Grounds for divorce
In The Bahamas the actual grounds for divorce make the divorce process or the need to separate from one’s partner very painful and difficult. Thus, some individuals have to remain in the pain or seek ways to get out of the marriage without breaking the law. My research shows that what causes the most pain in a relationship that leads to a permanent breakdown of the relationship cannot be measured by the legal reasons chosen for divorce. My interviews indicate that many spouses realized that they had no legal grounds for divorce although the marriage was toxic, and one needed to get out of it. In the end, a skilled lawyer, after examining the case, would suggest getting a divorce on the grounds of cruelty.
This brings me to the legal grounds for divorce in The Bahamas: adultery; cruelty – mental, emotional or physical; desertion for at least two years; separation (living separate and apart) for five years; or homosexuality and bestiality (a member of the marriage has been guilty of a homosexual act, sodomy or has had sexual relations with an animal).
From among the five grounds for divorce in The Bahamas, cruelty has the highest number each year. Here are a few examples from the statistics for divorce from select years between 2000 to 2009;
• 2000: 592 persons filed for divorce. Breakdown of reasons – adultery, 76; cruelty, 143; desertion, 69; separation, 119.
• 2001: 577 persons filed for divorce. Breakdown of reasons – adultery, 67; cruelty, 173; desertion, 87; separation, 129.
• 2005: 660 persons filed for divorce. Breakdown of reasons – adultery, 53; cruelty, 214; desertion, 103; separation, 140.
• 2006: 716 persons filed for divorce. Breakdown of reasons – adultery, 75; cruelty, 340; desertion, 135; separation, 164.
• 2008: 698 persons filed for divorce. Breakdown of reasons – adultery, 64; cruelty, 341; desertion, 116; separation, 168.
My research shows that each year the number of persons divorcing on grounds of adultery was never more than 85 individuals out of the total number of divorce cases for one year. However, cruelty was often twice or three times more than adult ery. Why is this the case? Since our legal grounds for divorce does not have a ground on “irreconcilable difference” or “broken down irretrievably”, the more likely legal grounds spouses are choosing are cruelty, separation and desertion, even if adultery is involved. Some spouses are forced not to file for divorce right away, even though it is painful to remain in the relationship, so they can qualify on the grounds of desertion or separation. Sometimes this waiting time can extend to a few more painful years being connected to a spouse from whom one needs to be disconnected.
My research reveals that the real reason the relationships have painfully deteriorated to the point of emotional pain and frustration is due to infliction of pride, stubbornness and apathy from one spouse to another. This is very serious, but it’s not a ground for divorce. Also, this is not measured by the actual figures of the divorce but by looking deep into each case and discovering the issues.
• Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist and board-certified clinical psychotherapist. Send your questions or comments to [email protected] or write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit www.soencouragement.org or telephone 242-327-1980.