Dear Mrs Macaulay,
I have been living with my spouse since 2001. When I came to live with him he was paying mortgage for a studio apartment and downpayments on his car. I started working as a domestic helper after I moved in with him and have worked in various jobs since then.
This union produced two children. For the first eight years of the relationship we lived together all the time except for when he would sleep out. This man was very abusive both physically and emotionally. I have moved out a couple of times but I came back because I had nowhere else to go. This man is a police officer and many times I have sought assistance from his superior and all I am told is that I should leave the house because it's his and he does not want us there.
I visited the Legal Aid Clinic but could not afford the fees.
In March 2010 while on a break from the relationship, I got a call from my neighbours saying the house was on fire. We lost everything. After that I travelled daily from Spanish Town to clean out the house. It took months for the house to be repaired and when it was done, I called to ask when I could come home, and he said he put someone in my space. That was in July. That was awful as where I was staying was temporary and weeks after that I was asked to leave. I told him and asked him to keep our son and I would keep our daughter, who he had always denied was his. He said he could not keep him, and I should find someone to keep him and he would pay them. The kids' grandmother took my son and my ex pays $15,000 per month and I fund all his other needs. My parents took my daughter.
We kept in contact and the relationship started again in October 2010. The children remained where they were but I lived with him. Whenever I asked for money for my daughter, he said I should take him to court, so I finally did. We were good until he got the summons and then he said I could not stay in the house anymore. That was February 2012. I left because of how violent he is, but for no longer than a month, as the legal aid lawyer said if I leave for six months or longer I would have no claim. The children and I are always with him on holidays but in July 2012 he again asked us to leave. I am tired of this. He has three houses and three cars.
Since we went to court in February, where he had a lawyer present, he asked me for receipts for the money he gives for our son's boarding fee. When I write on the receipt that the money is for our son, he says he will not accept it and I will not get the money if I don't change it. I know he is up to something but I don't know what.
I am staying with a school friend and I go to my mother on weekends. I am tired of him treating us like we have no rights. I am desperate for your help.
Thank you for your letter which underlines the fact that too often, those in a relationships with members of the police force are subject to abuse and ill-treatment and receive no assistance from the force, so that they and their children are doubly disadvantaged. Some are lucky to receive help from their spouses' senior officers, but too many do not.
I am sorry that you seem to have given up trying to retain an attorney. Many of us in the legal profession are prepared to take on clients' matters, either on the basis of a contingency agreement, or pro bono. You should try contacting lawyers, as some will act for you for free or on contract.
I am not really clear about when and how long ago you and your ex-spouse finally separated after you had broken up for sure. Therefore, I will assume that you left in July 2012 and use the 31st of July as your separation date for the purpose of my reply to you.
If you finally separated on or about July 31 2012, then you should make more efforts to find a lawyer who will take your case. Your application should be filed before the end of July this year.
I think you should go to the co-ordinator of the Family Court in Kingston, a Mrs Henry, and ask her to help you find an attorney who might agree to take your case. I know she will help you by making some calls to lawyers on your behalf and in the interests of your children. You must therefore try and do this now, so the lawyer will have sufficient time to hear your full story -- that is take instructions, and draft and file your application under the Property (Rights of Spouses) Act to determine your interests in the family home and in the other real properties your ex-spouse owns.
You say he provides $15,000 per month for your son but you have not said how old your son is. This sum seems woefully inadequate to me to provide the support he would need for his necessities of life and for his educational and medical expenses. You should therefore make an application to the court for your son to be properly maintained by him.
I cannot comment on your daughter's maintenance application, which you say is presently being dealt with in court, except to advise you to ensure that you work out and list all her needs and exactly how much the costs are, so that the court will have a clear idea of what is required for her support. You should ask for him to meet her educational and medical expenses and that he pays what is ordered to the cashier at the court. This must also be done for your son, after you make an application for his maintenance and get an order for him to be properly and adequately maintained by his father.
You mentioned that your ex-spouse insists on you writing receipts for what he provides for his son's boarding fees. However, you said that he is boarding with a grandmother to whom the money is and will be due and owing and to whom it ought to be paid. Why then are you writing receipts for these monthly sums? Surely the grandmother should be the one to do so.
In any event, whoever prepares and signs the receipts must state on them the real purpose for which the money is paid over and received. Do not therefore let him force you to write some other purpose on them.
Since you clearly cannot afford to rent premises to live with your children, you should consider applying for him to also contribute to your maintenance, so that you can afford to get and make a home for yourself and the children. It is not in the best interests of the children to be scattered about as they are. So please consider making this application on your behalf and on theirs. You should talk to your lawyer about this when you obtain one.
I hope I have assisted you to see clearly what you should do to take all the steps necessary to protect and provide for your children and for yourself and to look after them in the best possible way. Good luck to you and the children.
What the law provides
The Property (Rights of Spouses) Act provides that the application for a declaration of your interests and a division of the property or properties should be filed within 12 months of the breakdown of your relationship. So please do not delay about this, go and speak with the person I have suggested in the Family Court in Kingston so you can get legal representation before the statutory limitation period expires.
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. Mrs Macaulay cannot give personal advice.
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.