FAST RISE IN DIVORCE – Jamaica Observer


With more than 8,000 divorce petitions filed in the past two years and more than 6,800 failed lawyers have been put on probation. But, based on consultations with their clients, lawyers do not blame the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, their notes reveal that people had time to learn who they really married and realized that getting married was more like entering slavery.

And contrary to public perception, the increase in work has not been greeted enthusiastically by family-oriented lawyers, whose hearts break when cases get complicated and involve children. Two lawyers also noted that, in their firms, applications are mainly filed by frustrated women.

“For me, I have issues where I know the parties very well and they come to me about the divorce. I rarely feel like doing it, especially when children or property are involved. Children suffer because they are drawn into entanglement and fighting. I realize a lot of people don’t understand the dynamics of having a wedding. They just feel like once they’re in hot waters with their partners, they should stop. Jamaicans feel like they’re too big to apologize, and most of the time that’s exactly the case,” said attorney Michelle Thomas. Jamaica Observer in an interview.

“The parties were spending more time and they realize that ‘Mi nuh really likes this person.’ Work and obligations came between people interacting, and so when one person isn’t around you 24/7, you see a different outlook But when COVID forced everyone to be locked indoors and parties started to socialize more, they realized that the person they married was not the person they ideally loved. Some marriages grew stronger and some ended,” Thomas added.

“I think as a society we need to restructure how we do counseling and how we deal with marriages. People just treat weddings as casual. People are in and out of marriages. We have lost the true meaning of marriage. With the sanctity of union, many people have missed the mark.

There has been a noticeable decrease in divorce filings, with the number dropping from 3,934 in 2019 to 3,689 in 2020. However, 2021 saw a jump with 4,381 divorces filed, an increase of 18.7%.

In total, 2020 and 2021 recorded 8,070 divorce applications. And the Courts Administration Division (CAD) revealed that just four months into 2021, more than 1,200 divorce petitions had already been filed.

THOMAS… I rarely feel like doing it especially when kids or assets are involved.

“I do a lot of divorces in my practice and most of them are for women,” Thomas revealed. “Most of the time when you ask them what the reason is, most issues can be resolved, but the parties don’t believe in counseling. This is something I do in Jamaica. There is a stigma towards counselling. They don’t think that if the marriage is upset, both parties can go to a counselor and discuss their issues and see if they can resolve them.

In January this year, the Chief Justice’s Registered Divorce Statistical Report revealed that the number of petitions for dissolution of marriage, which were filed during the Easter quarter of 2021 at the regional Supreme Court registries in Kingston and from the west combined, rose 50.97 percent. cent compared to the Easter quarter 2020.

Additionally, the Statistical Institute of Jamaica pointed to a downward trend in marriages, while divorces are increasing.

There have been 20,484 divorces from 2015 to 2021.

HAY…an opportunity was taken to clear the backlog.

Queen’s Counsel Caroline Hay told the Sunday Observer that there has been a deliberate effort to settle divorce cases during the downtime caused by COVID-19.

“I think the numbers are related to the COVID incident as it ended many court appearances and created a lot of time as many judges were working from home. A lot of office time has been created by COVID, which means an opportunity has been taken to eliminate the backlog. Moreover, this Chief Justice has embarked on the path of declared war to modernize the register. The Supreme Court Registry has several divisions; the family division was one. The family was notoriously disorganized,” she said.

Hay said that previously people couldn’t get a divorce on paper. Court appearances were necessary for individuals to testify.

The rules have been changed, she said, and petitioners can now apply for a waiver of a hearing.

“What this was supposed to do was speed up the pace at which the deal would be done. But because the registry was so disorganized, everyone asked to skip a hearing, but the systems that needed to be in place to deal with the volume never followed. So the cases just backed up.

Hay added that with more than two decades of practice, she has noticed that divorces are usually the result of couples who do not receive intervention long before the problem becomes unsolvable and who are not prepared or able to. to bring changes.

“In my opinion, any couple can live together if they wish, even if there is abuse. That’s if the two are ready to live together. It’s when one party isn’t ready to live with the other party’s behavior or actions or when they offend each other that it doesn’t work,” she said.

Lawyer Alexander Shaw said the statistics reflect people staying home with more time to have one-on-one contact with themselves.

SHAW… I’m in no rush to tell a couple to go divorce.

“A lot of people stayed home. Some of them were still married, but separated. So they would have taken steps to pretty much get their lives back on track. That would mean filing for divorce. mind that you must have been apart for at least a year.For argument’s sake, someone whose relationship deteriorated during COVID-19, around March 2020 or so, should have waited until March 2021 before to be able to file for divorce,” he told the Sunday Observer.

“Usually it’s wives who seek divorce the most because what you see is that a man would leave the marital home and start a relationship. But, most of the time, women want security and they are more likely to go to court for a divorce. If they end a relationship and they live with the man, they will want to remarry, and in order to remarry, you really have to divorce,” he continued. .

He felt that many people were also trying to protect their property.

“COVID-19 has been a time for us to realize the reality that life is short. And there are a lot of people who thought they wouldn’t make it out of that period alive so they were trying to get their house in order. One of the measures they would have taken was to divorce so that the other party would not take unfair advantage. Many people also wrote their wills in times of COVID-19, fearing that the worst was to come.

Lawyers have refuted claims that members of the legal profession were on cloud nine over rising divorces, which many suspected had led to increased cash flow.

Thomas said lawyers are never satisfied when these issues come to their attention.

“A lawyer is never happy because we are obliged when a client comes before us to ask certain questions. For example, if it’s that they haven’t separated for an entire year, they shouldn’t and shouldn’t get a difference. The separation should last a year. So if you and your partner are in hot water this month and next month you’re running to the lawyer to get a divorce, the lawyer is bound to state that you’ll have to wait a whole year.

Hay said she understands why people would think of it as a “human response.”

“I imagine the same accusation would hit the doctors and to some extent, with some cynicism, the priest. Whenever people need professional services, there is this belief that they should be free. And so if you’re in need and in dire straits and you walk up to the lawyer and the lawyer says, “Put me $150,000 in my hand or I won’t go to court,” there is a kind of disgust or consternation. It’s the fact that the lawyer insisted on his fees to win out of what you consider your crisis.

“Usually the customer that comes back with the business comes back because of trust. It’s a relationship of trust and trust. They tell you in studies that every customer in a well-served relationship will bring you an average of 2.5 business in your practice. They may bring their assets, their will, or they may want to form a corporation and want to do contracts. It’s a relationship, and you’ll find a lot of empathy from the lawyer said Hay.

Shaw noted that one of the main considerations for a lawyer is whether the couple has children. And depending on how they describe the situation, he will tell them if they need a divorce or just advice.

“If certain issues are present in the marriage, including domestic violence, on that basis I will tell them that I think they should divorce. When children are involved, especially young children, I am not overly impatient. to tell a couple to divorce because I know it can have implications for the children,” he told the Sunday Observer.

“Although the practice of law is a business, I still have to keep in mind that I deal with people and the advice I give will affect their lives in one way or another. I’m married and have one child, so I don’t like to see families split up. Saying just go divorce just because I want money wouldn’t be good.

Queen’s Counsel Peter Champagnie chimed in, saying: ‘There may be instances where this view holds. However, there are always two factors to keep in mind. There are the canons of the legal profession, and these are certain precepts that dictate our conduct as lawyers. One of them obliges a lawyer, whatever his field of practice, not to stir up discord between his client and another. The objective, in terms of this precept, is that lawyers encourage, as far as possible, an amicable resolution of a matter likely to be resolved without going to court.

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