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Divorces rise as Jamaica's failure rate increases, fewer marry - STATIN

Published:Tuesday | April 13, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

FOR EVERY 100 Jamaican marriages, there were almost nine divorces in 2009, a year in which the nation experienced the highest rate of wedding bliss gone amiss in at least the past decade.

At the same time, the rate at which Jamaicans get married has dipped to the second lowest since 2002.

Data from a Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) 2009 report show that 1,853 marriages ended in divorce last year. This work out to a failure rate of 8.65 per every 100 marriages. The previous highest divorce rate was 8.2 in 2002. Information included in a 2007 STATIN report indicates that the divorce rate was 3.88 in 2000.

The data also reveal that 7.52 marriages ended in divorce in 2008, an improvement over the 5.63 per 100 marriages in 2007.

However, STATIN has said that the smaller number of divorces granted in 2007 compared with previous years does not represent an actual decline. In September 2006, the Matrimonial Causes Rules were amended to allow divorces to be heard in chambers. This resulted in a considerable backlog of divorce petitions. There has been some improvement in the clearing of the backlog since 2008, Statin said.

Under Jamaican law, a divorce may only be granted if a marriage is proven to have broken down irretrievably.

Attorney-at-law Melrose Reid has opined that more persons opt for divorce because people are less keen on working out their differences.

"Because there is the option to opt out, some people take the view that if they marry and it does not work, then they will seek a divorce," Reid told The Gleaner.

The attorney-at-law said that as long as an individual can convince the court that the marriage is not working, it is almost certain for a divorce to be obtained.

"It would be hard for the court to hear that men or women who say they don't want to go back (into a union) ... the court will says, 'I am not going to grant you a divorce.' That is why the court always asks, 'Have you sought counselling?' because if you have sought counselling and the counselling succeeds, then you don't need a divorce," Reid said.

Of the 1,853 marriages that ended in divorce last year, the vast majority of them lasted fewer than 15 years. The data reveal that 555 of these relationships lasted 10-14 years, 483 of them lasted five to nine years and 120 lasted less than five years.

For the marriages that ended badly during 2009, nearly 76 per cent of the men involved were under the age of 40 when they were married. In 91 per cent of the divorce cases last year, the women were under age 40 when they got married.

Reid has urged that people understand the nature of marriage before saying, "I do."