Dear Mrs Macaulay,
I lived with a man for 30 years, we have three children (ages 26, 24 and 22 years old) together. He is married, but I am not sure they got divorced because she migrated and lived overseas for more than 30 years.
He and his wife had a child together. I took care of the child until the child died.
The man then passed away and, in that same week when my babyfather died, she came to Jamaica with a wedding band on her finger informing me that she is giving me some time to find a house because she needs her house. They had purchased the house together as joint tenants.
I want to know if my kids and I are entitled to his half of the house before I leave.
I really cannot understand why you would live with a married man for 30 years and have three children with him, without insisting that he become a single man by regularising his status and giving you and your children the dignity of a fairer chance for a more secure future after his death.
You also did nothing further, it seems, to protect yourself and your children.
You could have had him sever the joint tenancy so that some property interest would become available to you and your children. I am sure I am right to assume that you worked and looked after him throughout the 30 years you lived with him. You did not, it is clear, even try to find out whether he actually remained married to his “wife” up to his death.
Have you checked and done a search in the Supreme Court Registry whether there is or isn't a record of a divorce? You were satisfied to stay with him, bear his children, and take care of him and the children, who I hope are qualified in their chosen professions and are self-sufficient.
Anyway, the decision was yours to stay with the deceased without being married to him for 30 years, which was, to all appearances, longer than he and his “wife” actually stayed together.
Let me deal with what you really want to know, which is about the property. You say that he and his “wife” purchased it as joint tenants and I think that the certificate of title supports this fact. Well, dear faithful companion of the deceased, in law, upon his death, the whole property became that of the surviving joint tenant, which is his “wife”.
So it does not really matter whether they were divorced or not, because a divorce would not affect their property holdings as registered on the certificate of the title. All a divorce would do is that she would not have the right to direct how his funeral should be conducted, that would be yours and your children.
In the circumstances, as his “wife” she would really be responsible to see to all that and to make the decisions and pay for it all, and be entitled to all the interest in the house, but not necessarily to his personal property.
If he had a car and monies in banks, stocks and shares in his sole name, you ought to go to the Administrator General's Office and report his death and seek their advice and assistance about such personal property for your children, so that your children can obtain their share from these. You will be excluded because he was a married man throughout the 30 years you lived with him.
If any child is still studying or in training, and he was maintaining the child, then that child can apply to the Supreme Court for his or her father's support to continue to be paid out of his estate by virtue of law, the Deceased's (Provisions for Family and Dependents) Act, if I recall correctly. If this is needed, please mention the fact at the Administrator General's Office when you are reporting the death and seeking assistance, though it is your children who should really do this by going to the office themselves, or through one of them with the consents of the others, as they are adults.
I do hope that your babyfather did have other real property and personal property from which this can be done and his children can inherit something.
I am sorry to say that this is the case in law and there is nothing you can do to change your own personal situation.
The “wife” has been quite reasonable, in the circumstances, in giving you some time to find another residence. I suppose this is because of the fact that you cared for her child until the child's death.
I wish you and your children all the best and that they have bright and happy lives in the future.
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.