Dear Mrs Macaulay,
How can I find out if someone is married in Jamaica? I am in the USA and want to find out someone's actual marital status.
Wow! What a task you have embarked upon. In Jamaica, it is legally required that a marriage be performed by a duly qualified marriage officer for it to be a legal union. Therefore, even if the marriage ceremony is performed by a priest, reverend, pastor, bishop or archbishop, it will not be a legal marriage unless the officiating clergy is in fact also a marriage officer. When the ceremony has been completed, the couple, their witnesses and the marriage officer will sign the form in the Marriage Register Book and the duplicate form as a counterfoil. Then the marriage officer must deliver the duplicate register, having separated it from the Register Book, to the Registrar General and then deliver a certified copy of it to the couple by handing it, as is the practice, to the bride, without charging a fee.
Marriage officers must, pursuant to the Marriage Act, keep the Marriage Register Book until it is full or until he or she ceases to be a marriage officer, when it must be returned to the Registrar General.
After the marriage ceremony, the marriage officer is required by law to submit the duplicate of the marriage register to the Registrar General's Department, where it must be filed and “safely preserved” in the General Register Office. Failure of the marriage officer to submit the duplicate is an offence for which he or she can be prosecuted, and if found to be guilty, sentenced to pay a fine, and in addition, if the marriage officer fails to do this transmission, the Registrar General should report this fact to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
I have told you all this because if you wish or need to find out the marital status of anyone, you must have a search done of the General Register Office of the index of the marriage duplicates which are supposed to have been filed and kept there safely. You will have to pay a fee for any certified copy sealed and stamped with the seal of that office.
If you know the year when the person could have been married, then you should request that your search be done for the whole of that year. If you also know the month, that would be even better. However, if you have no idea, then you will have to ask for the search to be done for a period of years.
If there is no evidence of the marriage of that person at the Registrar General's Department, then you may conclude that that person is not married, which may or may not be true, as it could be that there was a failure of the marriage officer to submit the duplicate register to the Registrar General's Department. This will not mean that the person is not married, but that there is no record of it, save for the certified copy handed to the couple at the end of the marriage ceremony.
It will be understandable and reasonable if you conclude, after having a diligent but fruitless search done at the Registrar General's Department, that the person did not go through a marriage ceremony here in Jamaica.
All the best.
I wish for all my readers and the staff of the Observer a very happy Christmas and a contented, safe and healthy new year.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org; 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.