Dr. Margaret Macaulay
Dear Mrs Macaulay,
I have been in a relationship for the past 16 years, three of which we've been legally married. The union has produced two children. I am being abused verbally (nasty words) in front of the children. It has even been physical more than once. He is a frequent race horse gambler. My husband buys what he feels like and not what is needed, leaving me to fill the gap.
He earns a decent salary but refuses to assist and claims he can't manage even if there is no food or diapers for the baby. When I provide he partakes and continues with the verbal abuse. I own everything in the house, bought with my money. We have separate accounts.
He says he is not interested in the relationship and refuses to go to counselling. What are my legal rights to protect myself and the children? Can I get him to leave the house and still contribute financially? He said a judge can't make him do anything.
You allege that your husband abuses you and that he is an indifferent and irresponsible parent, partner, husband and provider. Well, my dear, you must immediately go to the Family Court in your parish and apply for an occupation order and for protection orders under the Domestic Violence Act. You should also make applications on behalf of your children for protection orders because they have been direct victims of his abuse, as he abuses you in their presence. Were they, for instance, in the next room, they would still be victims, though perhaps not as directly as they have been. You have to protect them from further abuse from his conduct.
You should also apply for him to contribute to the maintenance of the children. Work out everything they need, for example for their portion of food, portion of the cost of all utilities, for entertainment and miscellaneous costs, etc. You must also ask that he pays half of all educational, medical, dental and optical expenses, and that maintenance continues until after the completion of the tertiary level education or training up to the age of 23 years.
The occupation order will give you the right to remain in the home with the children while he goes to live elsewhere. He still must continue to pay the mortgage or rental if this is the case.
The protection orders restrain him from being anywhere near you or the children and following you or them, etcerera. The judge may also order him to have counselling.
So in answering your question, yes, he can be ordered to leave the home and also be ordered to contribute financially for the children's needs.
It is your duty to make these applications as quickly as you can for your children's welfare. They have been exposed to conduct which is adverse to their best interests, and to yours.
You did not say who owns the premises which is the family home. If he is the legal registered proprietor, then you can and have the right to apply for a declaration that you are entitled to a one-half interest in it and for the court to order a partition and sale or that it not be sold until the children attain their majority or complete their tertiary level education or training.
Since you are still together in the home and only the Domestic Violence Act orders will result in your separation, your application for a share of the family home should be made pursuant to the Property (Rights of Spouses) Act. If, on the other hand, the family home is rented premises, the court could, on your application, order him to continue to pay the rental for a period of time which the court deems reasonable and just in your family's particular circumstances.
Please do not delay to take the actions which you have a right to take within the laws which exist to protect yourself and your children and to provide adequately for them.
I wish you and your children the very best.
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.