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Divorce law reforms expected next year

Divorce law reforms expected next year

Wednesday 20 April 2022

Divorce law reforms expected next year

Wednesday 20 April 2022

The States have confirmed that proposed changes to matrimonial laws – including the provision of no-fault divorces – are expected to come into force from 2023.

Guernsey deputies voted unanimously to reform divorce and annulment proceedings in February 2020 following a public consultation, in which a majority supported reforms.

The proposals include introducing a form of no-fault divorce, removing the ability to contest divorce, and modernising the grounds for annulment.

A spokesperson for the Policy & Resources Committee has now stated that the legislation is being progressed as a priority of the Government Work Plan and “is in its final stages of assurance”. 

“Based on the current timeline, this piece of legislation is expected to take effect from 2023 subject to its passage through the Assemblies of each Island,” they added.

Policy & Resources also noted that the timeframe for implementation could be affected should other urgent policy matters need addressing over the coming months.

This month, no-fault divorces came into force across England and Wales removing the need for married couples to blame one of themselves, which experts have argued will provide greater autonomy and humanity in proceedings. 

Deputy Gavin St Pier

Pictured: Deputy Gavin St Pier had a central role in tabling the reform proposals in the Assembly whilst he was Guernsey's most senior politician.

The public consultation, which ran in 2019, revealed that 77% of respondents were “very supportive” of removing the fault clause, and strong support was also shown for simplifying the current procedures. 

At the time the then-President of Policy & Resources, Deputy Gavin St Pier, said: “The consultation has confirmed that many islanders feel Guernsey’s current law relating to the dissolution of marriage is out-of-date and in need of modernising. 

“The Policy & Resources Committee is of the view that some aspects of the law are unhelpful, making an already difficult process more difficult."

Advocate Sarah Millar, Senior Associate at Collas Crill, said “there is currently only one ground for divorce which is the irretrievable breakdown of marriage”.

“There are a few ways to prove this; adultery, unreasonable behaviour, if the parties are separated for two years with consent or five years without consent, and desertion,” she claimed. 

Advocate Millar stated she was not aware of any particular reason why the changes have not yet been instated but added that “as far as I’m aware there’s a general desire to move towards what England are doing”. 

She cited covid-19 and Brexit as probable obstacles to material progress on the changes to the matrimonial causes law. 


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