There is technically only one ground for divorce in Jamaica: namely that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. So, how does divorce work in regards to Jamaica? What happens to your children? And how is your property divided when your marriage ends? Here we discuss these issues and more in our guide to divorce and Jamaica.
Divorce laws and grounds for divorce in Jamaica
Jamaica offers a ‘no-fault’ divorce, meaning that you do not have to share the reasons that led to the breakdown in your marriage.
The only ground for getting a divorce is ‘irretrievable breakdown of the marriage’ (namely that there is no chance you will get back together) and this is determined by the court. To get a divorce in Jamaica you must:
- have been married for at least two years
- have been separated for a period of at least one year.
The court can still consider you ‘separated’ even if you live in the same property. You may have to prove that you have moved into another bedroom, and that you do not share responsibilities such as cooking and cleaning. Even if you attempted to reconcile and you cohabited for a period of up to 3 months, the court will not consider that the 12-month period has been interrupted.
The court will also enquire as to whether you have attempted counselling and whether there is any possibility of reconciliation.
If you have been married for less than two years, then the Matrimonial Causes Act states that you can still petition for divorce in certain limited circumstances. A judge can grant permission for a divorce in situations that would justify the hearing of such a petition.
How child custody, contact and support are decided on divorce in Jamaica
Under Jamaican law, both mothers and fathers have equal rights to custody.
If you can’t agree on arrangements for you child, a court can decide. Fathers can apply for custody of their child if they believe that they would be better placed to make legal decisions regarding the child and to have physical custody.
All child custody orders made by a Jamaican court come with a ‘liberty to apply’ clause. This means that an applicant can apply for a change to the order at any time.
When making a decision about child custody and visitation the court will consider a range of factors, not just economic. Based on your circumstances they will decide whether an order for joint or sole custody is appropriate.
On divorce, either parent can apply to the court for the other to pay maintenance. Every parent has an obligation to financially support their child until the age of 18, and you can apply for maintenance in the family court (without a lawyer) or through a lawyer in the Supreme Court.
Jamaica became a signatory to the Hague Convention on Child Abduction in 2017. While historically there have been issues regarding international child abduction in the country, the accession to the Convention means that you can now seek help from the relevant authority if your child is taken to or from Jamaica without your consent.
How your finances are divided on divorce in Jamaica
Unlike many other countries, there is no ‘community property’ regime in Jamaica. This means that each spouse’s contribution towards the acquisition and maintenance of assets feature strongly when courts are asked to split the property you acquired during your marriage.
The one exception is the marital home. Under the Property (Rights of Spouses) Act (PROSA), each spouse is presumed to have an equal share in the property, unless:
- it was a short marriage
- the property was owned prior to marriage
- the property was inherited by one spouse.
In terms of spousal support, the Maintenance Act (2005) obliges each spouse to maintain the other spouse after divorce. There is an obligation to meet the other spouse’s reasonable needs if they cannot do this themselves.
The court will have to determine that the dependent spouse cannot practicably meet their needs before any alimony is granted. If they decide that they are able to meet their own needs, then a claim may be denied. Indeed, there can be an instance where the claiming spouse may even be ordered to pay support for their former spouse.
An application for spousal support can be made during the divorce process or up to a year after your marriage ends.
The payments will generally continue for a fixed period, or until the spouse receiving the payments cohabits or remarries.
The information on this website is to be considered a guide and is therefore not legal advice. You use this information with the understanding that Wiselaw does not accept liability for any direct or indirect losses as a result of anyone relying on or acting upon the information on this website. Whilst we endeavour to provide accurate information, Wiselaw does not accept liability for any errors or omissions on this website.