Fri | Dec 9, 2016

Bailing out on marriage too easy - Davidson

Published:Monday | January 12, 2015 | 12:00 AM

A senior member of the local religious fraternity is among locals who feel the law has made it too easy for individuals to give up on their marriages.

"The ease with which a person can get a divorce has made many people who would have hesitated or would have fought a little harder to save a marriage not do so," argues Dr Barry Davidson, chief executive officer of the Family Life Ministries.

Davidson's comments come amid Sunday Gleaner reports yesterday that lawyers, litigants, and judges have expressed concern about the huge backlog of divorce petitions despite several measures implemented to speed up the process.

Up to last week, there was a backlog of approximately 600 divorce petitions in the Supreme Court. At the same time, data from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica shows that the number of divorces granted moved from 1,654 in 2008 to 2,410 in 2013. Figures for 2014 were not yet available.

"There was a time when divorce was very difficult to get because there were about five different things that you had to prove before you could get the divorce," Davidson said.

"Divorce was made much easier when it came to just one thing and that is 'the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage'."

He argued that the increasing divorce rate has been influencing a decrease in marriage rates.

"There are many people who, for instance, might be shying away from marriage because if, for instance, your parents were married and got a divorce, chances of you being attracted to marriage are going to be less, especially if the marriage had a lot of conflict because divorce impacts children far more than anybody else," he said.

SOME CAN BESAVED

Davidson does not oppose the idea of having more judges in place to deal with divorces; however, he cautions: "You need judges who are sensitive to the fact that not everyone who comes for a divorce should automatically get it because sometimes if the persons are prepared to seek counselling or put some work into it, they could probably change things."

Dr Trevor Edwards, who co-founded a local divorce recovery group in 2000, wonders about the feasibility of any suggestion to increase personnel to deal specifically with divorces.

"Divorce may just be one of the many legal issues that the State has to deal with. They may have rape cases, they may have homicide cases, they may have several other criminal or civil matters that are coming before the judges, and I think if you were to examine that, you will find that there are just not enough personnel to deal with the number of legal cases that come before the judiciary daily," Edwards told The Gleaner.

"Divorce is only one of them. So to say that they should allocate more staff to deal with divorce issues is to say that it is a priority over other issues," he asserted.

Edwards, who is a pastor and a university lecturer, decided to start the group 'Fresh Start' in 2000 based on his concern for the emotional well-being of those who have to make the ultimate decision to end their marriage.