Editorial for 31 July: Grounds for a new divorce law

The Law Reform Commission is calling on the public to weigh in on how easy or difficult it should be to obtain a divorce in the Cayman Islands.

At the moment, getting a divorce in Cayman can be burdensome as either party has to be found at fault of adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion. 

Under existing law, if, for example, a husband or wife is unfaithful during the first week of marriage, the aggrieved party has to wait until the couple has been married for two years before he or she can even apply for a divorce. 

And if a couple decides they cannot live together anymore and their marriage has irretrievably broken down, under the law as it stands now, this is not grounds for divorce. Under Cayman law, it seems, someone has to be at fault.

Without fault grounds, the only way to get a divorce is to cite “exceptional hardship”.

According to the 2010 Cayman Islands Census Report, 7.7 per cent of the population of the islands was divorced.

Among the proposed changes to the matrimonial legislation are simplification of the grounds for divorce, reducing the previously required two-year separation demonstrating marital failure and granting legal standing to prenuptial agreements.

One question the Law Reform Commission has raised is whether making a divorce easier to attain will mean an even higher rate of divorce in these small islands, with all its attendant issues of child support, the break-up of families and the financial welfare of the less well-off partner.

As ever, the wheels of change move grindingly slow in the Cayman Islands. This is the second round of a review on this law, but getting it right in this instance is better than getting it fast. 

As the commission states in its report, its challenge in addressing the divorce issue is to strike a balance between modernising the legislation to ensure that when a marriage is in its final days and the parties are intent on getting a divorce, that this can be facilitated by the law and the courts in a way that ensures the minimum of bitterness, while, on the other hand, ensuring that spouses do not see divorce is an easy way out of marital discord.

This is one of those public consultations that the public does need to sit up and take notice of. As too many residents already know, not every marriage has a fairy tale ending. 

As well as this bill, other bills governing family matters, the rights of spouses in property issues and maintenance are also being reviewed. The public has until 12 November to make their thoughts known.

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