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Selecting a divorce lawyer to handle your family law case is a very important decision especially when kids are involved.

 

A divorce refers to the legal termination of a marriage. It is referred to as a dissolution of the marriage and with it there may be consequences for how property is divided, how maintenance is to be paid to either spouse and custody and access in respect of any relevant children. A divorce is often portrayed in television shows as filing papers, and to some extent, it can be as simple as that. In Jamaica, applications for dissolution of marriage can be considered solely on paper.

Who can apply for a Divorce in Jamaica?

 

If you fall in any of the categories below, you may apply for a divorce in Jamaica:

 

You are a Jamaican national

 

You are domiciled in Jamaica at the commencement of the proceedings

 

You reside in Jamaica and have done so for at least 12 months immediately preceding the commencement of the proceedings.

 

On what basis will a Divorce be granted?

In Jamaica, the parties must first be separated for

a continuous period of 12 months notwithstanding attempts at reconciliation. The parties could still be viewed as separated even if they continue to cohabit in the same dwelling, for example, if the spouses sleep in separate bedrooms, or cease to engage in sexual relations, or cease to carry out household duties such as washing, cleaning or cooking on their spouse’s behalf. There are special considerations for marriages of less than two (2) years and there are additional requirements where children are involved. A court will not make any orders in relation to an application for dissolution of marriage unless it is satisfied that adequate arrangements are in place for any relevant child. The only ground for granting a divorce is an irretrievable breakdown in the marriage.

If there are no children and no dispute as it relates to maintenance or property distribution, the process of a divorce can be seamless.

 

The Process

Step 1 – Filing the Petition

The Petition is the document which speaks to the history of the marriage and the reasons for separation. Once the Petition is drafted and filed at the Supreme Court, it is reviewed by the Registrar of the Supreme Court who then certifies that it is a true copy and affixes the court’s seal. This certified true copy of the Petition is then returned to your attorney for service on your spouse.

Step 2 – Service of the True copy of the Petition

The Petition must now be served on your spouse. A process server is retained and the document is served on him/her on your instructions. Your spouse has fourteen (14) days from the date of service to respond to the Petition by filing an Acknowledgement of Service in which the divorce is either contested or not. If the divorce is contested, a date will have to be fixed for a hearing and the Petitioner may have to prove all the facts set out in the Petition, including the fact of separation and that there is no possibility of resuming cohabitation. If your spouse indicates that he/she is not contesting the divorce in the Acknowledgement of Service then you may proceed to step 3. If fourteen days have passed since the true copy of the Petition has been served and your spouse has not filed an acknowledgement of service or any other document in response to the Petition, you may still proceed to step 3.

Divorce Lawyer Tips

Fees: When you make your initial appointment with the divorce attorney, you should inquire about a consultation fee as some lawyers will charge a consultation fee and some won’t.

How does the lawyer make you feel?: While all the above issues are important, there is one final question you should ask yourself before hiring a divorce lawyer. Are you comfortable with that lawyer and are you confident in his or her abilities? If the answer is anything other than a resounding “yes,” you should keep looking. Your case is too important to entrust to someone who does not inspire your confidence.

 

 

Step 3 – Applying for Decree Nisi

Fourteen (14) days after the true copy of the Petition has been served on your spouse in Jamaica (different timelines apply for service which takes place outside of Jamaica), provided there has been no challenge to the proceedings, the Petitioner may apply to the Court for a Decree Nisi which is the first indicative Order of the dissolution of the marriage. This application may be heard on paper and as such does not require the parties to attend Court.

Step 4 – Applying for Decree Absolute

Six weeks after Decree Nisi is granted, the Petitioner may apply for the final order in the divorce proceedings, the Decree Absolute. This application is also considered on paper without the need for the attendance at a hearing by the parties. This is the final stage in the dissolution of marriage and the Decree Absolute is proof to the world that your marriage has been resolved.

 

Notwithstanding the ease of the process outlined above, each divorce is unique and through consultation with your attorney, you can gain advice on how to best treat with any ancillary matters that may arise. These ancillary matters may include custody, maintenance for children and spouse; and or property distribution.

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