Dear Mrs Macaulay,
I'm a Canadian woman in a relationship with a Jamaican man. We met four years ago and started a business in Jamaica. He said I could not get my name on the registration of the business because I was not Jamaican. I put in all the money needed to start the business. I continued to put in money and worked hard to establish the business. After about two years we got married since he had made many excuses for me not to have my name added to the business. He took money from the primary business and started two others. Then he suddenly decided that he no longer wanted to be married. I have been in and out of Jamaica for the last four years, but he never gave me residency. Now he wants to take everything and leave. Can you tell me what are my options?
I must say that my immediate reaction is that you were duped from the beginning by your husband, that is to say before your marriage, to provide the money needed to start the business and work at it to make it a success.
I do not know of any legal bar to a non-Jamaican being one of the registered owners upon the registration of a business name or as a shareholder upon the incorporation of a company. The only requirement which comes to mind is that a non-Jamaican who wishes to work and be recompensed for doing so in Jamaica would have to obtain a work permit to do so.
You say you met this man four years ago and started the business which was solely financed by you and you continued to invest your own money into the business and worked hard to make it a success, though he had prevented you from being a registered proprietor of any interest in the business.
First, once you were married, you could have stayed here and you could have taken your marriage certificate to the Immigration office and sought their advice as to your status as it seems he had made you feel insecure about your entitlements as his wife. This is a great pity.
Well, you have only one option now, and that is that you must obtain a lawyer to act for you as quickly as you can, because you must go to court if you are to obtain anything at all. You really should have had your own lawyer from the beginning before you put any money into the first business and especially when he told you that you could not be registered because you are only a Canadian and Commonwealth citizen and not a Jamaican. You should have had your own lawyer to advise you and ensure legal protection of your interests.
What you did not do then, you must do now and get a lawyer immediately and tell the lawyer everything and provide written proof, bank statements of your transfers of monies to Jamaica, and any copies of documents you may have (copies which I hope you made and kept) of the commencement and operation of the first and two later businesses. You must instruct the lawyer to file a claim for declarations of your interests in all the businesses, and for consequential orders based on the declarations being sought, and for injunctions restraining your husband from withdrawing any sums from the businesses and/or bank accounts, save for provable necessary sums for the operations of them, or closing down, winding up, selling or otherwise disposing of them, until the determination of your case.
Please retain a lawyer as quickly as you can and proceed to secure your entitlements in law. Your lawyer can file your claim under the Property (Rights of Spouses) Act, section 11(1) or section 13(1)(c). Do not delay. Your trust of and in this man was clearly completely misguided, and even the sincerity of your marriage was questionable to say the least. From the time he informed you of his decision that he no longer wanted the marriage, when I assume he ceased marital relations because he had taken from you what he wanted, your marriage irretrievably broke down, and as you say yourself, he now wants to leave and take everything. I suggest that you do not speak to him about this. Just go ahead and get your legal representation and have your claim filed and served on him.
Do not put yourself in the position to be fooled again, as you have been too many times by your so-called husband. After you and he have lived apart for a period of 12 months from the date you commenced living separate and apart, you can file your petition for divorce, if you are so inclined, and I hope you will be because you have been ill-used and treated as a fool. Look after your own interests now and do not be fooled again.
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.