Missing divorce decree hampering migration

All Woman

Dear Mrs Macaulay,

I travelled to Canada in 1993 and went back and forth for two years. Eventually I remained in Canada to live. I met and decided to get married to my first husband in Jamaica. Then I filed for a divorce from him while I was in Canada. My spouse was gazetted and there was no response within 30 days, so the divorce proceeded. Then I got married again in 1999. Now I am not able to find the divorce certificate from my first marriage and need it for a US sponsorship. Because it was not a Canadian marriage, I am having a difficult time finding the divorce certificate. Is there any way it would have been filed in Jamaica since the marriage took place there?

I have noted the contents of your letter about the difficulty you have in finding the “divorce certificate” which dissolved your first marriage and which you need for a US sponsorship. By this I assume that you mean the decree absolute issued by the court. It was very careless of you to misplace such an important document. A decree of the dissolution of your marriage is of the utmost importance, as it changes your legal status, and it would need to be produced to prove the fact of the change for various reasons following the decree.

I must say that I am not completely clear about where you imply that you petitioned for and proceeded to obtain both your decree nisi and decree absolute. I do not know whether you are referring to Jamaica or Canada. You did not state when or in what year you obtained the divorce.

I note that you say that you filed for your divorce while you were in Canada and that your spouse was 'gazetted', and there being no response for 30 days after the publication, the proceedings proceeded in default of his appearance or answer to the dissolution of your marriage.

The procedure would have been that following his lack of response to the publication of particulars filed by you, you would proceed to serve him by substituted service. In Jamaica this normally requires publication in one of the popular national daily newspapers, pursuant to an order which you would have applied for and obtained from the Supreme Court on the grounds that you did not know his address or that of any of his family members who would normally be in touch with him.

You could have obtained your divorce in Jamaica though you were residing in Canada at the time, but this is not clearly specified in your letter.

However, since you said it was “gazetted”, am I correct in concluding that you obtained the order for substituted service and the dissolution of your marriage in Canada and not in Jamaica? I wonder why you would have gone with substituted service, because both jurisdictions require personal service, and the courts would only make an order for substituted service upon your application for it and your proof of the fact that you really had no idea where he was residing or working. Was he not residing in Jamaica throughout the period of your marriage? If so, why did you not file for your divorce in Jamaica?

Anyway, since you were very sparing with your facts, I can only state the following to assist you:

1. If your divorce was done in Canada, the court that granted the divorce would have your petition, supporting documents and the decrees nisi and absolute in its files and records. Have you formally applied for a search to be done and requested copies of the decree absolute? Have you paid the requisite fees for these to be done?

2. Have you contacted the lawyer who acted and represented you throughout the divorce process, as he/she should have copies of everything in their file?

3. If it was done in Canada, I cannot imagine why your Canadian divorce would be filed in Jamaica, who would do so, and where this would have been done. I have never known this to happen.

4. If it was done in Jamaica, since all divorces done here are done in the Supreme Court, the court copies of the documents filed and the orders and decrees made would be recorded in the Divorce Suit Book and the court file in earlier years, and in more recent years, in the computerised records at the Supreme Court Registry.

So if this was the jurisdiction in which you applied for your divorce and obtained it, you should contact the Registrar of the Supreme Court and make your request for a search to be done and for copies of the decree absolute, and offer to pay the requisite fees.

If you are applying to the Supreme Court Registry here, or to the Court Registry of the court which granted your divorce in Canada, you must give the correct names of you and your ex-husband and the date (if possible the month, but definitely the year) when you filed your petition for divorce. This information would narrow down the period needed to conduct a search for your case file and/or records. Failing the month, at least you must remember the year.

I trust that this information will assist you and that you eventually succeed with your search. Success will be yours as long as your petition was legally filed and proceeded with in the court to which you apply for the search and copies.

I wish you good hunting.

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 allwoman@jamaicaobserver.com; 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.




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