January 11, 2015, Sunday Gleaner, Jamaica

Barbara Gayle & Nadine Wilson-Harris, Sunday Gleaner Reporters
Hundreds of Jamaicans stuck in love-less marriages are finding it
difficult to move on with their lives as the court system is being
bogged down by the high number of petitions for divorce.
Lawyers, litigants and even judges last week expressed concern about the
huge backlog of divorce petitions despite several measures implemented to
speed up the process.
A check last week revealed that there is a backlog of 600 divorce petitions in
the Supreme Court, with one attorney suggesting that more personnel be
appointed to deal specifically with the processing of divorces, as the current
system is buckling under the growing demand for this service.
Takes more than a year
Attorney-at-law Ingrid Clarke-Bennett said although it should ideally take six
months or less to get a divorce, she finds that it takes more than a year in
several cases. In the interim, people's lives are put on hold as they await the
court's decision.
"I don't think the system was made to accommodate the breakdown of so
many marriages. Perhaps at the time that we set up the system, it was not
contemplated that in the future we would be having so many divorces on a
constant basis," Clarke-Bennett told The Sunday Gleaner.
"But I guess we have to adjust and move forward when things change, so we
need to now perhaps put in place adequate personnel to check these
documents so people can get these divorces and move on with their lives,"
added the attorney who has been practising for 27 years.
Based on data from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN), the
number of divorces granted in Jamaica moved from 1,654 in 2008 to
2,410 in 2013. An almost 46 per cent increase in the five years.
Figures for 2014 are not yet available.
And while the divorce rate has been trending upwards, the number of
persons getting married has been steadily decreasing over the last few
years. Data from STATIN indicate that the number of persons who got
married declined from

22,152 in 2008 to 18,835 in 2013.
"Our system is not divided where you have judges who sit in criminal courts
as against judges who sit in civil courts. The judges who sit in civil courts also
sit in criminal courts when required, so when the system is overwhelmed
with a lot of criminal matters and overwhelmed with a lot of divorces and
overwhelmed with a lot of civil claims, then the judges are going to be
overwhelmed also, so that will, of course, contribute to the delay," said
One court official who acknowledged that there is a huge backlog of divorce
petitions disclosed that steps are being taken to have the judges clear the
backlog as quickly as possible.
One of the measures implemented was that the judges who were appointed
to act last term were not reverted during the three-week legal vacation.
Instead, they were assigned to assist in the clearing of the backlog.
"Chief Justice Zaila McCalla is actively trying to find a way to solve the
problem," said the court official who asked not to be named.
She explained that the judges are given between 15 and 25 divorce cases
each week, in addition to their heavy workload.
Taken from