DEAR MRS MACAULAY,
I am writing to ask for your assistance in resolving an illegal divorce. We got married in 1995 and he filed for divorce in 2007, even while I had a divorce document sent to Jamaica from the United Kingdom in 2006.
He ignored the UK application forms and proceeded to apply for his own divorce in Jamaica. He gained this divorce illegally, and the contents of the records stated that I was living in Jamaica, but this was untrue. He also put in the document the wrong date of birth for my son, and denied my daughter's existence.
He is now living in Florida, and I gave him the paperwork years ago to resolve the situation and he did not. I recently came to Jamaica to conduct some business and found that the documents cannot be used as they were obtained illegally.
Kindly advise how I can get this resolved.
I have tried to follow the sequence of your letter, so let me state what I understand and then try to give you some advice about the situation you are now in.
I understand that in 2006 after you had been living in the UK for some time, your solicitor caused your divorce petition and other relevant applications and affidavits to be served on your husband in Jamaica, where he was residing. Your husband did nothing about them, but in 2007 you believe that he filed his own divorce petition for the dissolution of your marriage in Jamaica. I am not sure whether this document and the other supporting and legally necessary ones were served on you then, or whether you discovered this 'fact' later on. Anyway, you did at some point discover that he had lied in the petition about your residence and about details regarding your children. I assume this was done so that there would be no questions about maintenance for the children.
I assume that at some stage you went to check on the authenticity of these documents in the Supreme Court Registry and after a search was conducted, you were informed that no documents and/or evidence of any proceedings were found in the divorce records and consequently the divorce that your husband purportedly obtained was illegal and therefore was of no effect.
You stated that your husband is currently residing in the United States of America and then you stated something I find confusing, which is that you had given him the papers years ago to resolve but that he had not done so. I have no idea what papers you are referring to here. Were they your own petition documents or were they your husband's allegedly bogus ones?
Let me then try to unravel the facts and sequence and try to give you some clear steps you can take. The first thing you must accept is that if your husband's divorce is indeed illegal, then it is null and void and you are still married and must take legal steps to dissolve the marriage.
The first thing you ought to do is to formally report the matter to the Registrar of the Supreme Court, so that she can ensure that a proper search of the records is done and institute an investigation if she deems it necessary. You see, it seems to me that your husband clearly did not do what he did by himself; he must have had some help from someone who knew and understood how to prepare the documents and how to use the system. The police may have to be involved as similar offences have been committed and the honourable Chief Justice is determined to stop such criminal acts being done in our system of justice.
After the Registrar informs you of the results, you can retain a lawyer to prepare your petition for divorce in Jamaica, and make arrangements for your signatures and its filing and service on your husband. Now it will be for the police (if involved) to decide whether your husband would be charged with any criminal offence. I hope you have his address in Florida so he can be personally served once leave has been given for service abroad. If you do not have his actual address, an application can be made for substituted service to be effected.
You may also decide to bring the matter of the lies and fraud he engaged in to obtain his visa to the United States to the attention of the consulate in Kingston. They would also investigate the matter and if your assertions are found to be correct, his visa would be rescinded if proved to be based on fraudulent statements in his application, and he may even be charged criminally for something related to the false declarations he made to them to obtain his visa. This latter course of action is for you to decide about, or you could decide to be satisfied with just divorcing him properly and getting him out of your life.
You should also consider and weigh in the balance if your children are under 18 years of age, to apply at the same time as the filing of your petition, for their custody, care and control and for maintenance orders for their support.
I hope you understand what you ought to do and act quickly to retain a lawyer in Jamaica to act for you and on your children's behalf. Their familial and legal relationship with their father has to be clarified and rectified as it will affect their right to share in his estate after his death, which is frankly the least of their rights as far as I am concerned.
I wish you and your children the very best.
Margarette May Macaulay is an attorney-at-law, Supreme Court mediator, notary public, and women's and children's rights advocate. Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; or write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5. All responses are published. Mrs Macaulay cannot provide personal responses.
The contents of this article are for informational purposes only, and must not be relied upon as an alternative to legal advice from your own attorney.