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New reforms in divorce proceedings consolidate grounds for divorce as ‘incompatibility’

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Posted: Thursday, May 5, 2022. 1:02 pm CST.

Photo Credit: Jupiter Images/Getty Images

By Aaron Humes: In further reforms to the legal code, the Attorney General will introduce at the next sitting of the House of Representatives a bill to amend the Married Persons (Protection) Act, Chapter 175 of the Substantive Laws of Belize, Revised Edition 2020, to remove the listed grounds of fault on an application for judicial separation before the Family Court.

Presently, married women may apply for judicial separation under Section 3 of the Act on eight separate grounds, of which more than one may apply: summary conviction for assault; conviction on indictment for assault with fine or imprisonment totalling more than 50 dollars or two months’ imprisonment; desertion; persistent cruelty to spouse or children; willful neglect of maintenance; being a “habitual drunkard” (i.e., by reason of habitual intemperate drinking of intoxicating liquor, or the habitual taking or using, except upon medical advice, of opium or other dangerous drugs within the meaning of the Misuse of Drugs Act, at times dangerous to himself or herself or to others, or incapable of managing himself or herself, and his or her affairs); knowingly passing on a sexually transmitted infection (STI, rendered “venereal disease” in the legislation) during intercourse; compulsion to prostitution; and adultery.

Conversely, married men may apply under Section 5 of the legislation on six separate grounds: the aforementioned convictions for assault; habitual drunkenness; desertion; persistent cruelty; or adultery.

Orders made by the court include formal separation, custody of children and spousal and child maintenance.
In its commentary the Cabinet Brief states, “Too many times the Family Court is bogged down with acrimonious family proceedings that are not conducive to the family healing and moving on, with children being affected by such proceedings. It is important to note that these proposed amendments will not affect the protection against domestic violence under the Domestic Violence Act and will not affect the rights of maintenance for spouses and children.”

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