Bigamy concerns

All Woman

Dear Mrs Macaulay,
My wife and I are enjoying our life, however, some documents have been located that her previous husband was in fact married in Jamaica to a local woman. When my wife married him, he indicated on the marriage application in Canada that he was not previously married, therefore no proof of divorce was needed. This apparently was not the case.

This entire issue causes my wife and I to think our marriage is not valid since her previous husband apparently was not divorced.

Other than this being a legal matter of possible bigamy, I would like to inquire if a decree of divorce was ever granted to my wife's ex-husband, how I would go about obtaining this divorce decree in Jamaica.

A number of things occurred to me whilst I was reading your letter. The first is that I am assuming that among the documents you found is an actual original or certified copy of a marriage certificate. The second is to wonder whether your wife has made contact with her ex-husband to ask him about the documents and if there had in fact been a legal termination of the marriage referred to in them, and why he had stated that he had not previously married and was a single man in the application for their marriage. I also wonder whether he knew if his Jamaican wife was still alive at the time of that application and the marriage ceremony.

Anyway, to ascertain whether an application for divorce was ever made and a decree of dissolution of marriage granted thereon, you should contact the Registrar of the Supreme Court and make applications for two searches to be effected in the records of the court for whether a decree terminating the marriage had been made by the court, and requesting a certified copy of it. You must supply the full and proper names of the Jamaican wife and the ex-husband, as they appear on the documents your wife found (and you can send a copy of the marriage certificate if this was found).

You'll see that I suggest two searches — this is because the Jamaican wife may have applied for the divorce, or the husband may have done so. Therefore two searches must be effected for each as the petitioner.

You will have to pay the fees for such searches to be effected.

If your wife cannot contact her ex-husband to make the enquiries I have referred to above, or he refuses to respond, then I must also suggest that a search be also effected in Canada, in the town/city where he resided after he returned from Jamaica, because he could have effected a divorce in Canada and not in Jamaica.

A search ought also to be effected in the Registrar General's Office of Births and Deaths to ascertain whether the Jamaican wife was alive at the time of their application and marriage.

It is quite possible that you and your wife have no basis to be concerned. At the time of her marriage, your wife knew nothing of the contents of the documents she found, and no legal liability can be attached to her. I assume that their marriage was legally terminated before you both got married. On the face of it, you both will be doing all that you can to really set your minds at rest. Unless there is a decree of nullity made on an application for it, her marriage is presumed to have been valid.

You can make the application for the searches I have suggested directly yourselves or you can retain the services of an attorney-at-law in Kingston to do them on your behalf and then decide your course of action based on the results. I hope I have rendered you sufficient assistance as you did not inform me exactly what documents your wife found and so having the services of a lawyer to whom the documents must be disclosed may indeed end the matter then and there. It would definitely inform such a person what in fact is the correct course to take.

I wish you and your wife every success in putting this matter to rest, so that you can continue to enjoy your lives together.

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.

DISCLAIMER:

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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