Recovering lost divorce decree

All Woman

DEAR MRS MACAULAY,

How do I go about applying to get a new copy of a divorce certificate after it has been lost? Do you know what is the procedure exactly in order for me to obtain a new copy of a divorce decree?

There are a number of ways in which you can seek to obtain a certified copy of your decree absolute as you cannot obtain an original hard copy since only one is done for the petitioner in dissolution proceedings.

So what steps can you take to obtain a certified, or two, or three copies of your decree absolute? The first attempt should be through the attorney-at-law who represented you in your divorce proceedings. Your legal representative, if prudent, would have, when filing copies of the decree absolute, filed copies to be certified. If this was done he or she should have at least one certified copy in your file and this can be delivered to you. So go to the lawyer's office and make a request for it. You may have to pay a small fee as time would be taken to speak with you, search for your file and in it, and if found, a copy would have to be made to be kept in their file.

The second, if the lawyer does not have a copy, is that you can retain them, or another attorney, to apply for certified copies to the court for you and pay their fee for doing so.

The third is that you go to the Supreme Court Registry at 54 King Street, Kingston, and explain to the receptionist that you are there to have a search done for your decree absolute, as you need to make an application for a certified copy of it which you need to use as you have lost the original copy you had. You will be directed to the correct window where you will again explain to the clerk at the window, but to whom you should also give the date your decree absolute was made, and if you do not recall the exact date, then you must give the month and/or the year so that the requisite search can be done in a reasonable time. You may have to pay a search fee.

You must also state to the clerk when explaining what you need, that you need to have a couple certified copies of your decree absolute (I strongly suggest that you get at least two as you may need another original certified copy for other matters wherein you may also have to prove your status in the future).

The application for certified copies is usually made in writing (which you can do there and then by handwriting with the assistance of the clerk). Then ask if you have to bring in the necessary typed copies of the decree yourself, or whether it will be done by the Registry. I cannot tell you about this because I only know what lawyers have to do and submit the typed copies of the orders and decrees which we apply for to be certified. I do not know about a member of the public who was a party to proceedings. I do not know whether you will be expected to submit the typed copies of the decree to be certified or whether this would be done by the Registry. So you must ask. What I do know is that the application and each copy to be certified must have their requisite stamp duty paid and stamped on them before filing them in the Registry.

If you are required to bring in the typed copies, then apply for a photocopy of the decree (pay for the copy), so that you can go off and have it typed and return with your application plus the requisite copies you wish to be certified — AFTER you have gone to the Stamp Office and paid the requisite stamp duties. Then you will take the stamped documents back to the Registry and file them with the clerk. Ask when you can return to collect the certified copies.

This third way of obtaining certified copies will be the cheapest means for you to go about obtaining your certified copies, which are just as good for use as the original was – in fact many organisations prefer certified copies for their purposes.

I hope I have explained sufficiently how you can obtain certified copies of your decree absolute.

All best wishes.

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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