Q: Do I need a Lawyer to file for a divorce? I don't have much money, so I'm wondering if I can do it myself.
A: Yes, it is possible to file for a divorce on your own, but due to the complexity of many divorces, I will not recommend that anyone does this unless, of course, they have a legal background. If not done properly, i.e., proper wording on documents; use of correct forms; and having things done within the time frames and signed by the right people, the outcome can be very adverse.
With that being said, the cost still remains an issue as the average Lawyer in Trinidad and Tobago charges TT$5000/US$800/£530 to START proceedings. This price will increase depending on the case's complexity, i.e., the involvement of property, children, joint business venture and/or alimony.
Now, the purpose of this website is to assist people as much as possible, especially the disadvantaged in society, so you can e-mail me at any time, and I will let you know if, based on your case, I can be of any help.
Beginning The Pro Se Process: The spouse who files for the divorce is called the Petitioner. The other spouse is called the Respondent.
If you are the Petitioner, you will file a Petition for Divorce. The Petitioner can get the divorce package from the Family Court for TT$5 or I can send via e-mail.
If you are the Respondent, the petition would have been already filed and you will have been served; you now have to respond.
Below are things to consider before filing a Petition for Divorce:
- Where to file the Original Petition.
- How to file.
- Grounds for divorce
- Notifying your spouse that you have filed for
Where to File: The Family Court is located at Cipriani House, 4 Cipriani Boulevard, Port of Spain and can be contacted on 223-1060. Tobago residents must use the Trinidad Family Court to file a divorce.
Filing Your Petition for Divorce: After completing the petition and statement of arrangements (if there are children involved), you have to hand deliver the form with the ORIGINAL marriage certificate and pay the necessary fees, which is around $100 for a simple divorce. Fees vary depending on pages and number of separate applications included.
N.B. The petition MUST be printed on both sides of the paper (not one side per page) and two copies of the petition and marriage certificate are required.
The clerk will stamp them with the date and file the original with the court. The two copies will be date stamped and one returned to you for your files. The other is used to notify the Respondent that a petition has been filed.
If you want to get a divorce, you have to show the irretrievably breakdown of the marriage by proving one of the following grounds for divorce:
· unreasonable behaviour (e.g. abuse)
· two years of separation (need consent of Respondent)
· five years of separation (do not need consent of Respondent)
· abandonment -- one spouse left the other without there being an agreement of separation [The Family Court only accepts this application if done by an Attorney]
The most important section is entitled “Particulars” because this is what the Judge reads to decide whether or not the divorce should be granted. This is where the Petitioner states the reasons why the marriage should end, giving specific details of behaviour by the Respondent to prove this. The Petitioner CANNOT use his/her own behaviour as examples. The easiest way to go about getting a divorce is to prove unreasonable behaviour; e.g., adultery, abuse, or breach of trust. The unreasonable behaviour MUST be within the last 6 months, proof of which is needed, such as police reports, texts, e-mails or pictures. I want to reiterate the fact that the “Particulars” section is the MOST important part of the divorce petition, so the language used must be clear, coherent and chronological.