Tue | Oct 23, 2018


Published:Tuesday | January 13, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Mrs Walker-Huntington:

I have resided in the United States for the last nine years, and I have been told, by the way, that my husband divorced me. I have not seen any divorce papers and he has not told me. He has contact information for me, yet I knew nothing of this until three months ago. I tried calling the courts office in Jamaica, but they are not answering their phones. We share a house in Jamaica and I am the one that paid for the property as he flatly refused to do so. He rented part of the house shortly after I left and he also refuses to give me any part of the rent. He also refused to help in the support of his youngest son, who is now 16 years of age.

Can you help me? I also want

out of this marriage and want the property to be sold. I have spent everything on that house and when I go home, I have nowhere to stay. Please help me.

- SD

Dear SD:

Both Jamaica and the United States have provisions in the family laws that allow a spouse to divorce the other spouse by publication. This provision applies when you do not know where your spouse is residing; when you have no indirect contact with them, i.e. through other family members and friends; when mail to their last known address is returned unclaimed; when you have searched phone books and

the Internet for them, and are unable

to locate the missing spouse.

This provision is critical for persons whose spouses have disappeared and abandoned the marriage. If it were not available, persons would have to remain married to long-lost spouses and would not be able to move on with their lives. Unfortunately, there have been several cases where spouses have given false information on divorce pleadings, stating that they do not know the whereabouts of their spouse in order to be divorced without dealing with the issues in the divorce like child support and property. Some spouses have also come to the United States, and in order to legalise their status, divorce their wives/husbands back home and marry someone else without their family in Jamaica having any knowledge of the divorce and subsequent remarriage.

If the petitioning spouse lied on the divorce pleadings, the divorce can be set aside for fraud, and certainly if the petitioning spouse remarried, the subsequent marriage is void. If you believe your husband has in fact divorced you in Jamaica, you should retain a family lawyer in Jamaica to first determine if you are actually divorced and to then plan a course of action to reopen the divorce case and address the child support and property issues at stake.

n Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States, and family, criminal, and personal injury law in Florida. She is a mediator, arbitrator and special magistrate in Broward County, Florida, and an adjunct professor at Miami Dade College's School of Criminal Justice. Email info@walkerhuntington.com.