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Stabroek News

Getting a divorce Pt II
published: Monday | July 10, 2006

Sherry-Ann McGregor, Contributor


GETTING DIVORCED can be relatively simple. The entire process (from the date on which the petition is filed to the date on which the decree absolute is granted) may take between six to nine months, if no issues arise regarding custody of children, maintenance or division of property.

To petition for dissolution of marriage, one must have been married for at least two years and separated for a continuous period of no less than 12 months and either party may commence the proceedings on the ground that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. There is no need to show that the action or conduct of one party caused the marriage to deteriorate. However, the court is obliged to enquire whether the parties have attempted counselling and whether there is any possibility of reconciliation.

The court will be satisfied that the parties have separated for a continuous period of 12 months even if they resumed cohabitation for an insubstantial time or for up to three months in an attempt to reconcile during that 12-month period. The 12-month period would not have been interrupted.

To qualify to make an application for divorce in Jamaica, the petitioner must be either:

* A Jamaican national

* Domiciled in Jamaica at the commencement of the proceedings

* Resides in Jamaica and had done so for at least 12 months immediately preceding the commencement of the proceedings.

Subject to certain conditions set out in the Matrimonial Causes Act, a decree of dissolution of marriage granted in accordance with the laws of a foreign country may be recognised as being valid in Jamaica.

After a decree nisi is granted, a six-week period must pass before that decree can be made absolute, unless the court fixes some shorter time. Before the decree absolute is granted, either party may apply to the court for the decree nisi to be rescinded on the ground that they have become reconciled. So, all may not be lost until the decree absolute is granted.

Of course, the path to the decree absolute may not be easy, and it may take a long time. This may be caused by applications for custody, maintenance or division of property. However, other applications may complicate the issues, such as applications for protection orders or injunctions to restrain one party from entering the matrimonial home, the other's place of work or from coming within close proximity of the other.

In some cases, one party to the divorce may not be ready to 'throw in the towel'. In such cases, the divorce may be contested. It is then likely to take longer for a date to be fixed for the hearing and the petitioner may have to prove all the facts set out in the petition, including the fact of separation and that there is no possibility of resuming cohabitation. These situations do not occur frequently.

Sherry-Ann McGregor is partner and mediator with the firm Nunes, Scholefield, DeLeon & Co. Send feedback and questions to

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