All Woman

Mother making daughter's life hell

By Margarette Macaulay

Monday, February 10, 2014    

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Dear Mrs Macaulay,

My brother and I agreed and signed to joint ownership for a house financed by the NHT. We are both making the monthly mortgage payments.

The issue is that my mother and I live at the house, but we do not get along (any at all). Recently the relationship has got worse where she has become extremely abusive (both verbal and physical). What rights do I have as a joint owner to have her removed from the house to go and live at her house or with one of her older sons? I am stressed out from the situation as she does not clean or tidy the house and seems to do things out of spite, nor does she contribute to bills or expenses related to the upkeep of the house.

I note from your letter that there is no problem relating to the ownership of your home with your brother, the other joint tenant. You made it clear that you and your brother agreed to and purchased the premises jointly. You both obtained a mortgage from the NHT and are both paying the monthly mortgage instalments.

It seems that your mother is living there as your guest or your dependant, well most certainly you gave her the licence to do so. With no financial contribution and no assistance with keeping the home clean and healthy, she is clearly a burden to you. You also state that you and she do not get along and that your relationship has become worse because she is extremely abusive to you physically and verbally. This is very serious and dangerous for you.

You have not said how exactly she came to live with you in your home and why. Why did she leave her own home? Did you and your brother so decide? Was she ill and in need of supervision? What is your brother's attitude about her conduct? I get the impression from the contents of your letter that she is at least physically fit.

As a joint owner of the premises and in occupation of it with the consent of the other, you can exercise the rights of ownership over who can enter and remain upon any part of the property. Joint tenants, as you and your brother are, hold the property as a whole, even though your interests therein may be 50/50. The interests are not divisible until a declaration of interest is made and a division of such interest is ordered by a judge, or until you and he agree to and in fact sever your interests which would then convert your holdings into tenants-in-common. If there is no severance or order of partition, then the law of survivorship applies and the whole is held by you both until one of you dies and the whole property then passes by law to the survivor.

Tenants-in-common, on the other hand, hold their interests in the property separately as their interests are divisible and your interest belong to each of you as your separate property and when each of you dies it belongs to your respective estates.

Your mother is not a part-owner or a tenant, she therefore cannot as of right occupy any part of the premises. You or you and your brother permitted her to enter and remain there. You offered her shelter but she has not and does not give any consideration for this and the provision of her sustenance. You can at anytime withdraw your permission or invitation. She is not even entitled to a notice to quit.

So you can if, and whenever you wish, tell her to move back to her own house or to one of her older son's homes, if they agree to have her.

You may wish to consider the fact that you can also make an application in the Family Court of your parish for an occupation order and protection orders against her, pursuant to the Domestic Violence Act, on the grounds of her physical and verbal abuses. These must cause you grave emotional upset and mental anguish and her actions of spite must cause you deep annoyance all compounding in causing you to be 'stressed'. The occupation order will put her out of your household premises and the protection orders will keep her away from you and from phoning you or causing you annoyance. Therefore, you can by this means have her removed from your home by means of orders of a judge and when the order is served the police officer doing so must ensure that she moves out smoothly and peacefully.

It is a serious and sad thing for the relationship between a parent and a child to become so fractured. Your mother clearly needs either medical or therapeutic counselling. There seems to be something wrong with her because I assume that she was not behaving in this way when you invited her to live with you in your home.

I am of the firm view that when physical and mental abuse occurs in a home, it becomes a dangerous and unhealthy environment and the abuser must be removed and kept away from the premises.

So I hope you can, with the assistance of your siblings, succeed in peacefully moving your abusive mother out of your home. If not, then you can move under the Domestic Violence Act, as I have pointed out. Or you can apply to the civil Resident Magistrate's court of your parish if you decide to merely ask her to leave and she refuses to do so, for an order for recovery of possession, and, by this means, you can obtain another kind of legal order which would get her out of your home and acquire for you the peace and contentment you are entitled to enjoy in your home.

I am more in favour of the application under the Domestic Violence Act because by this means, if your mother indeed needs therapeutic assistance, the judge can make an order for her to attend counselling sessions and the counsellor would counsel her to seek medical attention if it is concluded that she needs such services.

So you have three options by which you can get your burdensome guest out of your home. 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.

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