For divorce proceedings to start, there are certain requirements which have to be satisfied. In Jamaica, the only ground for a divorce is the irretrievable breakdown of the union. It is important to note that the parties would have to be separated for atleast twelve (12) months.
The procedure for obtaining a divorce has become simpler over the years and is generally a paper application once undefended which means that a Petitioner (the person seeking the divorce) is not required to stand in open court and air the grievances of their marriage in a public forum. A lawyer representing the Petitioner will lodge at the Supreme Court, the Divorce “Petition” outlining that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, along with the “Affidavit Accompanying Petition” which is a statement concerning the arrangements for the children (under age eighteen (18) years or who are under twenty-three (23) and are attending a tertiary institution) and the “Acknowledgment of Service” AOS which is a form/ questionnaire for the Respondent (other party). The AOS is filed and served on the Respondent with the other documents who may admit that they have been served.
Service of the documents, is very important in Divorce cases as it is imperative that the other party is made aware of the proceedings commenced to terminate their union. Personal service is the standard, meaning the documents are given directly to the other party, but this cannot be done by the Petitioner, but preferably by a person unrelated to the parties. Where this is not possible, the lawyer for the Petitioner may apply for another method to be used, referred to as “Substituted Service”, where service may be effected on a family member or by a publication in a newspaper.
An Application for the Decree Nisi will have to be made with accompanying documents which will be perused by the Court. If the Respondent does not contest the divorce, this means it is undefended and the Judge is then charged with the duty of reading through the documents to see if the Petitioner has proved their case, and if this is found to be the case, then a Decree Nisi will be granted.
The final stage to a divorce is the granting of a Decree Absolute. There is a waiting period of at least 6 weeks after the Decree Nisi has been granted before the Decree Absolute can be applied for. The granting of the Decree Absolute is the final nail in the coffin of the marriage. The marriage is thus dissolved.
Abi-Gaye White-Thomas B.A., LL.B (Hons)