Five myths in fam­ily law

Jamaica Gleaner - - FLAIR FASHION - Sherry-Ann McGre­gor is a part­ner and me­di­a­tor in the firm of Nunes, Sc­hole­field, DeLeon & Co. Please send ques­tions and com­ments to law­ or life­style@glean­

IN NO par­tic­u­lar or­der, I am set­ting out be­low five points that of­ten cause con­fu­sion in fam­ily law pro­ceed­ings: MYTH 1. The re­spon­dent must sign doc­u­ments in or­der to get di­vorced.

There is no such re­quire­ment in law. It is true that a re­spon­dent must be served with a Pe­ti­tion for Dis­so­lu­tion of Mar­riage, but once that doc­u­ment is served, it is left to that re­spon­dent to de­cide whether to par­tic­i­pate in the di­vorce pro­ceed­ings. In fact, when the pe­ti­tion is be­ing served on the re­spon­dent, if he or she re­fuses to take the doc­u­ment, it will be proper ser­vice to leave the doc­u­ments at the re­spon­dent’s feet. The di­vorce pro­ceed­ings can be con­cluded with­out the re­spon­dent ever fil­ing any doc­u­ments in court. MYTH 2. When you sep­a­rate from your hus­band or wife, you should ‘gazette’ him or her.

That is not true. The prac­tice of ‘gazetting’ a hus­band or wife from whom you have sep­a­rated in­volves pub­lish­ing a no­tice in the news­pa­per to an­nounce that you are sep­a­rated from him or her and that you are no longer re­spon­si­ble for his or her debts. That is an outdated ap­proach that was nec­es­sary at a time when wives were the prop­erty of their hus­bands and hus­bands were li­able for their wives’ debts. That is no longer so, as a wife can en­ter into a con­tract with­out bind­ing her hus­band, and vice versa. MYTH 3. You must re­main in the fam­ily home to pro­tect

your in­ter­est in that prop­erty.

That is not so. Par­tic­u­larly if be­ing in the fam­ily home cre­ates a risk to health and well-be­ing, it is nei­ther nec­es­sary nor ad­vis­able to re­main in that home. Leav­ing the home in such cir­cum­stances will not re­sult in the aban­don­ment of your in­ter­est in that prop­erty, un­less you stay away for a pe­riod of at least 12 years and ig­nore your obli­ga­tions to con­trib­ute to­wards the up­keep and main­te­nance of the prop­erty. MYTH 4. You can only get an oc­cu­pa­tion or­der if the house be­longs to you.

That is false. An oc­cu­pa­tion or­der may be granted un­der the Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Act to al­low a named per­son to oc­cupy a house. Ef­fec­tively, that or­der will also mean that some other per­son is pre­vented from en­ter­ing that house. The per­son who is pre­vented from en­ter­ing that house may be the ten­ant or even the owner. MYTH 5. The Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Act only pro­vides pro­tec­tion against phys­i­cal in­jury.

That is wrong. The ac­tual or threat­ened in­jury to a per­son who seeks pro­tec­tion un­der the Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Act may be phys­i­cal, men­tal, ver­bal or even emo­tional.

Please free to send your ques­tions about com­monly held views about fam­ily law pro­ceed­ings so that we can test whether those views are myths or facts.


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