How to file for a Divorce in Jamaica while living overseas

Individuals who live overseas or abroad and who have some connections to Jamaica normally enquire whether they should apply for their divorce in Jamaica. The purpose of this article is to provide an outline of the frequently asked questions which our Firm receive from those individuals and the advice provided in response to same so that persons can know whether they are eligible for obtaining a divorce in Jamaica while living abroad.

Who can apply to the Supreme Court of Jamaica for a Divorce?

It is no secret that Jamaica offers destination weddings and thousands of couples all over the world get married in very picturesque locations in Jamaica and are thereafter issued with marriage certificates from the relevant authority. Where, unfortunately, the marriage breaks down, we normally receive enquiries related to whether they can apply for a divorce in Jamaica.
The Attorneys in the Firm normally advise that the following are the categories of persons who can apply for a divorce in Jamaica pursuant to the Matrimonial Causes Act:-:

  • Where either party to the marriage is a Jamaican national; or
  • Where either party to the marriage is domiciled in Jamaica at the commencement of the proceedings; or
  • Where either party to marriage resides in Jamaica and have done so for at least 12 months immediately preceding the commencement of the proceedings.

Accordingly, if persons got married in Jamaica but either party to the marriage does not meet any of the requirements outlined above, then the Court in Jamaica would not have jurisdiction or power to grant the divorce or the decree for dissolution of the marriage.

How long do I have to be married and separated before I can apply for a divorce?

Generally, you must have been married for at least two years and separated from your wife or husband for at least a continuous period of 12 months before you can petition for divorce. Section 8 (2) of the Act, however, allows for a petition for dissolution of marriage to be presented prior to two years of marriage in certain limited circumstances. The relevant section of the Act states that a Supreme Court Judge may, upon an application being made, grant permission for a Petition to be presented to the court prior to two years of marriage where reconciliation have been attempted with the assistance of an approved marriage counselor and there are special circumstances that would justify the hearing of the Petition before the two years period.

In addition, the concept of ‘separation while under the same roof’ is recognized under Jamaican Laws. This essentially means that parties to a marriage could be deemed to be separated under the law even if they continue to cohabit in the same dwelling once there is evidence that they live separate lives. For example, they sleep in separate bedrooms, or they no longer engage in sexual relations or cease to carry out household duties such as washing, cleaning or cooking on their spouse’s behalf.

What do I need to prove in order to obtain a divorce in Jamaica?

You need to prove that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and that there is no likelihood that cohabitation will be resumed.

Do I have to physically be in Jamaica in order to obtain the divorce?

Once the Attorneys in the Firm receives certain instructions, it could utilize the procedure where the divorce is granted ‘on paper’ which simply means the procedure where the divorce is granted after filing different documents at different stages of the proceedings without the necessity of a hearing or attendance of the parties at Court. These documents which are filed include:-

The Petition and supporting or accompanying documents;

  1. The Affidavit of Service of the Petition and Supporting documents which are filed to prove that the Petition and Supporting documents have been duly served on the Respondent;
  2. The Notice of Application to Dispense with Hearing or Decree Nisi Application (Application for Initial Order ending the Marriage) and Supporting Documents- These documents are prepared once a search reveals that the other party has not filed an acknowledgement or answer to the proceedings. Accordingly, the divorce would be uncontested and thereby does not require a hearing or the attendance of the parties at Court;

iii. The Decree Absolute Application- Six weeks after the granting of the Decree Nisi, the Petitioner may apply for the final order ending the marriage called the Decree Absolute. This application is also considered on paper without the need for the attendance at a hearing by the parties. The Decree Absolute is official confirmation that the marriage is dissolved.

AUTHOR: Blair Foreman & Co., Attorneys-at-Law
Copyright Blair Foreman & Co.

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