The Legal Eagle column last week got at least 10 responses by email within a few hours of its publication. Generally, the readers wanted to know about the procedure for divorce. Below are some of the comments and enquiries.
One reader writes: "I am a Jamaican who recently moved to the United States. I am also looking to get divorced as I have been separated from my husband for the past six months. What I would like to know is, do I really have to be separated for at least 12 months to start filing for a divorce and can I possibly get a divorce without having to return to Jamaica in person? By the way, I have been married for the past five years and I broke up with my husband because the relationship was very abusive and he was unfaithful."
Another reader writes: "... I have been living separate and apart from my wife since 1987. I recently met the love of my life and to show my love to her I got engaged to her in order to get married by at least next June. Could you give me some advice as to how best to achieve same as early as possible?
Yet another avid reader writes: "I got married in December 2004 and separated in October 2006. I am interested in getting my divorce but do not know the procedure that I should follow or how much it is going to cost. If I have to go to a lawyer to file for my divorce or can I could do it myself?"
If I could make an attempt to give a suitable answer to all the above, I would say that section 8 of the Matrimonial Causes Act (hereinafter called 'the Act') provides that unless with the permission of the court, no petition for the dissolution of marriage may be presented unless two years have passed since the date of the marriage. The law is also clear that within that two year period, the parties must be separated for 12 months or more.
The parties are to live separate and apart for this 12-month period but in calculating the period of separation, a period not exceeding three months that the parties cohabit with a view to reconciliation or any cohabitation which was not substantial, would not interrupt the period of separation.
Any of the parties can present the petition on the ground that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. This must be a point where there is little or no hope of reconciliation. Generally, this is the law as outlined in the Act.
Next week we continue with the procedure to apply for divorce.
Keith N. Bishop is an Attorney-at-Law and partner in the firm of Bishop & Fullerton. He may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com