Money talk led to a broken marriage

Dr Margarette MACAULAY

Monday, June 04, 2012

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Dear Mrs Macaulay,


My husband is on his second marriage, while this my first. He came to the USA and we got married in 1997, after which he returned to Jamaica while I remained in the USA. In 2000 I migrated to Jamaica. We were OK until we started discussing finances. I had sent a sum of money for him to invest. He had not disclosed to me that he had banked the money in his and his adopted son's name. He did not invest the money, neither has he returned it to me up to this day.


Our relationship became very strained as he thinks he is never wrong. In 2001, he moved out of the house and I could not say that ended the strain. I was ridiculed. I went through hell. He even involved his helper in our dispute. In 2009, he returned to the house, along with his helper and her boyfriend, and his son and the son's girlfriend. Things went from bad to worse. Once while I was away he removed some of my furniture from the house and called his friends who took my grocery and my crockery. He abused me to the point where I had to get a lawyer to stop his actions. I was left in one of the three bedrooms without gaining access to the rest of the house. I finally had to find other accommodation for which I am paying rent.


Incidentally, he gets social security from the US government because of my past job. The house was built by him and his first wife who died 16 years ago. They have four biological children, we have none together. My husband said that they both made a will leaving the house and the entire property, including the farm, for the children. I have actually seen the will which states just what he says. He says I cannot claim anything although I have maintained the house, invested in projects and have received no return from such investments.


Can you advise me of my rights? We are separated but not divorced. I am also a US citizen.


Thank you for your letter. How unfortunate your marriage was. I must ask this, why did you not take out court proceedings against him for all his wrongful acts? Surely a letter from a lawyer is not enough to deal with his abusive conduct.


You say the money you sent to him to invest for you was not invested, but that you discovered that he instead put it in a bank account which he holds with his adopted son. This was a fraudulent conversion of your money and he should be made to account to you for it and pay it back with interest, and you could have had him criminally charged because he clearly intended from his receipt and paying it into his account to permanently deprive you of your money and keep it for himself.


He knew very well what he had done with your money and this is why when you started discussing finances your relationship deteriorated and his treatment of you became awful.


You could have applied for protection orders and an occupation order from the court pursuant to the Domestic Violence Act after he returned to the home in 2009 with his helper and others.


Regarding the furniture and other things he took, you can make a claim against him for either the return of these or for their value.


Additionally, I gleaned from what you have written that whilst you were residing in the home, between 2001 and 2009, that your expended monies on improving the premises. These you can also make a claim for, and you may be awarded the value of such works or the increase in value they caused to the premises. I do not say you will for certain, but that you might. It would depend on the full facts surrounding your circumstances then and your actions.


You have been forced out again. You have the option of applying for an occupation order so you can go back home, and protection orders as I said under the Domestic Violence Act, and also an application for maintenance. Or you may choose to only apply for maintenance. He is obliged in law to contribute to your maintenance, especially as he is receiving social security payments based on your sole work in the US, and the fact that he is, in law, your husband.


As to the house, if he and his first wife owned the properties jointly, you cannot get any interest therein. If, however, the properties were owned as tenants-in-common, you could claim an interest in his one-half share. If fact, if the properties are registered in his sole name then you can certainly make a claim for a one-half interest. You can ask for 50 per cent in the farm and any other property. But I cannot predict what percentage of interest the court will award you as this will depend on the view the judge takes about the length and the circumstances of your marriage.


You ought to add in your Fixed Date Claim Form seeking an interest in the properties (if not jointly held by him and his first wife) the claims for your money which he and his son fraudulently converted to their own use, and for the return or the value of your furniture, crockery and grocery, and also for his contribution for your maintenance.


The fact that you are a citizen of the US is neither here nor there. You will be claiming as his wife. I cannot be more specific about your claims of interest in the properties because you have not given even a hint about the legal proprietorship. The fact that he and his first wife built the premises does not necessarily mean that they are both the legal proprietors. The fact that he showed you their wills also does not conclusively mean that they are both the legal proprietors. So a search ought to be made at the Titles Office for the titles so you can ascertain who in fact legally owns the properties.


After this, you will be in a clearer position to decide exactly what claims you can make of those which I have suggested to you. Please, whatever you do, get good legal representation. Do not let your husband take away both your dignity as a human being and also your material entitlements. Good luck and best wishes.


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. Mrs Macaulay cannot give advice via e-mail.


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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