- Posted August 17, 2013 by
District of Columbia
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Impact Your World
NO MORE QUICKIES - STOP GUAM'S DIVORCE MILL
The US Territory of Guam has had a long-standing reputation throughout the Pacific and with military personnel as "the place" to grab a quickie. A quickie divorce, that is.
For over twenty years, anyone in the world could obtain a mail order divorce from the Guam courts without ever stepping foot on the island. Despite its diminutive size, from 2005 to 2010, Guam's divorce rates were up to three times higher than that of any other country in the world.
Cheryl Gray, the wife of a Naval officer previously stationed on Guam, is challenging the Guam divorce law in Federal Court, alleging that the laws were not enacted for residents of Guam, but to create a divorce industry that accommodates transient military and nonresidents. According to Gray, a legal loophole in Guam's law classifies anyone who has been on the island for 90 days, including military, as a resident for divorce purposes, without a hearing and despite actual bona fide residency, in order to allow the court to hear the divorce case.
Guam's own legislature has found that “ the filing of non-resident divorces on Guam by non-residents causes a legal loophole for parties to avoid proper judicial action on areas relative to child custody, child support, spousal support, equitable distribution of assets and other areas of domestic law,” Committee Report, Committee on Judiciary and Transportation, November 18, 2004.
Likewise, the Guam Legislature found that “[l]ocal law has allowed 'Guam divorce' to become an enticing catch phrase not for Guam residents, but for individuals without any claim to local residence or domicile. The current divorce statute, unlike the law of any other state in the United States, clearly avoids the question of jurisdiction of Guam courts. Thus, Guam courts have been used by numerous off-island parties for filing of divorces. This fact has enabled the dissolution of thousands of marriages and has caused Guam to bear such unfortunate labels as a 'divorce mill' or 'divorce capital.'" Committee Report, Committee on Judiciary, Governmental Operations & Reorganization, November 8, 2005.
"The law is like make-believe," says Gray. "Guam pretends to be concerned about residency but yet created an intentional law that prevents a hearing on the issue of whether or not a party is, in fact, a resident."
"If you want to vote in Guam, get public assistance, a scholarship or other benefits that cost the Guam government money, you have to be a bona fide resident of Guam," stated Gray. "I was merely present in Guam and the courts wanted to make decisions about my children and my property? Why?"
The complaint alleges that Guam's divorce laws violate equal protection and due process under the United States Constitution and requests that the Court invalidate the law.