Understanding the Law
October 26, 2012
Questions frequently asked about divorce

What provision does the law have for dissolving a marriage?

The law provides for divorce, judicial separation and nullity of marriage. In St Vincent and the Grenadines, married partners sometimes part without formalizing their separation before a court of law. Non-judicial divorces are not recognized by the law.{{more}}

Q. I have not seen nor heard from my husband/wife for ten years; I have written to him/her, but my letters were returned. I have made the relevant enquiries from friends and family, but no one seems to have any information of his/her whereabouts. How do I dissolve my marriage?

A. The law provides for the presumption of death after seven years. An application must be made to the High Court to have the marriage dissolved.

Q. How do I start a divorce?

A. You may start a divorce to dissolve your marriage by making an application known as a petition to the High Court. The petition may be presented by either the husband or the wife. The person who presents the petition is called the petitioner and the party who is petitioned against is the respondent. You would need a marriage certificate to support your application. The court requires an original marriage certificate rather than a photocopy. Where there are children under eighteen years, you would need to file their birth certificates.

Q. I was married two years ago, can I get a divorce?

A. You could get a divorce after three years of marriage, but there are exceptions to the rule. If you could show the court that you suffer hardship or that your spouse is depraved (wicked), then it could be obtained before three years have elapsed.

Q. Do I have to give reasons in order to obtain a divorce?

A. Yes, you must prove or give grounds that your marriage is irretrievably broken down. You may present one or more of the following grounds as proof: 1. that your husband/wife has committed adultery; in that case you will have to present the name of the correspondent and maybe show that a child was born of the relation; 2. that the behaviour of your husband/wife is so bad that you can no longer bear to live with him/her; in this case you must give evidence of his/her behaviour; it could be domestic violence or any other unreasonable behaviour; 3. that your husband/wife has deserted you for two years; 4. that you and your wife/husband have lived apart for two years and that he or she agrees to the divorce; 5. that you and your wife/husband have lived apart for five years.

Q. If I do not sign the documents served on me by my husband/wife, would this prevent the divorce?

A. It would not stop the proceedings. A document for acknowledgement of service is usually served with the petition. If you do not sign and return the document to the court office within eight days, the lawyer for the petitioner will apply to the Registrar to have the case heard uncontested. Further documents would be served on you and you must be informed of the date of the hearing. It is better for you to be present for an important event in your life, than be taken unaware when the decree is served on you.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com