HAITI: Divorce in Haiti before the Earthquake of 2010

Prior to the devastating earthquake in Haiti a few days ago, I had in draft a post called Divorce in Haiti. It was my intention to do some quick research on that issue and report back to Divorce Saloon about it. Then the earthquake happened, and I debated whether I should erase the draft, or whether I should go ahead and post on it for fear that it would seem ill-timed, ill-conceived and/or insensitive. Obviously, the last thing anyone is thinking about right now in Haiti, is a divorce. To be sure, prior to the disaster, the foreign relief workers, President Obama’s pledge of $100,000,000 in relief, and the arrival of the Red Cross, many Haitians, including Haitian-Americans, were seeking divorce. But I am willing to bet all that is changed now.
Under the circumstances, I don’t want to delve too much into this except to say that prior to the earthquake, Haiti was rivalled only by the Dominican Republic with respect to the quintessential “quickie divorce.” The unilateral divorce was available in the Republic of Haiti in accordance with the Divorce Code of Haiti enacted in to law on July 4, 1974. More. Now, who knows what the situation will be after the reconstruction? For now, no one is thinking about splitting assets or who gets custody of the kids. All anyone can think of right now is survival. Nothing like a devastating earthquake to re-arrange everybody’s priorities.
Back in the 80’s, this is what the New York Times said about divorce in Haiti in an article titled, A Weekend in Haiti could include divorce:

Before the fall of President Jean-Claude Duvalier last Feb. 7, Haiti did a brisk business in quick divorces and marriages. Since then the country has been buffeted by street protests and strikes, and some of those with matrimonial matters have gone next door to the Dominican Republic. But lower prices have kept Haiti in the running. Both Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola and are predominantly Roman Catholic countries, began offering 24-hour divorces to foreigners in the early 1970’s, when Mexico ended the practice because Government officials felt the national image was being tarnished.

That business model was a lucrative one for Haitian lawyers for decades but after most states in the U.S. adopted no fault laws, it was not so lucrative as before, however, business was not totally stalled. Well, that is, prior to the great earthquake of 2010. Now, arguably, until the international relief efforts are completed, it will be years before any lawyers in Haiti can offer such services to foreigners (by the way, “quickie divorces” are reportedly not available to Haitian people only to foreigners since the heavily Catholic island is somewhat anti-divorce) and/or to compete with its sister nation, the Dominican Republic for the international market in divorces. Such countries as Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Israel, Liechtenstein, Monaco, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland, among others, are said to have had citizens who have availed themselves of the jurisdiction of the Haitian courts in the past to obtain a quickie-no-questions-asked-divorce, aka “unilateral divorce.”  (But an agreement between the parties is needed. Probably more so in the home country than in Haiti  because then you are looking at bigamy charges, in the event of a re-marriage, which could have as a consequence, a stint in prison.) There are companies, in fact, that are based in other Caribbean islands such as the Dominican Republic that chartered private planes to Haiti for the quickie initial court appearance. But who knows if these entities will ever be in existence again?
Be that as it may, the general rule seems to be that New York and other liberal states like Massachusetts and California give full faith and credit to these Haitian quickie divorces so long as it can be shown that both parties consented to this divorce by sworn affidavits that are notarized in the state in which the parties reside.
At the end of the day, though, with the situation what it is in Haiti at the moment, even assuming there are Americans who would still be inclined to go to Haiti for a divorce (given the no fault laws in all states except New York) it will be a long time before any such quickie services are available again so folks should plan to get a divorce in their own countries for now…….our hearts pour out to all people in Haiti and to those affected by this tragedy.
Image Credit:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/rnw/ / CC BY-ND 2.0