If you should read the Matrimonial Proceedings Rules that sets out the procedure for obtaining a divorce in Jamaica, you would form the mistaken impression that divorces could be concluded within four-six months. But you would be dead wrong, because the Supreme Court does not facilitate that outcome.
A visit to the Family Division at the Supreme Court today would confirm that there are at least 250 files on a shelf in the Deputy Registrar's Office that have been checked and are awaiting delivery to judges for consideration of applications for decree nisi. Reliable sources also confirm that there are at least 100 applications for decree absolute that are also awaiting delivery to judges.
If you check the Supreme Court's list of matters for hearing next week, not a single application for decree absolute is scheduled for hearing, and perhaps 12 of the applications for decree nisi will finally reach a judge next week Friday.
We often speak about backlog, but I hardly believe that word captures what has happened to divorce matters in the Supreme Court.
gravity of the problem
The gravity of the problem may be seen in the fact that there are at least 700 persons who are stuck in relationships they no longer wish to be in. If, God forbid, either party should die without leaving a will before the divorce is concluded, there is a strong possibility that his or her estate could go to the only person for whom it was not intended - their soon to be ex-husband or -wife.
The resources in the Supreme Court are scarce, but there is no excuse for the fact that divorce matters are accorded less prominence or priority on the Supreme Court's list than other civil
matters. In fact, the outcome of the average civil matter is of less importance to a litigant than the conclusion of his or her divorce.