Can spousal support be ordered while parties still live together?

All Woman

Dear Mrs Macaulay,

The purpose of this letter is to find out if I can file for spousal support or any other kind of financial support even though my common-law spouse has not completely left the home we share together. We have been together since 2005 when my child was one year old. We lived together in a family member's home from 2006 until 2011 when we moved into a house that we both purchased through the NHT. In 2014 we had our first child together, even though our relationship was deteriorating. Initially the bills were shared fifty/fifty except for our child's bills, for which he took major responsibility. As our relationship continued to deteriorate, he spent weekends away from home with another woman. I have refused to have a sexual relationship with him, so he has stopped providing for the general household. He had been the main breadwinner, as my salary is eaten up by my car loan and the mortgage. My savings have over the years been depleted due to lack of financial assistance from him. He only contributes to our daughter's expenses. He earns much more than I do, as he has two jobs. Can I force him to contribute towards the general household and towards my monthly living expenses as he used to before the relationship broke down?

The short answer to your question is yes. It is clear from what you have related that you need the support from your spouse that he had hitherto provided. It seems that he stopped providing his share of the household bills after you refused to continue having sexual relations with him, and your reason for this decision is clearly the fact that he has been unfaithful.

As long as you meet the definition of a common-law spouse, in that you are both single people who have lived together as man and wife for a continuous period of five years before the filing of your application, and that you need financial support, you can apply to the courts. It seems to me that the number of years that you and he have lived together, and your shared conduct during those years, are enough to satisfy the court that you were living together as man and wife.

The Maintenance Act provides that he has an obligation to provide support for you to the extent that you need maintenance to meet your reasonable needs, because you cannot in the circumstances meet all those bills and your needs by yourself. It is clear that your spouse can afford to provide the support you need, and stopped only when you refused to continue the sexual part of your relationship.

In considering your application, the court will consider the length of your cohabitation and your contribution to the relationship over the years. The court must also consider the economic consequences of his failure to meet his half as he used to do before. The court must also consider your application on the basis of your needs by taking into account the standard of living to which you were accustomed during your cohabitation.

I suggest that you retain the services of an attorney-at-law to assist you in formulating your application so that you can provide all the information necessary for the court to consider its true merits. Your affidavit in support must state what he used to provide in specific terms of dollars and cents, and must make it clear that these were provided by him, and when and why he ceased making his contributions. The affidavit must also state clearly why you need the total sum stated in your claim; that you had hitherto lived on the basis of those contributions of his; and that you need them to continue in order to maintain your standard of living and that of your children.

I see no difficulty that would cause your application to fail, and every reason for it to succeed. You must act very quickly, however, as you need his contributions urgently. There is no reason for you to delay and get into a worse financial situation. The successful completion of your application will remove your obvious concern and stress, and will lead to a situation that is in your best interest and that of your children.

My best wishes to you and your children.

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 allwoman@jamaicaobserver.com; or write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5. All responses are published. Mrs Macaulay cannot provide personal responses.

DISCLAIMER:

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.

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