DIVORCE IN JAMAICA: PROCESS

Divorce in Jamaica

The rate of divorce in Jamaica is increasing. Under Jamaican law a valid marriage may be terminated only by the death of one of the parties or by a decree of dissolution or divorce; a Decree Absolute pronounced by a court of competent jurisdiction. Therefore, where a spouse dies a divorce is not needed as the death ipso facto ends the marriage.

Divorce proceedings in our jurisdiction are governed by the Matrimonial Causes Act (The Act). Essentially, the dissolution of a marriage is a judicial act and so cannot lawfully be obtained by any other means otherwise than by a court hearing. The proceedings of divorce in Jamaica are dealt with in the Supreme Court of Judicature which is the only court of competent jurisdiction.

By virtue of section (5) of the Matrimonial Causes Act, there is only one ground required to show reason for the divorce and that is, that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. It follows that if the Court is not satisfied that there is an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and so there is a reasonable likelihood of the parties resuming the marital relationship then the divorce will not be granted. Either party to the marriage who believes that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and so there is no likely prospect of reconciliation may apply to obtain a decree for the dissolution of the marriage. The application is by way of petition and so the applicant is the petitioner and the other spouse, the respondent.

In establishing to the court’s satisfaction that there is irretrievable break down of the marriage and a Decree Nisi is warranted, the petitioner must satisfy the court that they have separated and thereafter have lived separately and apart for a continuous period of not less than 12 months before the date of filing the divorce petition. Even where the parties may continue to reside in the same house or rendered some household services to the other, the Court may nevertheless find that the parties are separated and lived separately apart. It is the circumstances of the living arrangement that will be examined by the court in this regard to see if there is separation in fact and law.

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