06 Apr 7 things to consider when getting divorced in Jersey
Getting divorced is never easy.
Working out how to divide the home, assets and time with the children, when emotions are running high, can feel hugely overwhelming. Throw in lawyers, legal fees and a complicated process and it’s no wonder that divorce carries the reputation of being one of life’s most stressful events.
There are ways, however, to limit stress levels. Having helped clients navigate this difficult process for many years, creating a clear roadmap, with timeframes built in, can really help to move things forward in a manageable, focussed, and sensible way.
In this blog, I move through the typical stages of divorce in Jersey and touch on points couples may wish to consider along the way.
Take away tips
- Consider couples counselling;
- Obtain early legal advice – making the right decisions at the outset can change the shape and direction of a case;
- Establish where there is common ground with your spouse (however basic);
- Understand the full extent of the finances before negotiating a settlement;
- Get advice around the appropriate division. A fair outcome is rarely a 50/50 split;
- Explore all out of court options to settle the case. Court should be the last resort;
- Look after yourself. The stronger you feel mentally and physically, the better your judgement will be!
1. First things first, is the marriage definitely over?
It’s amazing how many clients seeking legal advice around getting divorced in Jersey have not even considered couples counselling. For other clients, they may have given it some thought but disregarded it due to misconceived ideas or hastily concluding that a counsellor wouldn’t be able to help.
If there is any possibility that you could resolve the issues in your marriage, couples counselling is worth exploring. It is often easily accessible, cost effective and highly likely that you will know, in a relatively short period of time, whether a reconciliation is possible.
Couples counselling could potentially save your marriage or at the very least be used as a forum to work on separating amicably. This is particularly important if your relationship is about to transition from parenting together to co-parenting separately.
If worrying about the finances and divorce in the future is impairing your efforts to reconcile, you could consider entering into a Post Nuptial Agreement (which sets out what should happen in the event of divorce). This will remove some of the uncertainty and means that you can focus on repairing the issues in the marriage.
2. If the marriage is definitely over, obtain legal advice to help you plan your roadmap to getting divorced in Jersey.
Obtaining legal advice from a specialist divorce lawyer in Jersey, as soon as possible, is invaluable. This does not mean that you will end up spending fortunes on a lawyer. It simply means that your lawyer can clearly advise you as to the various options available to you whilst also explaining the pros and cons of each.
Properly understanding your options ensures that you will make fully informed decisions before embarking on a particular path which could potentially change the shape and direction of the entire case.
Establishing the following, with the help of your lawyer, is beneficial:
- are you legally able to issue divorce proceedings?
- if you are, does a ground of divorce (statutory reason) apply in your case?
- if 1) and 2) are satisfied, are you ready to issue divorce proceedings and if so, would it be more appropriate for you or your spouse to file those proceedings?
- if you are not able or ready to issue divorce proceedings, what other steps should you consider to provide maximum protection, such as Judicial Separation proceedings or entering into a Separation Agreement.
At a time when everything feels chaotic, having a clear plan provides a sense of control and structure.
3. Can you establish some common ground to ensure that the road ahead is as smooth as possible?
Sadly, there remains a preconceived idea that resigning oneself to a contentious and drawn out process, littered with endless legal bills, is inevitable.
But it doesn’t have to be like that.
Couples have much more control than they think. Keeping the lines of communication open with one another is important and establishing common ground can really help to set the tone.
Try starting with some basic principles that you agree to hold central to the case, for example;
- that you will both prioritise the children’s best interests;
- that you will remain respectful to one another;
- that you will try to see things from the other’s perspective;
- that you will consider engaging other services (such as attending parenting courses if co-parenting is an issue or mediation if untangling the finances or agreeing the arrangements for the children is problematic);
- that all options to reach an agreement will be explored and pursued; and
- that involving the Court will be the last resort.
If you can find common ground on the basics, start exploring other more specific matters such as;
- the best time to issue divorce proceedings, who will file the papers and what reason will be relied upon;
- where each party should live in the shorter and longer term;
- how the short-term financial commitments will be met (such as mortgage repayments, utilities, loan repayments and other day to day needs);
- the timeframe for next steps; and
- the arrangements in respect of the children, such as where they will live, how they will divide their time and how their financial needs will be met.
Identifying what is agreed, or not (and why), helps the parties to define the road ahead. For example, if there are areas in dispute around the children, couples might want to build mediation into their roadmap or if there is a dispute around living arrangements and how the short-term financial commitments will be met, perhaps an early lawyers meeting would help to work through some of those more pressing issues.
The fact that you don’t agree on something doesn’t have to be the beginning of the end. The question is, what can you do to move on from that place? More often than not, help from a lawyer or mediator will be sufficient to overcome the impasse.
4. Gathering the correct information is the first stage to ensuring that you will achieve a fair outcome.
Understandably, dividing the finances is usually the most contentious stage of divorce proceedings and working out the appropriate division is usually broken into 2 stages;
- Establishing the full extent of the assets, liabilities and income; and
- Negotiating a fair outcome.
It is necessary to obtain information about all assets and liabilities, held in both parties’ sole and joint names, and those held with third parties. This includes assets acquired before the marriage and after the separation.
To establish what there is, parties commonly go through a “disclosure process” which includes the exchange of a detailed financial document called an Affidavit of Means together with documentary evidence in support (for example, bank and credit card statements, financial statements in respect of any business interests, valuations, share, life insurance and pension information etc).
Sometimes, further “disclosure” is required if the information provided is deficient, inaccurate or further questions are necessary.
It is also typical for assets to be valued as part of this process to ensure that the most accurate and up to date values are applied. This may include valuations of property or properties, business interests and other items such as cars or expensive jewellery, watches or personal items.
Couples with a good understanding of the combined financial landscape may agree to opt out of the fuller “disclosure process”. However even in those situations, valuations may still be required and often couples will exchange a condensed version of disclosure or a schedule which summarises the assets, liabilities and income before moving onto the next stage.
Once the full extent of the finances is known, consideration can be given to whether or not certain of the assets should be excluded or discounted (for example, because they were pre acquired and/or are illiquid in nature).
Given that you will inevitably be sharing some level of disclosure about your assets, liabilities and income, it is beneficial to start getting your financial house in order as soon as possible. Obtain statements and balances and get a handle on your outgoings.
To make this process easier, Confidante has built a bespoke automated questionnaire which gathers relevant financial information from you. The information is automatically populated into key documents we can use throughout your case (saving you on time and money). Contact us to find out more.
5. What is taken into account when considering a fair outcome in divorce proceedings in Jersey?
Notwithstanding the misconception, a 50/50 split is rarely a fair outcome. This is because there are a number of factors which are taken into account and more often than not, there is good reason to depart from equality.
The factors include the;
- welfare of any minor children;
- age of the parties;
- length of the marriage;
- financial needs, obligations and responsibilities of each party;
- income, earning capacity, property and other resources each party has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;
- standard of living during the marriage;
- contributions that each party has made, or is likely to make in the foreseeable future to the welfare of the family;
- conduct of the parties (if inequitable to disregard); and
- the loss of (for example) pension benefits as a result of the dissolution of the marriage.
The specifics of your case will dictate the outcome and it is highly advisable to seek legal advice around settlement as no two cases are the same.
6. How to negotiate the best financial outcome when getting divorced in Jersey?
There are many ways to reach agreement about the financial division outside of the courtroom. Here are a list of methods (starting with the most cost effective);
- Reaching an agreement directly with your spouse (although it is highly advisable to get legal advice to assist with those negotiations otherwise you may end up agreeing something which does not sufficiently meet your needs or is not ultimately fair);
- Attending Mediation (Mediators are not able to give legal advice and therefore it is still highly advisable to get legal advice to assist alongside this process);
- Engaging a lawyer (offers can be exchanged and/or a meeting arranged to discuss settlement with the benefit of legal advice);
- Lawyer led mediation (a Mediator will assist the parties to reach an agreement and the parties have the benefit of on-hand legal advice);
- Financial Dispute Resolution (FDR) – an FDR Judge will consider each parties’ arguments and will give the parties a judicial steer (i.e. set out what they would order if they were the judge in the case); and/or
- Arbitration – parties agree in advance that the arbitrator’s decision will be binding on them.
The above forms of alternate dispute resolution are without prejudice (i.e. discussions/offers cannot be referred to openly in Court) and more cost effective and usually far less stressful than a final hearing. The parties also retain an element of control over the outcome (save for Arbitration where the decision is binding – however, the parties can control who the Arbitrator is and when and where the Arbitration takes place).
7. Look after yourself, it may have a bigger impact on the outcome than you think.
The divorce process requires couples to make, potentially, life changing decisions, about the things that matter to them most, at a time when they are feeling highly emotional.
When we are emotional, our judgement is clouded.
When our judgement is clouded, there is an increased risk that we will make poor decisions.
Underestimating the nexus between your emotional state and the process could cost you greatly. That’s why it is so important to find healthy outlets to reduce stress levels and increase your chances of making better decisions. Things to consider;
- confide in a level headed friend or family member;
- engage a counsellor or support service;
- exercise and/or yoga;
- practice meditation and/or mindfulness;
- take up a new hobby or embark on a healthy distraction;
- try not to resort to alcohol; and
- get plenty of rest.
Not only will this help to clear your mind and relieve stress, navigating the process with dignity is more likely too and the way you handle yourself in divorce proceedings counts;
- bad decisions could negatively impact upon your ongoing co-parenting relationship;
- if the matter goes before the Court, poor conduct is likely to be highlighted by your spouse and their legal team;
- legal bills are always higher when clients are led by their emotions; and
- most importantly, your children will remember how you coped and how you treated their other parent.
We are highly experienced divorce lawyers in Jersey and we work with our clients and support them to make decisions which are most likely to serve them and their children. Contact us to find out more.
Hi! I’m Advocate Carly James. Let’s start a conversation that matters.
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