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IT MATTERS TO MARIA: Dismay over ‘missing’ marriage certificates

MARIA BRADSHAW, [email protected]

IT MATTERS TO MARIA: Dismay over ‘missing’ marriage certificates

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THERE SEEMS TO BE a problem with some people obtaining copies of their marriage certificates from the Registration Department.

A church leader who highlighted this unsettling situation said he was aware of three occasions where people who requested copies of their marriage certificates were unable to get one because the certificates could not be located.

Calling for the matter to be addressed urgently by the relevant authorities, he said it appeared that when the department was relocated from the old Supreme Court Complex on Coleridge Street to the new offices at Whitepark Road, St Michael, some marriage certificates were left behind.

“When someone gets married, they sign a card copy of the marriage certificate which is logged at the Registry by the marriage officer (officiating priest or other officiating minister). Couples will apply for and receive an official copy of this marriage certificate (with a seal).

“During the signing at the wedding, the married couple will also sign a marriage register that the marriage officer will have in their possession when doing weddings,” the priest said.

He added that in situations where the Registry could not find the certificate, “all should not be lost because the marriage officer can present their marriage register to show that the marriage did take place”.

The cleric pointed out that when the marriage officer’s register was full, he or she was supposed to take it in to the Registry and get a new one.

“Therefore, if the Registry can’t locate the card copy, they still have the full marriage registers as a back-up.”

Despite all of these circumstances, the minister said he knew of three occasions where couples could not get their certificates.

“In one instance, a couple I married just 13 years ago couldn’t get their marriage certificate, which they needed for pension purposes in New York,” he lamented.

“When the Registry moved from Coleridge Street to its present location in Whitepark, these old marriage registers were left in a room . . . where, I have been told, birds are now nesting. Therefore, nobody is willing to go in that room.”

The priest said this was an extremely embarassing situation.

“It’s also embarrassing to our nation when persons get married in Barbados (which is promoted as a wedding destination), yet they can’t get a legal document of their marriage. Barbadians living here are also being significantly inconvenienced and frustrated by this situation.”

When asked to comment on this matter, Registrar Barbara Cooke-Alleyne denied that any registers were left at the old Supreme Court Complex when the Registry was relocated.

“When the Registration Department moved to its present location, all population registers, including marriage registers, were relocated as these registers must be referred to on a daily basis. There are no population registers housed at Coleridge Street,” she said.

Explaining the process, she said: “Within the first ten days of every month, a marriage officer or magistrate shall transmit all duplicate original registers made during the preceding month by him under Parts VI and VII to the Registrar, who shall register the same in accordance with Section 30(1) of the Vital Statistics Registration Act.

“Since the commencement of the Marriage Act in 1979, all marriage returns or, [what] the act refers to as ‘duplicate original registers’, received by the Registrar must contain the signatures of the parties to the marriage, the witnesses and the marriage officer.”

In terms of the Registry being unable to find a certificate for the years 1979 and onward, Cooke-Alleyne said it meant the marriage officer did not comply with the above procedure.

“When a marriage register is completely filled, the marriage officer has died or left the island, or is no longer with a denomination, the register must be returned to the Registrar. However, sometimes this is not the case. Some marriage officers keep the register or send it to the denomination headquarters. These situations are not communicated to the Registrar.”

She added: “Although the marriage officer’s marriage register can be used as a back-up to ascertain that a marriage ceremony was actually performed, the Registrar cannot issue a marriage certificate since it would not contain the signatures of the parties.

“Signatures cannot be typewritten. It is therefore the responsibility of the marriage officer to seek out the parties and the witnesses to the marriage in order to obtain their signatures and submit a duplicate original register to the Registrar.”

Cooke-Alleyne urged people who were having problems obtaining a certificate to file an official complaint so the matter could be investigated. (MB)