Marriages are tested under fire. Some marriages survive the flame, forging a stronger bond. Others suffer third degree burns, weakening the union. My marriage belonged to the latter group. When it ended in Brazil, I had not only failed as a wife but also had to confront the demon of divorce.
“I can’t sponsor you and your sons to come to America unless you’re divorced,” my mother told me.
I opened my Jerusalem Bible for guidance. In the Gospel of Matthew (Chapter 19), Jesus was clear about divorce.
“[W]hat God has united, man must not divide… Now I say this to you: the man who divorces his wife…and marries another, is guilty of adultery.”
Alone and broken with two kids in a foreign country, I spent a year of soul searching to come to terms with what I needed to do in order to reunite with my family.
Filing for divorce in Brazil proved a daunting task. My husband had returned to Guyana; our marriage had taken place in Guyana. With the help of a Brazilian friend, I found an attorney who took my case. She explained it would be a divórcio litigioso por meio de procuração, a litigious divorce by proxy.
Before my Brazilian attorney could file my petition, she had to register my marriage at the Registry of Deeds and Documents, responsible for the registration of documents of foreign origin. As required by law, I submitted a copy of my marriage license, certified in a cartório (notary public), together with a Portuguese translation done by a certified public translator.
To my frustration, two and a half years elapsed before my marriage was registered and recognized in Brazil. During that period, I learned that the State of Ceará had only one judge qualified to handle cases of foreign residents. When he wasn’t busy with other cases of more importance than mine, he was absent on sick leave or on vacation. I lost confidence in my attorney and her partners. With a fixed monthly fee for their services, my case was not lucrative to warrant top placement.
Hope came two years later when my husband invited us to his family’s reunion at Christmastime in Georgetown, with our traveling expenses covered. Contacting a friend in Guyana, I secured the services of a reputable attorney ready to process my petition during my month-long stay in the country.
Five years after confronting the demon of divorce, I finally received by mail a copy of my divorce document issued by the Supreme Court of Judicature of Guyana. Armed with my divorce papers, my mother in California could then initiate her application for permanent residence in the United States for myself and dependent sons.
Another five years would go by before I would hear from my mother’s attorney in the United States.