Dear Mrs Macaulay,
I got married in Jamaica in 1992. I received only a receipt of marriage, and no licence to my knowledge was even filed. I contacted the Registrar General's Department (RGD) to search for a licence , but up to this point it has not been located. Is it possible to use the receipt that I still have in order to get the marriage licence that was never received? I reside in the US and I am desperately looking for a way to validate my marriage of 25 years.
To be clear, it is the marriage certificate that you need — not the licence. The licence only authorises that the marriage can take place, for the marriage officer to know that he or she can conduct the marriage ceremony, as the parties have met all the legal qualifications and requirements pursuant to the Marriage Act to contract a legal marriage.
I am amazed that you waited 25 years before taking any steps to obtain a certified copy of your marriage certificate. It is the usual practice for the marriage officer, after the proper execution/signing of the Marriage Register by the couple, by their witnesses and by the officer, to hand a copy to the bride, who would have been you. Is this what you are calling a receipt?
The marriage officer's name should be on the counterfoil certificate handed to you. He or she is then obligated to file the requisite copy at the RGD to be entered and recorded. Not doing so is an offence.
Have you tried to contact the marriage officer? Is the person still performing marriages? You ought to do a search of the roll/list of marriage officers who are currently conducting ceremonies of marriage. If that person's name is on the list, you should try to contact him or her and explain that you need a certified copy of your marriage certificate. Let the officer know that the RGD has informed you that they have no record of your marriage. This would imply that the marriage officer did not submit the record of your marriage to the RGD. It is also quite possible that the officer is no longer alive or even in Jamaica, but you have to make the search.
If this is in fact the case, then you are left with only one hope, that is to make an application to the court, the last bastion of justice, to make a declaration of the fact of your marriage 25 years ago, as appears on your counterfoil, and make an order that it be entered by the Registrar General and that a certified copy be issued to you. You will have to support your application with your affidavit spelling out all the facts of your said marriage and explain how you only have the counterfoil in your possession. You must also relate therein why you need to prove your marriage now, and why you waited for 25 years to do anything about obtaining a certified copy of your marriage certificate. You must also relate all the facts about the searches you have made to find the marriage officer, and the results of your contacts with the RGD.
The Supreme Court has inherent jurisdiction that enables a judge therein to make orders which are not pursuant to any specific legal provision, but which are necessary, right and just.
This inordinate delay by you illustrates the fact that people could lose that to which they are entitled, or at the very least be put to great trouble and expense to sort out the mess occasioned by their own negligence. It is always better to act as quickly as possible to protect ourselves from irreparable harm or to avoid a great deal of trouble and expense.
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.