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More frequently asked questions about divorce

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What is the role of my lawyer in my divorce?

Your lawyer is your advisor. He/she must first ask you whether there is hope for reconciliation. Where there is hope he/she will refer you to a counselor. If he/she did not ask you that question he/she will include an affidavit to the effect that he/she did not ask about reconciliation.{{more}} He/she will: 1. Ask you to sign a document appointing him/her to act on your behalf – Warrant to act; 2. Draft, serve and receive all documents; 3. Follow the progress of the case and require your attendance at court for the hearing and 4. Speak on your behalf before the court. Remember that the lawyer on the other side will be doing the same things for his/her client.

Which court is responsible for divorce?

The High Court deals with divorce. Divorces are now conducted in the judge’s chambers and not in open court. This is to give the parties some privacy in personal matters.

Do I have to appear in court?

As the petitioner you would have to appear in court, although if you cannot attend you could ask the court to hear the matter in your absence. If you are the respondent and you indicated in the acknowledgment of service, then your attendance is not compulsory. If it is contested, be prepared for some personal questions.

What is a decree nisi?

If the court is satisfied with the evidence presented, it will grant you a decree nisi or provisional divorce in the first instance, to be made absolute in six months or within a shorter period. This is to give the party adversely affected another chance to think about the decision. While the decree nisi is in effect, the adversely affected party could ask the court to set aside the decree, but must give reasons for such action. If there are no challenges, then the petitioner’s lawyer will draft the document for the decree absolute and present it for the signature of the Registrar of the High Court. Where no arrangement is made for maintenance of children less than eighteen years old, a decree absolute that is issued could be null and void in accordance with section 64 of the Matrimonial Causes Act. The judge will require an undertaking by the parties to bring the question of the arrangements for the children to court within a specified period. An order is normally made for adjournment of ancillary matters to Chambers. Your decree absolute is an important document because it changes your marital status. It may be necessary for you to present it in some transactions. If you wish to remarry, you are required to present your decree absolute with your application for a marriage licence.

Can the High Court consider maintenance for children?

The Family Court deals with maintenance for children. The judge of the High court will inquire into it if there was no prior order. When the decree nisi is issued, matters pertaining to spousal maintenance, the matrimonial home and property rights (regarded as ancillary matters) are adjourned to Chambers for hearing at a later date.

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Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com

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