How to file for divorce in Trinidad and Tobago

Let’s talk about divorce in Trinidad and Tobago.

Before we begin a couple things:

  • I am not a lawyer;
  • This is not legal advise.

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:

  1. About the divorce process
  2. About the rights of women
  3. 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.

  1. the jackass you want to divorce has committed adultery and the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the respondent;
  2. the bitch you want to divorce has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent;
  3. the jackass deserted me;
  4. We’ve been living apart for more than two years with agreement;
  5. 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.

Step 1

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

  1. Domestic abuse
  2. Verbal abuse, shouting or belittling
  3. Drunkenness
  4. 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

  1. A copy of your marriage certificate;
  2. Details about other cases in any court about your marriage, the children or matrimonial property.
  3. 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.

  1. Admission of Respondent
  2. Existence of a child
  3. Caught in the act
  4. Inference – from circumstances
  5. 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.

Step 2

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:

  1. an acknowledgement of service form, which he/she must be completed and filed within 8 days.
  2. 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.

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