hard to communicate with someone you are separating from due to the emotions involved. But if you can keep the lines of communication open it will benefit you in the longer term.

If at all possible, it is much better for cases to settle through mediation, Collaborative Law, private Financial Dispute Resolution or arbitration. For more information see the sections about alternatives to court.

The costs are not just financial, court proceedings are very stressful and emotionally draining.

 

What alternatives are there to court proceedings?

We use traditional and alternative methods of dispute resolution, our team being at the forefront of taking a collaborative approach to divorce and family matters. Both our partners Barbara Corbett and Nicholas Le Quesne are qualified collaborative lawyers.

We also offer mediation and arbitration to our clients as well as lawyer led negotiation and court based solutions. We are client centred and always explore with you how your needs will best be met.

We are members of Resolution and they have a very helpful guide that can help answer this question. Please note that Resolution is based in the UK and is not a Jersey organisation.

 

What is Collaborative Law?

Collaborative Law can help you to reach solutions together, work through the difficulties of relationship breakdown and help you resolve problems in the way that is right for the whole family. It is a different way of dealing with family breakdown. It needs a genuine desire on the part of both of you to make it work, but the results can be very positive.

It is especially beneficial when children are involved because you will always remain parents even after divorce. With Collaborative Law you maintain contact with your former partner throughout the process, so you have the best chance of understanding each other, reaching solutions that are right for you and the rest of the family. It will also help your children to cope better with your separation if they see that you are working things out together. 

In Collaborative Law, you and your former partner, each with your own specialist lawyer, sit down together and sort out problems face-to-face around the table. The process starts by both parties signing an agreement promising to treat each other with respect during the negotiations, to be open and honest about the assets you each own, and that you will reach a solution without going to court. 

Having your own lawyer there means that you benefit from having your own independent legal advisor with you, but you are able to set the pace of the negotiations, and you are not tied to a court timetable. You can set your own agenda and spend more time on the things which matter most to you and your family. This enables you to be more in control of the process, and you are not leaving it to a stranger, a judge, to make decisions for you.

For more information see our website or the Resolution website regarding Collaborative Law.

 

What Mediation Options are there in Jersey?

There are two mediation organisations in Jersey: Family Mediation Jersey and The Resolution Centre. Barbara Corbett, Senior Partner at Corbett Le Quesne, is a fully qualified mediator and can conduct mediations through Corbett Le Quesne.

In mediation the parties meet with the mediator who facilitates them to reach their own agreement. The mediator does not give legal advice but can provide general information. There are two main models of mediation: without lawyers, where mediation generally takes place over several sessions of around 90 minutes or with lawyers where typically the mediation is set up for most of a day and everyone concentrates on getting to a settlement. The advantages of this are that it gets done quickly, hopefully all in a day. The disadvantage is that for some people that may be too quick and the lawyers have to be paid as well as the mediator.

We can advise you on the most appropriate type of mediation for you and your circumstances. 

Family Mediation Jersey offers a service for couples and extended family to resolve issues by helping people reach agreements in a safe and supportive environment.

For more information about Family Mediation Jersey see their website.

 

What does Relate do in Jersey?

Relate’s counsellors offer a confidential, supportive and non-judgemental environment to work through relationship issues. You can attend Relate at any stage of your relationship. It is typical that after an assessment you have 6 counselling sessions to begin with and review the situation after that.

For more information about Relate Jersey see their website.

 

What is negotiation through lawyers?

Both Barbara Corbett and Nick Le Quesne are members of Resolution which means that they are subject to a rigorous code of conduct designed to reduce confrontation in family law cases and encourage the parties to try to resolve matters in an amicable and conciliatory way. Negotiating in this way can be through correspondence or by way of round table meetings, similar to Collaborative Law but without the restriction on taking the case to court if agreement cannot be reached. 

 

Is inheritance taken into account in a divorce?

If a party has already received or is likely to receive money soon after the separation, and the funds are needed to provide for the needs of the parties then invariably any inheritance will be included in the matrimonial assets. There are times when it would be clearly unfair to include inherited assets as well as times it would be unfair not to.

For example, if you inherited some money early in the relationship and that money was used to buy a family home then, save for an agreement to the contrary that the court deemed fair and equitable, the value of the family home would be seen as a joint asset and the source of funds would not matter.

 

What parenting support services are available in Jersey?

See our blog post, Support Agencies in Jersey.

 

How much will child maintenance be?

All of the circumstances of a case will be taken into account in calculating child maintenance. However, as a guide we use the following calculations:

1 child: 15% of net income

2 children: 20% of net income

3 or more children: 25% of net income

These figures are now a cross check against an analysis of the children’s needs and affordability, rather than as the basis for the amount that should be paid. The court looks at the following:

"(a)     the income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources which each person mentioned in sub-paragraph (4) has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;

(b)       the financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each person mentioned in sub-paragraph (4) has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;

(c)       the financial needs of the child;

(d)       the income, earning capacity (if any), property and other financial resources of the child;

(e)       any physical or mental disability of the child; and

(f)        the manner in which the child was being, or was expected to be, educated or trained."

 

Shared care and child maintenance

Increasingly couples are sharing residence or having far more equal contact with their children than they used to. Now that so many parents both work, sharing care is also more common.

How does this impact child maintenance? Sometimes where the parties are earning the same or similar amounts and sharing care of the children, no orders for child maintenance are made. As always it will depend on the circumstances but this has to be a very practical decision with the best interests of the children coming first.

 

What is Parental Responsibility?

Where a child’s parents are married to each other when the child is born, they both have parental responsibility for the child. 

Where the parents of the child are unmarried, the mother automatically has parental responsibility, but the father does not, unless the child was born after 2 December 2016 and the father’s name was on the birth certificate.

To acquire Parental Responsibility the parents can enter into a written Parental Responsibility Agreement or the court can make an order. Other people can also have parental responsibility for a child if they have a residence order in their favour in respect of the child.

More than one person can have parental responsibility for a child at any one time, and each of them may exercise that parental responsibility independently, except for matters which require the consent of all those with parental responsibility, e.g. adoption, change of name or permanent removal from the jurisdiction.

A person who has parental responsibility cannot transfer or surrender it, but they can arrange for some aspects of their parental responsibility to be met by someone else acting on their behalf, e.g. a child minder. The making of any such arrangement does not prevent the person with parental responsibility being ultimately responsible for the child. A person who does not have parental responsibility, but has the actual care of the child may do what is reasonable in all the circumstances to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare. A parent who has parental responsibility for a child can appoint someone else to take his or her place as the child’s guardian in the event of his or her death.

 

What if I want to leave Jersey with my child?

At Corbett Le Quesne we have significant experience of dealing with international cases like this and Barbara Corbett, as a fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers has a worldwide network of lawyer contacts she can call on at such times.

A very specific matter of disagreement can be whether a child is taken to live in a different jurisdiction. With so many families in Jersey coming from outside the island, and many families with parents from different countries, requests to take children abroad to live occur in Jersey probably more than in most places.

If at all possible it is best to agree matters. Sometimes the parent to be left in Jersey will not be happy with the child leaving and will try to stop the other parent’s plans. It is always difficult but if good, proper plans for education, accommodation, a source of income and a support network are put in place by the parent who wants to leave and very robust plans for contact are put in place, with enforceable arrangements for the child to return to Jersey and for the parent left behind to travel to see the child in the new environment, relocation can work.

A child should not be unilaterally removed from Jersey, to do so may well constitute child abduction and there can be criminal consequences.

If a child is taken from Jersey, especially to a country which is a signatory to the Hague Convention on child abduction, there is a relatively speedy procedure for having the child returned to Jersey for the Jersey courts to decide where he or she should live.

If a parent is found to have taken a child out of Jersey without consent they can also be ordered to pay the costs of any court proceedings to have the child returned.

It is always wise to make an application to the Family Court if you are not able to agree. An application for leave to remove (in effect a Specific Issue Order) is made by a parent wanting to take a child abroad to live and a Prohibited Steps Order is made by a parent not wanting the child to go.

 

What is a Residence Order in Jersey?

A Residence Order states who a child should live with. If a person is granted a Residence Order in respect of a child they will also automatically be granted parental responsibility for that child.

 

How long can I go on holiday with my child without the permission of the other parent?

If a residence order is in place then the person with residence does not need permission to remove a child for up to a month. If they want to take the child away for longer than a month they need the written permission of everyone with parental responsibility for the child, or leave of the court. A court can make a residence order which includes a leave to remove either generally or for specific purposes.

If removing a child would breach a separate court order e.g. an order specifying contact arrangements then it would breach the court order to take the child away.

 

How old does a child have to be to be left alone in Jersey?

There is no legal age minimum for children to be left at home alone. A decision as to whether a child is old enough and responsible enough will depend on the circumstances including for example, the availability of the parent, the proximity of other adults, the health of the child, the amount of time they will be left for, the safety of the place they are being left, the number of children being left and their ages.

It is illegal for anyone over 16 in charge of a child to intentionally or recklessly cause any harm to that child, expose that child to risk of harm or to neglect a child in a manner likely to cause harm.

The ultimate responsibility for the wellbeing of the child lies with the parent or person with parental responsibility who is in charge of that child.

 

Can I change the name of my child without permission?

Everyone who has parental responsibility for a child has to agree to a change of name.

 

Is smacking a child illegal in Jersey?

It is illegal to smack a child under Jersey Law. Corporal punishment cannot be used as a defence in criminal proceedings.

 

What are my rights as a grandparent in Jersey?

When there is family breakdown there can be difficulties with children seeing the wider family of the parent they are no longer living with. Sometimes there can be breakdown in relations between the generations.

Grandparents do not generally have rights and responsibilities towards children in the way parents do but the Law does recognise that there are times when grandparents (and others) may need to seek help to maintain a relationship with children. So, while there is no automatic right to make a court application for contact or even residence, grandparents can apply to the court for leave to make an application.

Of course, before any application to the court, collaborative law, mediation, or negotiation between lawyers should be considered first.

 

How does Surrogacy and Adoption work in Jersey?

In modern times there are now different ways in which families are created. Couples who face difficulties having children, especially same sex couples, can be helped through assisted reproduction, surrogacy or adoption. The law in Jersey has not kept pace with such developments and we at Corbett Le Quesne are supporting the Jersey Law Commission in their work to recommend to the Government of Jersey updating legislation.

In the meantime, the absence of specific law relating to assisted reproduction, including surrogacy and updates to the Adoption (Jersey) Law 1961 can cause uncertainty. Barbara Corbett of Corbett Le Quesne has extensive knowledge of the law as it currently stands in relation to the legal status of children born through all assisted reproduction techniques and can advise you at any stage in the process.

 

Why choose Corbett Le Quesne as your lawyer?

We are experts in the field with varied and extensive experience in family law. Corbett Le Quesne are ranked as one of only three top tier law firms in Jersey for family law by Legal 500. Legal 500 ranks law firms following an independent research process, which includes interviews with clients and peers as well as information provided by the firms themselves.

We are known for our caring, client centred approach.

We are responsive. We give our clients our direct mobile telephone numbers and aim to respond to all enquires as soon as possible and will frequently respond out of office hours. We will also meet you where you feel most comfortable whether that is at our office or for coffee or over Skype or Zoom.

Values

We are a small firm with big values. We support our staff working part time hours to accommodate their children and support them with their training.

We are involved with the community and various charities.

We advocate divorce reform in Jersey.

We are inclusive and represent people who have struggled to be heard elsewhere.

We avoid litigation where possible but we pursue claims vigorously when necessary.

Services and Qualifications

Corbett Le Quesne specialise in facilitating clients reaching agreements without the need for litigation. Many agreements that we assist with are drafted amicably with minimal intervention and cost. We offer mediation and arbitration.

Testimonials from Legal 500:

"Extremely professional and yet very approachable, care for clientele especially when they have never before dealt with any court process. They excel in family law as they seem to really understand the importance and value of protecting family interests in how they look after their clients and how they treat each other with a genuine sense of compassion and loyalty."

"Barbara Corbett and Nicholas Le Quesne are both consummate professionals with excellent client skills. They are strategically strong and think around the issues."

Advocate Barbara Corbett is experienced in child abduction, child law, surrogacy, international family law, international relocation cases and adoption  as well as divorce, finances and relationship agreements. Advocate Corbett is a trained mediator, collaborative lawyer, family arbitrator, international family lawyer and a specialist children’s lawyer.

Legal 500: "Barbara Corbett stands out as a well-regarded leader in her field and is at the cutting edge of family law developments in Jersey."

Advocate Le Quesne specialises in complex financial matters, child law, international family law, pre and post nuptial agreements and divorce. He is a trained collaborative lawyer and has extensive experience negotiating settlements by consent. He has considerable experience dealing with intractable contact and parental alienation matters. Nicholas is also the secretary of the Jersey Family Law Association.

Legal 500 "Nicholas Le Quesne provides timely, excellent, pragmatic and useful advice...."Compassionate and thoughtful throughout difficult circumstances."

Anna Styles qualified as an English barrister (non-practising) in London then worked for several years in the personal law department at Ogier in Jersey, specialising in family law. While there she took her QLTT exams to qualify as an English solicitor.

Louise Eden is training to be a lawyer, studying for a law degree at the Institute of Law while working part time at Corbett Le Quesne.

We will recommend support services where necessary including counselling and psychology services.

Recent awards

Corbett Le Quesne was rated as a Top Tier law firm by the Legal 500 for 2021.

Corbett Le Quesne was shortlisted for Family Law Firm of the Year: South in 2020.

Business

We offer specialist services for business.

Our people

Advocate Barbara Corbett Senior Partner

Advocate Nicholas Le Quesne Partner

Anna Styles (Solicitor and Barrister non-practising) Associate

Louise Eden (trainee lawyer/paralegal)

Lizzie Keogh (office manager)

For more information about our people see our website.

For further information, please contact Advocate Barbara Corbett or Advocate Nicholas Le Quesne on 01534 733030 or visit our home page www.corbettlequesne.com

Corbett Le Quesne is a dedicated family law firm. It was founded in November 2017 by Advocates Barbara Corbett and Nicholas Le Quesne. The firm’s ethos is to provide clients with peace of mind by taking a holistic approach to family law matters, wherever possible working to achieve resolution out of court.

 

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