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Grounds for Annulment of Marriage in Jamaica

What is an annulment?


Annulment is a legal procedure which cancels a marriage between a man and a woman. The legal effect of annulling a marriage is that the marriage is completely erased as though it technically never existed and was never valid.

Grounds for an Annulment of Marriage

Either party to the marriage (at any time after the ceremony of marriage) can initiate an application for an annulment of marriage at the Supreme Court of Jamaica by the filing of a Petition for Nullity of Marriage pursuant to Rule 76.4 (3) of the Civil Procedure Rules, 2002.

The party initiating the annulment must prove that he or sheTop of FormBottom of Form has the grounds to. The grounds for an annulment of a marriage in Jamaica are very strict and the said statutory grounds for annulment are outlined in Section 4 of the Matrimonial Causes Act.

Section 4 of the Matrimonial Causes Act provides that Decrees of Nullity of marriage may be pronounced by the Court on the ground that the marriage is void for any of the following reasons:-

  1. One of the parties to the marriage had a husband or wife living at the time when the parties went through a ceremony of marriage. This would of course be the offence of bigamy which is a crime.

 

  1. The marriage was void under the provisions of the Marriage Act or any laws relating to marriage in force for the time being in Jamaica. The marriage may be void under the provisions of the marriage act if, for example, the marriage was solemnized by a person who is not a marriage officer and both parties to the marriage knew this to be the case.

 

  1. In the case of marriages celebrated on or after the 1st day of February 1989, the consent of either party to the marriage was not a valid consent because:
  2. It was obtained by duress or fraud; or
  3. One party was mistaken as to the identity of the other party or the nature of the ceremony performed; or
  4. One party was mentally incapable of understanding the nature and effect of the marriage ceremony at the time of the marriage.

 

  1. The parties to the marriage were of the same sex at the time of the marriage.

 

Advantages of an Annulment

  • The marriage is completely erased as though it technically never existed and was never valid.
  • Unlike a divorce whereby you generally must have been married for at least two (2) years and separated from your wife or husband for at least one (1) year before the Court has jurisdiction, with an Annulment there is no such wait period. Either party to the marriage can initiate annulment proceeding at any time after the ceremony of marriage.

 

Disadvantages of an Annulment

  • Establishing the grounds for an Annulment is generally more difficult than the grounds for a divorce. The ground for obtaining a divorce is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.
  • An annulment of marriage application requires a hearing before a Judge of a Supreme Court. As such it is generally more expensive than a divorce which may be done on paper, that is, by filing documents at different stages of the proceedings without the necessity of a hearing.

 

 

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

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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.