Tuesday, October 5, 2010

New CNMI Divorce Law--P.L. 17-20

The CNMI has a new divorce law.

It provides for 3 major changes to our current code.

1. It changes the jurisdictional residency requirement (8 CMC sec. 1332(a)) from two years to 90 days.

2. It changes one of the grounds for divorce (8 CMC sec. 1331 (g))--deleting "leprosy" and replacing it with "irreconcilable differences."

3. It makes dissolution available (8 CMC sec. 1331 (b)) upon 2 conditions: *) 7 days residency of one of the parties and **) signed and notarized consent of both parties. [Note the consent must be acknowledged before a US consular officer if signed outside of the US.]

Effective date: 10/3/2010.

These changes are welcomed. The previous law's 2-years-residency requirement was a difficult hurdle to meet at times, especially for those who left and returned, or who were relatively new to the island and saw their marriages collapse.

Irreconcilable differences are described as
"persistent and unresolvable disagreements between spouses that result in the breakdown of the marriage."

And more importantly:
"Irreconcilable differences may be cited generally without citation of specific differences as grounds for dissolution of the marriage."

This will be a great help; we will no longer have to show that the other spouse is guilty of cruel treatment. If one party feels the marriage is beyond repair, that should be enough proof of irreconcilable differences!

Although the statute is silent on its effect on the need for hearings, the Court might analyze the need for hearings like this:

*As in the past, all divorces based on "grounds" (including irreconcilable differences) require a hearing and proof of the grounds.

*The dissolutions, based on mutual consent, may be obtained without a hearing upon sufficient pleadings.

We will be encouraging this procedure. And it is likely that for those divorces in the pipeline, where disputes about grounds have been raised, we will seek to amend and plead "irreconcilable differences."

A good change, all in all.

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