Understanding the Law
September 22, 2006

Marriage Officer 2

Last week we looked at the law pertaining to marriage officers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines because there appears to be an interest in the topic lately. This week we would look at what is required of them in the performance of their duties.

A marriage officer must be approved by the Governor General. His appointment is announced in the government’s Gazette. A list of the names of the officers must be posted at the Register Officer so that the general public would have knowledge of them.{{more}}

Soon after the formalities, the marriage officer could perform marriage in his district and any other district in which he is posted by his organization. He must observe the Marriage Act fully and must be on the look out for any amendment to the laws. He is responsible to implement any new law pertaining to his role as a marriage officer.

The marriage registers

This is an important document and must be kept in a safe place. The certificate must be done in triplicate one is given to the parties the duplicate is taken to the Register office to be registered, the other remains in the register and is sent back to the Register office when the book is completed. He would get a new book on request from the Registrar General. The marriage registers are produced by the government’s printery which produces most of the forms used in government offices.

Taking care of the marriage certificates

This is the duty of the marriage officer and the organization to which he belongs. The organization should as part of its internal policy call upon its marriage officers to account. The law expects a certain amount of literacy and application from its marriage officers. The law is set out in Marriage Regulations (Booklet 1) of the Marriage Act. It requires the marriage office to set down information accurately and clearly. Witnesses are required to sign the register giving their usual signatures and the marriage officer must spell out the name to aid registration. If for a reason the certificate is rendered no good it must be cancelled and not be destroyed. A simple mistake could be initialed and dated by the marriage officer. The importance of these procedures cannot be under estimated and must be done to avoid having to correct errors later. Correction of error is expensive and would require the services of a lawyer..

It is the duty of the marriage officer to return the duplicate but the parties to a marriage should apply to the Register office seven days after the marriage for a certificate. By doing so the parties will know whether the certificate was submitted to the Register Office. All errors should be reported at this point.

Vacating the post

A marriage officer remains in that position as long as he remains a minister of religion. If he wishes to retire or if he ceases to act for the organization which sponsored him he must inform the Registrar General and hand over all registers in his possession to his successor or the Registrar General.

Temporary absence

Temporary absence must also be reported to the Registrar General. Where the marriage officer makes arrangement to leave the care of his place of worship and the conduct of the service therein to a catechist, lay reader or other person not being a minister of religion he could make recommendation to the Governor General for that person to act until some other minister of religion is appointed.

• Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.

E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com