Ex-wife in divorce jumble

All Woman

Dear Mrs Macaulay,
My husband, who is Jamaican, filed for divorce last year, and I believe the divorce has been finalised. I live in the United States, and have lost touch with him. How do I go about obtaining a copy? I had an e-mail address for the attorney who handled the matter, but they are not responding to my e-mails either. I paid the attorney half the fees because I need a copy of the finalised document, but since they are not responding to me, I am getting concerned.

I note that you believe that your husband's petition for the dissolution of your marriage filed last year, has been completed with the granting of a decree absolute by the Supreme Court. You say that you paid his attorney one-half of the sum charged for his or her fees for the divorce proceedings. I do not understand how this came about, but it seems clear that you made contact with the attorney after you were served with the petition and its accompanying documents and you needed to know the result of the proceedings and obtain proof of the change of your status, which you are entitled to have.

It seems that you made clear the fact that you wished to have a proper (certified) copy of the decree absolute at the end of the divorce proceedings. Since you would not have known what fees were charged to their client, it is reasonable to assume that they asked you to pay them a particular sum which they told you was a half of the fees, whereby they would provide you with a copy of the decree. You further state that since then, they have not been responding to you.

I must comment on the strange and unacceptable conduct of the attorney-at-law. First, you were not the attorney's client in any way. You were the other party, the Respondent, in the divorce proceedings, and as such, the attorney is obligated to ensure that you are properly served with all the relevant processes/documents of the proceedings, and for all this, his or her client is the only party responsible for the payment of their fees.

The attorney, in requesting that you pay half of the fees because you made clear the fact that you needed a copy of the decree absolute, accepted the payment by you, which was an illegal fee. The attorney has then neglected to respond to you and has not sent you your copy of the decree. So, it is clear that the attorney has wrongly taken money from you for a specific act and has not done what he or she was paid to do, and is ignoring all the contacts you have been making since you paid the fee he/she illegally obtained from you.

This is professional misconduct and you can bring the matter to the attention of the General Legal Council, as the attorney's conduct is in breach of our rules of ethics and has and is bringing the profession into disrepute. This attorney should not have acted as he or she did, and had no grounds or right to request that you pay.

Now, you wish to know how you can obtain a copy of the decree absolute. Well, firstly you would have to ascertain whether or not the decree absolute has in fact been granted by the court.

This means contacting the Supreme Court and asking for a search to be done of the file — you will have to give your husband's name and yours and the claim number which you will find on the copy of the petition served on you, and the court's date stamp of its filing. All this will ensure that the search can be done quickly in the Matrimonial Division of the Supreme Court Registry. You can make such contact for the search by telephone and ask for the deputy registrar in charge of matrimonial matters, or the clerk, or you can use facsimile, or e-mail or letter.

The telephone numbers for the Supreme Court Registry are 876-922-8300-7, or 876-922-3792/3761. The address of the Supreme Court of Jamaica is Public Building North, 52-54 King Street, Kingston, Jamaica. As to an e-mail enquiry, I would suggest that you obtain the name of the specific officer and the e-mail address for that officer when you telephone, so that you will have the e-mail address to the specific officer who will deal with your request.

When you contact them, they will ask you some questions to ascertain that you are in fact the respondent in the matter and they can then and there do a search of the file on their computer(s) and tell you whether the decree was granted or not, and if so, explain what you must do to obtain a certified copy or two of it. You can of course retain the services of another attorney-at-law to do the search and obtain the certified copies for you. However, please make sure that you retain one of the truly professional majority, and not those of the minority who bring the profession into disrepute.

I hope I have clarified the position for you. I feel that I must say that I am not only sorry, but I am quite upset that you were treated in the unprofessional and questionable way you were by the attorney who represented your then husband in his divorce proceedings. My very 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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