Barbados, an island country and part of the British Commonwealth, is one of the leading tourist destinations in the Caribbean – and it's also the occasional destination for a spontaneous elopement. Couples who get married in Barbados and then later seek a divorce must meet a set of requirements and follow specific instructions in order to end their marriage.
Nullifying a Marriage
If a marriage is void as defined by Barbados' Marriage Act, a couple can apply to nullify their marriage. The following types of marriages are considered void in Barbados:
- Marriages between a person and his or her mother, daughter, grandmother, granddaughter, sister, aunt, niece, father, son, grandson, brother, uncle or nephew.
- Marriages between two people, either of whom is under 16 years old.
- Marriages without proper banns of marriage, a marriage license or a magistrate's certificate. (The term "banns" is a Middle English word meaning a proclamation.)
- Marriages by someone who isn't a marriage officer or magistrate.
- Marriages where one person is already lawfully married to another person.
- Marriages that are invalid under the law of the place where the marriage occurred.
- Marriages where the consent of one person was obtained by duress or fraud.
- Marriages where one person was mistaken as to the identity of the other person.
- Marriages where one person was mentally incapable of understanding the nature and effect of the marriage ceremony.
The above types of marriages are considered void and may be nullified by a court. If a court receives applications for both the nullification and the dissolution of a marriage, the court can dissolve the marriage only if it first determines that the marriage is not qualified for nullification.
Dissolving a Marriage
A couple can apply for a decree of dissolution of marriage by claiming that the marriage has "broken down irretrievably," according to Barbados law. A court will only grant dissolution if the couple has separated and lived separately for at least 12 continuous months before filing for dissolution. If a court finds that a couple is reasonably likely to reconcile, it may not grant dissolution.
Once a couple applies to dissolve their marriage, they must keep their case before the same judge for the duration of the proceedings. This should help streamline the management of the case. Married couples who are in the process of obtaining a divorce must also attend counseling.
Couples can decide to defer the allocation of their property and shared items until after their divorce is finalized, and those decisions can continue even if one of the parties dies. If the couple reconciles after being granted a decree of dissolution, a court can rescind the dissolution and reinstate the lawful marriage.