In this article I will address some of the general principles of Bermuda divorce law and also take a look at some misconceptions which are fairly widely held. At the outset, however, I must stress that time and space will not permit a very detailed analysis and I would counsel anyone engaged in, or considering, a divorce to seek the advices of an experienced matrimonial lawyer.
Firstly, let’s look at jurisdiction. Sometimes clients are confused about their right to initiate a divorce in Bermuda. Ours is a cosmopolitan population and many clients will have been married overseas, leading some of them to believe that any divorce must take place in their “home” jurisdiction. Not so. If either party to the marriage is “domiciled’ in Bermuda (in effect, Bermuda is home) or has been resident continuously in Bermuda for one year or more, our courts can entertain a divorce petition.
It is essential that every individual, regardless of age, makes their own Will. If you die without making a Will then you die intestate which means that a court can distribute your assets in accordance with the law at that time. This may result in your home and hard earned investments being distributed to siblings, cousins, even further removed relatives or the Bermuda Government! It is fundamental that you make a Will in order to maintain control over your assets even when you have passed.
There are a few options when contemplating making your Will.
Bermuda is emerging as a leader in the global insurance linked securities (ILS) market, just three years after ILS were first listed on the Bermuda Stock exchange. This is no small achievement for Bermuda, which will further make its mark on the world stage when it plays host to the global ILS conference, Convergence 2013, in November. What sets Bermuda apart? According to Dr. Grant Gibbons, Minister for Economic Development, Bermuda’s success can be attributed to having the right mix of several critical factors at the right time. “A combination of intellectual capital, leading investor and reinsurance marketplaces, a tried and tested approach and the right listing and regulatory backdrop”, explained Dr. Gibbons, “[all] provide for optimal conditions and competitive advantage for transacting insurance-linked deals”.
Bermuda is one of the world’s largest reinsurance markets, hosting some 1,400 insurance companies with total assets of approximately $442 billion. The Island has over three decades of experience in providing sophisticated insurance solutions to a global client base and as host of the global ILS conference in November, Bermuda will see insurance and reinsurance companies, investors, sponsors, securities firms and investment banks, asset managers, regulators and service providers congregate to network and discuss the industry’s most strategic opportunities and pressing challenges.
“Remember to take your SCARF into negotiations” may seem like odd advice. It isn’t. SCARF, an acronym for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness, should not be overlooked and should be taken into account when entering into negotiations.
“Status” refers to the need to be respected and treated as an equal;
“Certainty” to the need for some predictability and security;
“Autonomy” the sense of having choices and some control;
“Relatedness” the need for collegiality and a sense of belonging/trust; and
Death is a subject most of us prefer not to talk about — especially our own. For this reason the same holds true for wills. As an attorney though, it is my duty to advise you that making a will is something you ought to face up to — and in this article I am going to tell you why.
A will is a vital instrument in your trove of estate planning tools as you grapple with planning for your family after your death and estate planning is critical as you undertake new responsibilities, acquire new assets or your family structure changes.
In the absence of having a will, the law, by way of the Succession Act 1974, will decide what happens to your real and personal property (your “Estate”). In the event you do not wish your Estate passing to a particular family member (in default of a will) or you wish to ensure it passes to a person or persons, having a will in place will allow you to spell out exactly how your Estate will devolve.
Many of us have life insurance and never give it a moment’s thought. It was offered to us as part of an employment package, or recommended to us when we got married, bought a house or had a child; another of life’s milestones and an acceptance of the responsibilities of adulthood. We feel secure that for a reasonable sum paid annually, our families will be provided for if the worst should happen. We renew the policy each year, never revisiting its terms or considering whether our circumstances or objectives may have changed.
In truth, however, the designation of life insurance beneficiaries is as important to your family’s future, in the event of your death, as the terms of your will. Few of us would make a will without first considering whom we want to benefit and in what manner, obtaining legal advice and then carefully reading the documents, before signing on the dotted line. The same should hold true for life insurance.
Bermuda’s Judiciary has now taken to publishing an annual report (2012 Annual Report (PDF)). One of the more revealing statistics to emerge for 2012 was that over 3,500 cases were commenced in the Magistrate’s Court by parties who were suing for money they claimed they are owed. Nearly 4,000 cases in one year! A huge number when you consider that this lower court only sets aside two days a week (Wednesday and Friday) to hear these disputes in the first or interlocutory instance. This averages out to 32 cases a day.
It therefore has all the appearances of an active and busy court in a forum that is intended to be relatively quick and user-friendly. Parties are welcome to sue and defend claims in Magistrate’s Court without having to hire a lawyer. Typically, the lower court deals with landlord and tenant disputes, breaches of contract and negligence claims. There is, however, a ceiling on claims — they can be no more than $25,000.
Nevertheless, it may still be helpful to seek the advice of an attorney before you launch a claim or prepare to defend one.
Here’s a guide of what to expect in taking your claim to Magistrate’s Court:
Bermuda’s new One Bermuda Alliance Government has scrapped the “Measures to Inhibit Long-Term Residency” policy, more commonly known as the term limit policy, and undertaken a review of the Islands’ work permit policy, all with a view to encouraging economic growth and job opportunities for Bermudians. The initial announcement came on 30 January 2013 from Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy who called the term limit policy a “barrier to job creation”.
Government has also sought to reassure Bermudians that doing away with term limits will not negatively impact their job opportunities given that the work permit policy remains in place. Bermuda’s work permit policy requires that when the renewal of a guest worker’s permit is sought, the position must be advertised giving qualified Bermudians an opportunity to apply. In addition, Government indicated that it sought legal advice to reaffirm advice already received by the previous Progressive Labour Party Government which confirmed that the term limit policy is not necessary to prevent long term residency.