American feels scammed by Jamaican hubby
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Dear Mrs Macaulay,

I'm a US Citizen who got married last March in Jamaica at the Registrar General's Department (RGD). I met my husband, 12 years younger, on Facebook, and we had never met face to face until the wedding. He arranged everything before I got to Kingston. But he lied and never told me that he has three kids with three babymothers. I stayed on the island about one week after the marriage. I realised that he used me to get papers to come here. I sent him over US$6,000 for the wedding arrangements, and I even had to buy our wedding rings the same day we got married, with my own money. He took our brand-new furniture to his mother's house. He rarely calls me or texts me. I will not file papers for him to come here. I'm 52 and I want to move on with my life. Can I get an annulment?

I am sorry that you have found yourself with your dreams and expectations of a happy life with a loving spouse shattered because you found out that your groom and husband had not been truthful to you. I really do not understand how you or anyone else could have acted as you did, but I assume that sometimes our dreams and hopes can overwhelm us.

However, the only answer to your question about annulment is no, you cannot. You see, for you to successfully receive a decree of nullity, your marriage ceremony itself must have been null and void. I do not want to be too legally technical and so I shall answer you as simply and directly as I can without too much legal language and provisions, save that your situation falls within the provisions of the Marriage Act and the Matrimonial Causes Act.

The first Act I mentioned deals with the requirements for a valid marriage and what would make one void or merely voidable. These relate to circumstances which make, as the law provides, a valid marriage, or one which is a nullity. For example, when all that is necessary for a valid solemnisation of a marriage ceremony are met, that marriage can only be dissolved by a decree nisi and then obtaining a decree absolute of divorce. If, however, one of the parties was not a single person; or wasn't a widow/widower; or wasn't legally a divorcée, that person is still married, and if they go through a marriage ceremony with someone else, that would render that marriage void and bigamous. If someone else assumes the identity of the bride or bridegroom so that the other is deceived and the ceremony proceeds on the basis that the true party is the one present, this would also vitiate the marriage. And if the marriage officer was not in fact one, then there was not a valid marriage ceremony and so no marriage.

I stop there because your marriage ceremony does not fall into any of those categories and I conclude that the solemnisation of your marriage was valid, and you consummated the marriage. The fact that you found out that his life before he met you and you got married made him a father three times, and it changed his status from a single non-father to that of a single father of three, does not disqualify him from being a valid groom in a valid marriage ceremony. And that he was.

It is clear, however, that what you found out about him after your wedding had become a consummated marriage, made you see him in a different light and it adversely affected your feelings for him and irretrievably broke down your marriage. In such circumstances, you must proceed to divorce him by having a petition for the dissolution of your marriage and attendant documents filed for you and also an application that it be done on paper, so that you do not have to attend the proceedings in person. Once you obtain your decree nisi, you must wait for six weeks before you file for your decree absolute, which is what, once granted, completely ends your marriage.

You should obtain the services of an attorney to assist you to prepare your petition and affidavit accompanying your petition and the application for your divorce proceedings to be dealt with by the judge on paper to be properly drawn up and all filed and served on your husband. Your lawyer will be in a better position to advise you as you would provide more facts to him or her, rather than the sparse contents of your letter.

Please, therefore, make arrangements to obtain legal services and thereby proceed to take the necessary steps to have your marriage dissolved so you can get on with your life as a divorcée.

Please ensure that you meet and get to know any prospective husband over a reasonable period of time before you go through a marriage ceremony with them.

I wish you the very best.

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.

Margarette MACAULAY

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