At Odysseus Chambers our attorneys recognize the sensitive nature of family disputes and divorce proceedings. We appreciate that this may be an emotionally difficult time in a client’s life and approach each matter with care, support and confidentiality.
We can provide a full range of legal services in all areas of family law including:
Maintenance is the payment of a lump sum or periodical payments of money for the benefit of a child, spouse or cohabitant. Pursuant to section 24 of the Family Law (Guardianship of Minors, Domicile and Maintenance) Act Chap 46:08 (the FLA) there is a duty to maintain. However, applications can be made pursuant to the provisions in the FLA, the Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Act Chap 41:51(the MPPA), or the Cohabitational Relations Act Chap 45:55 (the CRA)
Who can apply for maintenance?
- Parents or guardians (for the maintenance of a child)
- Spouses (either during the marriage or after the breakdown of a marriage)
- Cohabitants (either during or upon termination of cohabitation)
Maintenance may be applied for in the following circumstances:
- The respondent has failed to provide reasonable maintenance for the applicant;
- The respondent has failed to provide or make a proper contribution towards reasonable maintenance for any minor child of the family;
- The respondent has behaved in such a way that the applicant cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent;
- The respondent has deserted the applicant;
- Maintenance pending suit – on petition for divorce, nullity of marriage or judicial separation, the court may make an order for either party to the marriage to make periodical payments for maintenance to the other;
- Maintenance on granting decree of divorce, nullity of marriage or judicial separation;
- Wilful neglect to maintain – either party to the marriage may apply.
The amount awarded by the court is based upon the circumstances of the case. Notably, for cohabitants, there is no automatic entitlement to maintenance (section 14 CRA) nor is the cohabitant put on equal footing as a married spouse in respect of a maintenance application, especially since according to section 7 CRA the court shall not make a maintenance order unless it is satisfied that failure to make the order would result in grave injustice to the applicant.
Divorce and Judicial Separation
A divorce is an order of the court initiated by a petition made by a party to the marriage (the petitioner), declaring that a marriage between the petitioner and his or her spouse (the respondent) to be at an end. Spouses do not have to be married in Trinidad and Tobago to receive a divorce in Trinidad and Tobago. However, once a couple is legally married, to obtain a divorce at least one of the spouses must have been habitually resident or domiciled in Trinidad and Tobago when the proceedings initiated. Section 5 (1) Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Act Chap 49:51(the MPPA) stipulates that no divorce petition can be filed without the Court’s permission before the expiration of a period of one year.
To be granted a divorce the applicant must show that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. For the marriage to be held as irretrievably broken down, the petitioner must satisfy the court of proof of one or more of five facts outlined in section 4 (1) of the MPPA:
- Adultery – the petitioner must show that the respondent committed adultery and the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the respondent;
- Unreasonable behaviour – the petitioner must show that the respondent has behaved in a manner that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent;
- 2 years’ desertion – the respondent has deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition;
- 2 years’ separation with consent – the married couple have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years immediately before the presentation of the petition and the respondent consents to the divorce being granted. Notably, the couple can live separate and apart under the same roof as there is no requirement of a physical separation if the they are as a matter of fact living separate lives.
- 5 years’ separation – the married couple must have lived apart for a continuous period of at least five years immediately before the presentation of the petition. Consent of the respondent is not needed in this instance.
Should the court be satisfied that one or more of the facts above have been proven, the court would grant a decree nisi which is a type of provisional decree signifying that a marriage is considered to have been irretrievably broken down. After the pronouncement of the decree nisi, the petitioner must wait three months, or any other such date set by the court (usually six weeks) before applying for the decree nisi to be made absolute.
It should be noted that in instances where there is a child/children of the family, the court considers the welfare of children of primary concern and they will not grant a divorce (decree absolute) until matters pertaining to children of the family are finalised to their satisfaction to ensure that the children are well provided for. In this circumstance, the court considers the best interest of the child.
Several sensitive issues may arise in connection with custody, access and maintenance and our attorneys are equipped to deal with these matters.
Subsequent to the breakdown of a marriage or the separation of a common law husband and wife, property must be divided between the parties. Our trained attorneys will seek out our client’s best interest while ensuring fairness and minimum animosity.
Financial Provision After Divorce (ancillary relief)
A husband, wife or cohabitant may apply for financial relief in respect of himself, herself or a child of the family. The applicant must provide information in relation to assets, liabilities/expenses. Where an order for ancillary relief is granted, the order is made either on, or after the granting of the decree nisi or order for judicial separation.
Section 3 of the Domestic Violence Act Chap 45:56 defined domestic violence as including physical, sexual, emotional or psychological or financial abused committed by a person against a spouse, child, any other person who is a member of the household or dependent. Should a person be a victim of domestic violence, relief can be sought either through the Magistrates court or the High court.
If you have been a victim of violence by a member of your household, our attorneys are prepared to seek your protection from the perpetrator in an expeditious manner.
We can assure you that our dedicated attorneys will provide you with the expert legal advice, attention and support throughout the entire legal process and will seek to achieve the best results for you while bearing in mind that where there is a minor child of the family, the welfare of the child is of paramount importance.