Divorce is hard. On everyone. You, your family and your kids. It’s hard on your future ex and your outside thing
In 2013, 8,117 couples said “I do” in Trinidad and Tobago. That same year 2,465 couples said “screw you!” and formalised their divorce.
Using those figures one in every three marriages in Trinidad and Tobago end in divorce.
In Trinidad, there is one ground for divorce. That the marriage has irretrievably broken down, meaning that there is no room for reconciliation. Your marriage, like the roads in La Brea, cannot be fixed.
A divorce can be contested. Or uncontested.
A divorce is granted in two stages.
The court first issues a decree nisi, which is a document that says the court doesn’t see why you can’t divorce. At a later stage, the court grants a decree absolute, which means you’re free to remarry.
In the time between the decree nisi and the decree absolute, any party who objects to the divorce can come forward with those objections. At your wedding no one objected. Hopefully no one objects to your divorce.
Between 1986 and 2004 the number of divorces in Trinidad and Tobago fluctuated between 1074 and 1852.
In 2005, the figure spiked to 2785.
In 2010, 2,000 divorces were granted.
Opening the 2017/2018 law term chief justice archie announced 2,878 petitions were filed. The year before, the courts issued 2110 decree nisi. 94% of people getting divorced got their nisi within a year. Remember the nisi (which rhymes with pissy) is the first milestone in getting divorced. It’s followed by the decree absolute.
According to the judiciary’s website, you could get a divorce in 4 months. Assuming of course everything runs smoothly.
Do you know that means? That means that in Trinidad you could get a divorce faster than you could get your passport.
If you go online and search for “divorce in Trinidad”, you’ll notice a couple things, people are searching for information:
About the divorce process
About the rights of women
About alimony or “all your money”
About unreasonable behavior. What exactly is unreasonable behavior?
You’ll also notice something that should embarrass the courts. The details on their website aren’t straightforward. Why is it so hard for organisations to document and communicate how processes work? Whether it’s applying for your passport, driver’s license or a divorce?
On the court’s website you have to download a 6mb PDF document to find out how the process works. First of all, why do I have to download a file? You know how much work that is? And why is the file 6mb? The judiciary’s website also includes other resources you will need if you’re representing yourself. These files, which you will have to edit, are available as PDF documents which is stupid because people who are getting divorced don’t have PDF editors. They have Microsoft word or notepad.
You know what else is embarrassing? If you search online for divorce in Trinidad The US embassy’s website has clearer instructions.
Here’s something simple that the judiciary can do that will make everyone’s life a whole lot easier in the long run. Create fillable pdf forms. So people can download the forms. Fill them out on their computer, print them and sign them.
In Trinidad, divorcing someone is very easy especially IF there are no disagreements. when it comes to money, assets and the kids. AND no outside man or woman is involved.
One spouse must request a divorce. That spouse is known as the petitioner. The other spouse, in legal jargon is called the respondent. In the petitioner’s circles, the respondent is known as the bitch or the jackass.
In Trinidad and Tobago, there’s one ground for divorce. That your marriage has broken down irretrievably, meaning that like cocaine and marijuana in evidence rooms across Trinidad, it cannot be retrieved
There are five ways of proving a marriage is irretrievable.
the jackass you want to divorce has committed adultery and the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the respondent;
the bitch you want to divorce has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent;
the jackass deserted me;
We’ve been living apart for more than two years with agreement;
We’ve been living apart for more than five years without agreement (I have no idea where he lives. I can’t even find the jackass on Facebook.)
To apply for a divorce you do not need a lawyer, but, apparently, it is your best interest that you have one.
Remember, if you decide to represent yourself you can find resources on the judiciary’s website. Hopefully by the time you’re getting divorced the judiciary would have created fillable forms making divorce a whole lot easier.
To start proceedings, the average Lawyer in Trinidad and Tobago charges TT$5000. Of course the price increases depending on the case’s complexity: assets, kids, alimony, which makes you wonder if it’s in your best interest or your lawyer’s best interest that you have a lawyer.
Your lawyer will prepare the necessary documents and speak for you in court.
If you cannot afford a lawyer you can apply for legal aid through the Legal Aid Advisory Board. On the condition that you make less than TT $7,000 a year? But if you make less than 7,000 and you’re thinking about getting a divorce, please think twice. Because, bro, she didn’t marry you for the money.
The Hugh Wooding Law School also has a legal aid clinic, which, like Mt Hope’s Dental school, gives students the chance to practice on you for a small fee.
There aren’t any restrictions for filing for divorce. Either you or your spouse have lived in Trinidad and Tobago for at least one year, which, truth be told, may have contributed to your divorce. If you’re having problems Leave, “Get Out”. Those are Two excellent movies. Watch them together then leave.
So, how do you apply for a divorce in Trinidad and Tobago?
Usually, you must be married for at least one year. Otherwise it just looks bad, especially if you had an expensive wedding. But if you can show that you’ve suffered extreme hardship you can apply for permission on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour, which can include but isn’t limited to
Verbal abuse, shouting or belittling
Excessive/lack of sex
So if he’s living in the rumshop more than he’s living inside, you can apply for a divorce. And Behaviour isn’t confined to the Petitioner; it is what affects the marriage so Respondent’s behaviour to other family members such as your mother in law.
One, you need to file a petition at the Family Court asking the court to end your marriage. This document outlines how you wish to prove the irretrievable breakdown.
Along with the petition you must file supporting documents such as
A copy of your marriage certificate;
Details about other cases in any court about your marriage, the children or matrimonial property.
if you have kids under the age of 16 or children who are still attending school you must prepare a document called a Statement of Arrangements for the children (money for school, money for books, money for mommy);
It costs $50 to file a petition. Each supporting document costs $5.
You also have to pay a service fee, which varies based on where your spouse lives and how far the official who will ultimately serve the petition on your spouse has to travel, which I find amusing. Can you imagine if the official and your spouse live on opposite ends of the island? Or the official lives in Trinidad and your spouse is from Tobago?
If you live in “South” or Tobago, you can file your petition at the family court in Port of Spain because South, like Tobago, has no good night-clubs and no family court.
South people and Tobagonians can also file at sub-registries in South Trinidad or Tobago. The Supreme Court on Harris Promenade. And the Supreme Court in Scarborough, Tobago.
If your petition claims that your spouse has committed adultery and you find it intolerable to live with him or her, you will have to name the horner man or the horner woman. The person you name is also served. So if you named Little Jack Horner, Little Jack Horner is going to get a copy of the petition and supporting documents. Can you imagine being in the same room with that person. Assuming the man cheated, The wife is probably disgusted. The husband is probably thinking about a threesome.
The petitioner must present hard proof.
Admission of Respondent
Existence of a child
Caught in the act
Inference – from circumstances
Evidence (pictures, videos, phone records)
Please note the following. petitions that try to prove that a marriage has broken down irretrievably because of adultery are usually contested. This is a long dirty road.
Oh. When you’re going to file your petition, remember to walk with cash. It’s 2019. Organisations like Licensing Office and Family Court only accept cash. Trinidad is a real place.
Once you file your petition, you’ll get a date of hearing, approximately 8 weeks from the date of filing. The respondent must be served personally. He or she has 8 days to defend the petition. The respondent may want to make changes with respect to matrimonial property or the kids. If the jackass decides to contest the petition he/she has an additional 20 days to file an answer. Along with the petition, the respondent receives two forms:
an acknowledgement of service form, which he/she must be completed and filed within 8 days.
A notice of proceedings; instructions and details about the matter.
Let’s jump to the first date of hearing.
If your spouse does not contest the divorce, you, the petitioner, present your evidence. The judge will state if he or she is convinced the marriage has broken down irretrievably.He issues a decree nisi, which is… do you remember?
A decree nisi is not the end of your marriage!!!
A decree nisi is not the end of your marriage. You still have to wait at least six weeks.
Let’s talk about settlement. Who gets the house, the car, the kids? It isn’t a winner takes all scenario. The court isn’t there to rule in favor of the woman. The court prefers if a couple can work out these details on their own. They may recommend mediation.
In dividing property, the court’s aim is to place the parties as close as possible to the financial position they would have been in if the marriage had not broken down. The court considers the income, the ability to earn, property and other financial resources which each party has or is likely to have in the near future, their age and how long they were married.
Custody, care and control is not automatically granted to the mother. The Court does look at which parent may be better placed to provide for the child. The Court prefers joint custody with care and control going to the parent with whom the child will reside. However if one party exhibits unreasonable behavior the courts can deny access to that parent.
Once a judge is satisified with the arrangements, you will receive your final document, the Decree Absolute. Game over. Congrats. You did it.
If however your spouse contests the divorce, and you all can’t see eye to eye on anything… Buckle up and enjoy the ride.
Choosing a daycare or preschool is hard. Because, in Trinidad, daycares can be like Hotel California. Children can check in anytime they like but they may never leave.
In Trinidad, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to trust people. Especially with children. Except, of course, it’s your mother or, maybe, your mother-in-law, or Aunty Mabel, who lives down the road and has 13 children and 94 grandchildren. Sure, one of her sons looks like a pedophile and one of her grandsons, the one named Mike Tyson, bites like a crocodile but, she has a big living room and a swing in her front yard.
A daycare is any place where children get daytime care in exchange for financial reward. Some people, like single or working parents, use daycare because they don’t have a choice. Others use it so they can get a break from the little scamp because You and I both know that some kids can be absolute scamps.
Take for instance this one boy who gets three flavours of Ice cream but he only eats the chocolate. And this girl who thinks her dalmation is an actual 3D colouring book.
So, yes, choosing an “Early Childhood Centre” is terribly difficult. Because you don’t have to look hard to find horror stories. In fact, some of these stories are so terrifying any parent with options can easily become paranoid, quit their job, and take care of their own child and probably start back working when the little one turns 18 or 35.
In 2010, a baby boy died after choking on food he vomited while asleep. It was his first day at daycare. After the incident the mother said,
“My baby was healthy when I left him. Apparently they fed him and I don’t know if they burped him properly. The care takers told me they tried to revive him but they should have known to just call the Emergency Health Services (EHS) immediately. They are not trained professionals.”
In May 2016, a baby suffocated at a daycare. The daycare owner, a qualified nurse, said she was sorry.
In June 2018, an eight-month-old child received scratches which seemed to form the word “Shh”. A doctor’s report said, “the scratches were too many to count”. An officer at the Children’s Authority told the father (And this is very important):
“There was nothing legally that could have been done, referring to some policy that was before Parliament.”
In July 2018, a baby was badly beaten at a daycare. When the child’s mother saw him she said, “I didn’t even recognise him.”
In May 2019, while we were writing this episode a baby died at a daycare.
In these brief moments, we’ve recounted almost a decade of horrible experiences. Chances are you know someone who has, in some way, suffered from a terrible experience, whether it’s at a daycare or preschool.
Trinidad has hundreds of early education centers. Both public and private. There are approximately 500 private Early Childhood Care and Education Centres that are not registered with the Ministry of Education, Which I find absolutely baffling, because, on the ministry’s website, it clearly states that “all private schools operating in Trinidad and Tobago must be registered in accordance with the Education Act Chap 39:01”.
Interestingly, in Barbados, “Operators failing to register risk facing closure of the day care centre or may be subject to a fine of $500 and/or six months imprisonment.”
And Registration is an annual process.
Locally, the Ministry of education’s website clearly outlines the steps for registration. For example, written approval must be obtained from WASA, the Electrical Inspectorate, Trinidad and Tobago fire services, Regional Health Authority, The Nursery Association of T & T.
And as a parent you can demand to see these things. I’m not making this up.
Your child’s school must have at least one qualified teaching staff with relevant certification. And NO, Mrs Mabel, the fact that you have 13 children and 94 grandchildren doesn’t count. We’re talking about A Certificate in Early Childhood Education from a recognised tertiary institution, where teachers learn first aid and “HOW to burp a child and how long to hold them upright 101.”
There are standard requirements for registration that every parent should know.
Teacher child ratio should not exceed the following:
From Birth to 2 years 1 teacher to 4 students
From 2 – 3 years 1 teacher to 6 students.
And from to 3 to 4+ years 1 teacher to 15 students.
Corporal punishment is not allowed.
No naughty corner.
No kneeling on a grater.
And no All Fours competitions.
So, if you go by aunty mabel and aunty mabel’s nursery has more kids than Chucky E Cheese on a Saturday, chances are aunty mabel is being very naughty.
Providers must record and report all signs of child abuse and/or neglect to the relevant authorities.
All accidents/incidents must be recorded in detail.
The ECCE Division and the Ministry of Health must be notified immediately
So, it beats me then that in some of the mentioned cases, parents only got the news when they arrived at the ECCE in the afternoon. Can you imagine, you arrive at the facility, several children, including your child, are on the ground bleeding, the teacher is smiling. She says:
“Today was fun.” “But Aunty Mabel, what happened to my child?” “Silly, Daddy Pig, remember we have fight club on Thursdays.”
The standards I mentioned a moment ago are based on proposals from 2004. The proposals go as far as outlining:
“how to plan field trips”
“An induction process must take place that introduces new staff/volunteers/students to colleagues, children, parents etc.”
“Groups of children must be cared for in their own space.”
In other words, a four-year-old should NOT be in the same room with a new born.
That last proposal makes sense. Some people just shouldn’t be in the same room. Like Batman and joker.
Or your child and Aunty Mabel’s son the one who looks like a pedophile.
So, no, given their age some kids shouldn’t be in the same space And no, Aunty Mabel, you can’t care for children in the same room you make ketchup.
I find it baffling that some of these proposals aren’t actually law. Let’s talk about the nurseries act; and by nurseries I don’t mean a place where young plants grow, but a room for kids; and by kids I don’t mean young goats, I mean human children.
If we’ve done our research properly, The “CHILDREN’S COMMUNITY RESIDENCES, FOSTER CARE AND NURSERIES ACT” was updated in 2015. There are sections still awaiting proclamation. Namely sections 42 to 52,
which make it illegal to manage a nursery or daycare without a license;
which ensure that a license will not be granted unless the authority is satisfied with health, safety and security measures;
which authorise random audits;
which state that the authority can revoke licenses in the event of a breach.
The National Council for Early Childhood Care and Education (NCECCE) is a cabinet appointed body. One of its responsibilities is the introduction of appropriate legislation for the operation of all daycares and preschools. T-h-e-r-e-f-o-r-e, I have a question for the NCECCE which, by the way, is a difficult name for a children’s organisation,
Years have passed Why aren’t sections 42 to 52 law? Once upon a time, The government pulled off Section 34. Sections 42 to 52 should be a breeze.
Here’s an important point.
A NATIONAL REPORT ON TEACHERS FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION: TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO found that the ECCE Division was satisfactorily staffed and operationalized by 2008. The bad news is this is no longer the case. In 2014, many contracts weren’t renewed. So, yeah, there’s a staff shortage. According to the unesco report The division simply doesn’t have the manpower to monitor and support the education centers throughout the country.
We shouldnt just kick back and say “wha you go do, boy” Or “that is how it does go sometimes.” This legislation and monitoring of childcare centers is a pressing concern. As parents, as future fathers and mothers, we must demand the very best for our children.
Whether it’s from the government or from our actual day care provider. For example
Umm. Aunty Mabel. Is your umm… nursery… registered or not? I noticed it’s just you and you have 30 children here and your grandson, the one who likes to bite, the one named Mike Tyson.
Perhaps because of the fear of victimisation you may choose to say nothing. I get that. But remember this. There are people who are very good at staying silent. For example some people will sit in a taxi traveling from Curepe to San Fernando and not bat an eyelash as the driver flies above the speed limit or drives along the shoulder or breaks a traffic light. Do your know where some of those people are now?
And do you know where the ones who’ve spoken out are?
They’re alive. Sure they’re been put out of the taxi and are still stranded on the highway but they’re alive.
Maybe that isn’t a very good example but you get my point. A child you’re stranded with is way better than a dead child.
In the end our biggest responsibility is to the children of our nation. We desperately need to have these laws and monitoring system updated. There mere fact that it isn’t law means that our children are growing up in an abusive environment.
We need to fix this and everyone needs to get involved. So, if you’re up to it, here’s what you can do. You can call the Children’s Authority on their hotline. Tell them you’re calling to report an abuse. Tell them that there are crucial sections of the Nurseries Act that aren’t yet law.
More than likely, they’re going to tell you that they’re waiting on Parliament or the Attorney General. Right now, That’s Faris Al-wari. The good news is, that in December 2018, back when Devant Maharaj was leaking phone numbers, Mr Al-wari beat him to it. His phone number is 683-6442.
Call him. Text him. WhatsApp him.
I’ve done my part. I’ve tried calling and I’ve texted him. No response.
Maybe you’ll have better luck. Message the AG. Call him. Whatever.
If he responds maybe he’ll tell you what the ministry of the attorney general’s website will tell you, “An Act does not come into immediate operation. Blah, blah, blah.” I get that. But ten plus years of tragedies is a long time. If the AG doesn’t respond, tag him in the comments section. Tag the ministry of legal affairs as well. Or keep it simple. Share the video at the beginning of this article.
Even if you aren’t a parent. Because one day you may have children. And one day, that same child whom you sent to Aunty Mabel’s daycare, is going to choose your old-age home. And that, my friend, is another nightmare.