Dear Mrs Macaulay,
I purchased a vehicle in J anuary 2020. I paid US$21,500 cash for it in Kingston and US$1,200 for insurance. I was going to use it as a chartered taxi to make extra income. I was in a relationship with a man who lives in Jamaica. I live in Florida. I put the vehicle in both our names because he lived there and he could help me with the taxi business. Long story short... COVID happened and the vehicle was never used for a taxi. He has decided to just keep the vehicle that I put 100 per cent of the money in. I have tried numerous times to get the vehicle but he is upset because I am now married. He will not give me the vehicle back. Can you please tell me what I can do legally to get it back?
Before I reply to your specific question, I must emote for a bit on what you did which was not very sensible. The problem is that too many successful, clearly intelligent and able women muddle up what should be a purely business decision and action with the fact that they are “in relationships” with men and in circumstances where the men in question are not as successful as the women. The involvement in intimate/sexual relationships seems to suppress their good senses wherein they would more carefully assess any other person who would have access to their property and/or assets. They, of course, more often than not 'come a cropper' in such circumstances and have to go through the trouble of going to the law to pursue a legal case to get their property declared as solely or partially theirs. We women must try to force ourselves to keep our relationships separate from any business ventures which we enter, in order to enhance our financial positions, even when, or especially when our significant others are not as successful or financially secure as we are.
For instance, in your situation, if you had asked me what to do when you were purchasing the vehicle, I would have advised you to appoint him, in writing, as your agent to operate the vehicle and that he would agree to be so. You would then state the car's registration number and full description as a chartered taxi from a specified date to the termination of the agreement by either of you with 30 days notice in writing. You would also state that he would be entitled to a certain percentage of the takings for his assistance, and then pay your percentage into a specified bank account, which you would have opened for the purpose in your sole name, and you and he would have had the agreement signed before and witnessed by a Justice of the Peace. In these circumstances, if you found that he was not acting as you expected in your interests, or the plans could not proceed because circumstances changed as they did, you alone would decide whether to hold onto the vehicle or dispose of it.
You did not do the above, but I am going to give my reply based on what you stated was the reason for your action of adding his name to the title of the vehicle.
As to your question about what you can do to get the vehicle back. I assume that you mean get it back as your sole property so that you can do with it what you wish.
You must make an application to the court for a declaration that the vehicle is your sole property. You would have to convince the court that when you put his name with yours on the title, you did not intend to, nor did you pass any property interests to him, but that you did so merely as a matter of convenience for you as you lived abroad and needed him, who lived here, to assist you by operating the chartered taxi business on your behalf with some recompense to him. The entire circumstance of your purchase, exhibiting documentary proof of the fact that you got the monies from your account(s) to pay the purchase price and the insurance premium, any communications with him thereafter, his reaction to your marriage, and especially of his refusal to acknowledge your ownership of the vehicle and of his decision to keep and treat it as his sole property, should all be produced in support of your claim, if you have them.
As you live abroad, I would suggest that your claim is filed in the Supreme Court, so that if you have difficulties travelling to Jamaica for the trial, if it goes that far, that the matter can be heard via Zoom upon application and be fully dealt with. However, this decision should be made by you and the lawyer you retain to represent your interests throughout. Please bear in mind that in claims like these, the court may accede to your full claim for a declaration of sole ownership and make the consequential orders requested in your claim or decide that the other party is entitled to the interest on the face of the title or some other percentage, which would mean that the man may get 50 per cent or less of the interest, and orders would in such circumstances be made that either of you could buy the other's interest declared by the court.
In order for you to be able to get your vehicle or even some percentage of its value, you must make your claim in court here. Please do not wait too long to retain your legal representation and move to use the law available to you to claim for and get your property from the clutches of the man you unfortunately trusted. Delay is never a good idea when you have a good cause of action, and you certainly do.
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.