Dear Mrs Macaulay,
I've been with my husband for more than 14 years, married for six. We have a daughter who is now eight years old. During our premarital relationship I supported my husband financially and otherwise. He went abroad over 10 years ago to live and work. He would visit Jamaica every year, but then he stopped. I eventually went to the embassy and got visas for myself and our daughter just so we could see him because he failed to live up to the plan for him to file for us. Instead, he started another family and has a child, but at the same time he wants me to keep travelling with our daughter to stay for months at a time in his home.
I am thinking of divorcing him but I want to ensure my daughter's future is secure. He owns a home in Connecticut with his sister. What are my rights as well as my daughter's based on the fact that his assets are not in Jamaica, and our relationship is a visiting one?
I am going to deal with your last sentence first because you have referred to your relationship with your husband as a “visiting” one. I do not know of any such description which denotes a subsisting marriage. You see, as long as you and your husband continue to cohabit, even periodically, as husband and wife, you are a married couple who just do not live together all year round.
You did not state that while your husband was away you were living separately and apart because your marriage had irretrievably broken down. Neither of you had anything like that in mind. In fact, you pointed out that he used to visit Jamaica every year but then stopped. You did not say for how long you and you daughter did not see him, but he was still clearly your husband to you. Though he had been away for many years, you did not give up on him — you obtained visas for you and your daughter to go and see him.
Despite him starting a new family, you did not throw your hands up in horror and leave, because I have the impression that you stayed with him and he certainly enjoyed your visit and firmly believes that his marriage to you is intact.
This I deduced from the fact that he wants you and your daughter to travel to be with him every year, and to stay for months at a time with him.
You have made no comment about the other woman. You have not said whether she lives with him or not. You have not said that he was annoyed that you went to see him, and he clearly was not, as he wants you back each year. You also did not say whether or not your husband has been maintaining you and your daughter.
These facts do not convert your marriage to a mere visiting relationship. Your marriage is ongoing in the way it is, if you both agree to this form of cohabitation.
You have asked what your options are, but you have not stated the manner in which he holds the property with his sister — whether he owns his share separately from her interest or not.
I can make no definitive statement regarding the property without this information — whether you will have a share in it — as this would depend on your husband's interest and how he holds such, and the laws applicable in the state he resides in.
For both you and your daughter's interests, you can have a legal agreement drawn up and executed by you and your husband about the disposal of his property, and for you daughter's development and future. This will be binding and cannot be changed by him as long as it is drafted properly to prevent any unilateral changes or disposal of any of the subject properties and assets without your knowledge and consent in writing. So you would have a legal recourse against him if he attempts to do so or does so.
So you really need to consider your options very carefully and make sure that you are fully informed about all applicable laws and practical effects on any decision you make. You must obtain legal advice before you relate your decision and act on it, or you may find yourself and your daughter left out in the cold and without.
Think carefully and pray that you make the right choices.
Margarette May Macaulay is an attorney-at-law, Supreme Court mediator, notary public, and women's and children's rights advocate. Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; or write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5. All responses are published. Mrs Macaulay cannot provide personal responses.
The contents of this article are for informational purposes only, and must not be relied upon as an alternative to legal advice from your own attorney.