The Family Law Act governs dissolution of marriages in Fiji. Fiji has adopted a “no fault basis” of dissolution of marriages. This means that a party seeking to dissolve a marriage is not required to establish the “fault” of the other party.
There however 2 key grounds that must be met before the Courts will grant the dissolution of marriage.
The first ground is that husband and wife must have been separated for a period of at least 1 year prior to filing an application for dissolution of marriage.
Welfare of Children
The second ground is that the Court must be satisfied that where there are children of the marriage, adequate arrangements are in place to look after the welfare of the children. This does not mean that Court orders in relation to residence and contact of the children must be in place before a marriage is dissolved. In many cases, the husband and wife have existing arrangements which look after the welfare of the children and where those arrangements are satisfactory the Courts will permit the dissolution of the marriage.
The legal process for the dissolution of marriage is relatively simple. A party my file an application on its own or it may be filed jointly by the husband and the wife. The application is made by filing in Form 1 Dissolution of Marriage Form and lodging the same with a Family Court Registry. The completed form must be supported with necessary documents such as official extracts of Marriage Certificates, Birth Certificates of children of the marriage and photo ID of the applicant.
After the application has been filed in the Family Court, parties are given a date on which they may appear in person in Court or may be represented by their respective solicitors. On this date, the Court of grant the dissolution of marriage if it appears to Court that the 2 conditions have been met or it may fix the matter for hearing.
A party opposing the dissolution must only do so on basis of the 2 conditions discussed earlier. It is not sufficient to simply disagree to the dissolution or seek reconciliation if the applicant wishes to seek dissolution.
The dissolution of marriage is not the only legal aspect of separation that a husband and wife need to address. Distribution of matrimonial property and the welfare of children are matters that need to be addressed by a separate legal process (within the Family Court) which can either run concurrent to the dissolution of marriage or may be addressed by filing the necessary papers prior to proceeding to a dissolution of marriage.
The end of a marriage is a life changing decision, not only for the husband and wife but also for any children of the marriage. We courage parties to seek the necessary legal advice in such cases as well as to make use of the support services available by the Government and non-governmental organisation.