Dear Mrs Macaulay,
A woman acquired some property years ago. She subsequently got married and her husband, who earns much more than she does, contributed significantly to the expansion from a one-bedroom unit to a four-bedroom place with additional bathrooms and other features. She had one son before marriage and two daughters for her husband. Should there be a separation and/or divorce, would the husband have any claim to financial compensation for his contribution during their years together?
I am going straight to the answer of your enquiry as from what you have stated it is a simple and straightforward matter.
Since the passage of the Property (Rights of Spouses) Act, a husband does not have to claim for his financial contribution. Only in common law would he have such a claim, unless he did the expansion as a gift or the couple made definite alternative arrangements by agreement. All this would have to be proved by evidence. However, since the Act was passed and came into effect, in the event of a breakdown of the marriage, the husband would be entitled to a 50 percentage share in the market value of the premises if none of the three exceptions in the Act are relevant to the couple's circumstances. In my view, this couple's circumstances would not affect the division of one-half each.
It seems that this couple has been married long enough for the husband not to fall into the exception to this one-half division, which applies to parties having been only in a marriage of very short duration. There is also no mention of the wife having acquired the property as a gift with the injunction that it was for her sole ownership and possession, and though she had acquired it before her marriage she permitted him the expend a great deal in expanding and improving the original property.
I would, however, suggest that whoever needs this advice should go and see a lawyer and get face-to-face advice, because there is bound to be something or some things which you have not stated in your letter which may change the whole picture and therefore the advice.
You mentioned the children. Their existence does not affect the share of each spouse under the Act, but their circumstances may affect the timing of the division by way of a sale for the proceeds to be decided. An application for this would also have to be made for a judge to so order.
All the best wishes.
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.