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Changes to divorce, separation and annulment public consultation launched

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The public's views on a set of proposed changes to the matrimonial causes legislation that governs how married couples divorce, legally separate or annul their marriage are being sought by the Policy & Resources Committee.

Following the introduction of same-sex marriage it was recognised that the Matrimonial Causes Law (Guernsey), 1939 (Law), was in need of modernisation and could not be equally applied to all forms of marriage. It was also recognised that the Law was complex in some areas. The Policy & Resources Committee committed to undertaking a review of the Law as a priority within the Policy & Resource Plan, in support of achieving the One Community: inclusive and committed to social justice outcome.

An initial targeted consultation, with those professionally involved in or who had been through the process of divorce or separation, supported many of the proposals that are now being consulted on, including the introduction of some form of no fault divorce.

Similar, recent calls for reform of the matrimonial causes legislation in Jersey and England & Wales have been made. In February 2019, the Ministry of Justice confirmed that it will bring in legislation, in England & Wales, to reform divorce in the next parliamentary session. The reform will remove the need to allege 'fault' in order to justify to the court why the marriage has irretrievably broken down and remove the need for couples to be separated for several years before divorcing without fault. It is widely thought that retaining fault as a basis on which to grant divorce does not assist parties in ending their marriage amicably.

Deputy Gavin St Pier, President of the Policy & Resources Committee, said:

'The proposed changes set out in the matrimonial causes public consultation intend to bring about changes that will support those going through a difficult time in their lives. By simplifying the process to try and reduce conflict and by ensuring that our legislation in this area is modern and inclusive, we will provide an appropriate support mechanism to couples who have made the decision to end their marriages. 

The Policy & Resources Committee's preference at the moment would be a 'no fault' system that simply recognises that a couple's relationship has irretrievably broken down. However, given the potential impact of these changes on many in the community it is important to hear the public's view on the suggested changes before we proceed further.'

The findings from the consultation will help inform the proposals that will be combined into a Policy Letter to be presented to the States of Guernsey later in the year.

The public consultation is available https://gov.gg/matrimonial/causes.

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