Speedy divorce in Jamaica

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The Internet is replete with articles lamenting the delays encountered by litigants in Jamaica who are attempting to get divorced. Many of these articles are current, but others date back several years; and the problem is that the situation never seems to improve.

The question is, “Where does the problem lie?” An assessment of this must start with the details of the journey of typical divorce matters. Below is the step-by-step process involved in an uncontested divorce in which there are no issues in relation to children, maintenance or property.


Info on getting a speedy divorce in Jamaica

Step 1 – Filing the Petition

Once filed, the petition is not immediately returned to the attorney for service on the respondent. The first delay occurs due to the insertion of a step which, although not stipulated by the Matrimonial Proceedings Rules, requires the court’s registrar to vet the petition before signing and stamping.

Even where there are no errors in the documents, the petition may take an average of one month to be signed. It could take longer, if an error is noted, which would involve the petition being refiled.

Step 2 – Applying for Decree Nisi

Fourteen days after the petition has been served on the respondent (in Jamaica), who raises no challenge to the divorce proceedings, the petitioner may submit an application to obtain the first order in the divorce proceedings – the decree nisi.

The application is supposed to be submitted to a judge to be considered without the need for a hearing. What seems like a simple process in theory, could result in an average of six months before the application is placed before a judge.

Step 3 – Applying for Decree Absolute

Six weeks after decree nisi is granted, the petitioner may apply for the final order in the divorce proceedings (decree absolute). This, too, is an application which goes before the judge for consideration without the need for a hearing. It could take upwards of two months for the application to be placed before the judge.


There is a myriad of other hiccups which plague divorce matters:

When the registrar checks the documents which are filed in divorce proceedings, or when the judge reviews the applications, there are times when requisitions are made because errors are noted in the documents or documents which should be on the court’s file are misplaced. When this happens, despite the promptitude of the response from the attorney, the file may join the end of the queue and face another lengthy delay.

There is a requirement for affidavits of search to be filed to say whether a respondent has filed any document challenging the divorce petition. Due to the lengthy delays at stages two and three, applications may be returned for further affidavits of search to be filed.

If one does not encounter the dreaded requisitions along the way, a typical uncontested divorce will take an average of nine months to be completed. I think that time lag can be significantly reduced and, in next week’s article, I will outline my proposed solution to the problems.


Ordinary citizens who become involved in court matters, often find that their cases take a long time to settle. The length of time depends on the nature and complexity of the cases, and can involve a fair amount of waiting time as there is a backlog of cases facing each court and cases are heard on a first come first served basis. In criminal matters, the investigation process also takes a significant portion of the time. However, civil matters are usually settled in a more reasonable time.