Dear Mrs Macaulay,
I am seeking some directive on the steps I can take regarding a house that my previous partner and I bought through the National Housing Trust, in joint tenancy. My ex partner and I broke it off almost six years now. We share one child, and I have another.
During our break up I decided to leave the home for safety reasons.
Fast forward, I have been in contact with him regarding the next move for the house, but I only receive threats after threats. Sometimes I wish to just walk away, but in the same speed my dream was to own a home. I have been renting from I was 16 years old and moved from house to house more than 10 times. Stability is my goal with my kids.
Can you please share what steps I can take regarding having this disputed? He currently lives in the house with a new woman and child and wants me to just forget about the house.
I must just make this comment on the fact that about six years ago you chose to move out of your then home because of your then partner's abusive conduct and actions towards you. This does not erase your legal and beneficial interest in the property, but I feel disappointed that you did not choose then to use the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act and its amendments to have him put out of the home so that you and your child could remain stable in the home, with other restraining orders for him not to contact you in any way, for him to keep away from you and from the premises, and other necessary ancillary orders like making maintenance orders for your child and other relevant matters. You see, this Act was passed to provide protection for spouses suffering abuse from their partners. It was even made to apply to persons in visiting relationships. Anyway, you chose to leave with your child and now you wish to have your share of the property you and he jointly acquired to make your home and you wish to know what to do as he wants you to forego your interest in it and keeps threatening you.
So what should you do? As you know, as joint owners you both own all the interest in the property together as a whole. In order therefore for you to get your share of the interest, you must sever the title and so divide the interests between you and your ex-partner. In order to do so, you must apply to the court for a declaration of your interest in the property, that it be partitioned, and the property sold and your net share after all necessary deductions be paid to you. You therefore need to retain a lawyer to act for you in preparing, filing, having served and presenting your claim to a judge, and after judgment, seeing to the sale within the time ordered and your monies paid to you.
You did not say anything about the mortgage situation and you have to watch out about this because if your ex-partner has been the one paying the mortgage instalments, he may ask to be refunded for your share if you were not paying after you left. You must ask your lawyer to oppose this, with the fact that he and his new family have been solely enjoying the benefits of the property while you and your children, including his, have had to pay rentals throughout the years after you had to leave because of his wrongful abusive conduct to you.
Please bear in mind that the judge in such claims is normally asked to order that either of you can buy the other owner's interest and that failing this, the premises be sold in the open market. An order for the premises to be valued by a valuator agreed by you both, or failing such agreement, that the registrar of the Supreme Court should then choose the valuator, would also be made.
You have also not said anything about the child you had with him, for instance, does he provide sufficient or any maintenance for her? If he does not, please deal with this as well, while your property claim is being dealt with. Your child is entitled to have her father contribute to her maintenance and to have a relationship with him. You should therefore have the issue of his access fixed for them to be able to see each other and spend some time together.
Please do not delay any further to get yourself a lawyer to act for you. Claims like yours are done every day and you have the law on your side, so please act as quickly as you can so that you can get to the position where you are able to purchase another home with your portion of the proceeds of sale and obtain the stability which you have always wished for yourself and your children. I wish you the very best and applaud your determination not to be thwarted by the threats of your ex-partner, and to ensure that you get your share of the property you own jointly with him and which he has been enjoying for so long whilst you and your children have been struggling paying rentals for various premises.
And please remember that you can always report his threats which are criminal offences and for which he ought to be dealt with in law and by the law with your report and evidence.
All the very best for 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 email@example.com; 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.