Spousal Support

Spousal Support Laws in Jamaica W.I.

One of the most common myths in Jamaica and also in other parts of the world is the notion that a divorced woman is automatically entitled to receive some form of spousal support, maintenance, alimony from her former husband. This idea is perhaps most frequently thought of in cases where the couple has been married for a long time, but it is simply not true.

The amendment of the Jamaica Maintenance Act in 2005, states that, marriage is of equal partnership. The old patriarchal law provided that a husband was obligated to maintain his wife whether or not she could maintain herself; and this therefore meant that men had no right to seek spousal support. Under the new law, which attempted to balance the interests of both men and women, provides for either the husband or the wife to seek maintenance from the other. 

Please note that there is no automatic right for either the husband or the wife to receive a payment..

Section 4 of the Maintenance Act sets the stage for applications for spousal maintenance, and other sections of the act provides guidance as to the relevant factors that a court must consider:
The husband and wife have an obligation, so far as they are capable, to maintain the other spouse to the extent that such maintenance is necessary to meet their reasonable needs, where the other spouse cannot practicably meet the whole or any part of those needs having regard to –

(a) the circumstances specified in Section 14(4); and
(b) any other circumstance which the justice of the case requires to be taken into account.

The right to spousal maintenance came squarely into focus in the case of Gentles v Gentles [2018] JMSC Civ. 36. After reviewing the relevant sections of the act, the learned judge endorsed the following explanation of the law by Justice Brown in Robb v Robb Claim No. D01148/2005 (judgment delivered on December 11, 2009):

The obligation to maintain the other spouse is, in the first instance, is latent. It is activated by the inability of the other spouse to maintain themselves. So, the court has to make, as a condition precedent to a maintenance order, a threshold finding that the dependent spouse cannot practicably meet the whole or part of his or her reasonable needs.

In the Gentles case, after a 12-year marriage came to an end, the former wife made an application for maintenance. The claim failed because the court accepted that the claimant had sufficient income to meet her reasonable needs. After reviewing the evidence, the judge made the following findings:
– The claimant is already currently able to contribute to her monthly living expenses;
– There is no evidence that the claimant has had to redirect funds to meet her basic needs and/or those of her household; and
– This demonstrates the claimant’s capacity to be financially independent of the defendant at this present time as she has been able to continue to meet her financial obligations even in the absence of the defendant’s financial support.

When making spousal maintenance applications in Jamaica West Indies, applicants whether male or female should be mindful of the fact that not only can their applications be rejected, they might even be ordered by the court to pay maintenance to their former spouses.