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Dissolution of Marriage in Cuba

Marriage-In-CubaThe rights of married women and divorcées in Latin American countries sometimes differ greatly from those in the US. In many cases, married women benefited more from historical Latin American protections than they would benefit from the “reformed” rights that took place in North America. Cuban marriage laws, however, stand in sharp contrast even to those of other countries in Latin America.

One notable difference is the ease of dissolution of marriage in Cuba compared to many other Latin American states, perhaps contributing to Cuba’s 70% divorce rate. Some Latin American regimes inhibit a woman’s ability to divorce her husband. Chile, for example, banned divorce until 2004 when it began to relax its laws on the subject. However, Cuba only requires a Notario’s signature to undo the vows of marriage. Notarios are not to be confused with American notaries public. In Cuba, Notarios comprise “a select class of elite attorneys” subject to rigorous examinations, regulation, and codes of professional responsibility.

Unlike most other traditionally Catholic countries, the Cuban Constitution provides for the separation between Church and State, holding public education to be secular and divorce as a legal option granted upon the request of both parties.   Apart from the church’s lack of influence on Cuban government, there are reasons apart from religion that have been linked to the divorce rate. Some attribute the high rate of divorce on the failed economic system of communism.   Others blame it on a failed social system. A large degree of the marriage problem may be traceable to the country’s housing shortage: The island’s severe housing shortage forced many to live with their in-laws and other relatives, straining marriages. A major hurdle is extreme poverty. Statistics released in 2005 reveal that the average salary on the island is under $17.00 per month. The combined lack of housing and financial stability has resulted in a relatively high divorce rate.

The high rate of divorce presents a significant challenge for public policy, although there has been a steady progression in marital and family laws to enable separations in deteriorating unions. A healthy stream of scholarly attention to the island has also shifted focus and may even be traceable to Cuba’s reconnection to the United States.


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