Dear Mrs Macaulay,
I am married but my husband has left the matrimonial home. What are the grounds on which I can get a divorce? We have been in a relationship for eight years, and married for two and a half. What obligation does he owe me? Can I seek alimony from him? I acquired a house on my own before entering a relationship, is he entitled to any portion? With my imput he got a car to use for a taxi, am I entitled to some form of benefit? There are no children involved and we had counselling but he walked out of it.
The fact that your husband has separated from you makes it clear that he is no longer interested in continuing his marriage with you. You also say he walked out of counselling, making his decision and position even clearer.
It is his desertion of you and not of the matrimonial home which results in the breakdown of your marriage and his even walking out of your counselling session, made the breakdown seemingly final and irretrievable.
Now to your specific questions:-
Q . What are the grounds for which I can get a divorce?
A. The only ground since the Matrimonial Causes Act was passed in 1989, is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. In the petition for dissolution, the circumstances which led to the breakdown must be stated in a clear and concise way.
Q . What obligation does he owe me? Can I apply for alimony?
A. This I cannot simply answer as it will depend on what you decide. You could decide to just have a final and clean sweep of merely dissolving the marriage with your filing and proceeding with your petition, or, you could decide to file an application for maintenance or a lump sum settlement.
You have not indicated what kind of relationship you had with him for eight years, whether it was a dating or visiting relationship, or if you were living together in a common-law union. Consequently, I cannot give you any assurance that you will succeed with an application for maintenance or alimony.
I must say, however, that from the fact that your marriage was only of a two and a half years duration, and from what you touched on in your letter, you seem to be in a better financial position than he. I would suggest that you leave this alone and let him go on his way.
Q . Is he entitled to any interest in a property you solely acquired for yourself before the commencement of the relationship?
A. Clearly, this was not your family home after you got married. The property was acquired by you with your own funds, for yourself, before you commenced your relationship with him. On the face of it, he would have no share in this property — it is one of the exceptions to the 50/50 share presumption in the Family Property (Rights of Spouses) Act.
If he had, however, done any extensions or improvements to your property, he may succeed in a claim for him to be awarded the cost or the value of such extension or improvement. If it became your family home after your marriage, he could apply for a declaration of interest in it and order for partition. However, your marriage is really of very short duration. In fact, it is only a half a year over the statutory period under the Matrimonial Causes Act, when one can petition for divorce without leave. This being so, he will have a very hard task convincing a judge to award him any portion of your property, unless he improved or extended it also.
Q . Are you entitled to any benefit from a car purchased with your imput for use as a taxi?
A. Well, I have no clear idea what you mean by “imput”. Clearly, you do not mean that you bought it, but that you contributed to its purchase. But was your contribution, minimal, small or large?
You have also not told me a thing about how you came to contribute to the purchase of the vehicle. You have also not told me what was the intention you both had at the time. You see, if you just gave him some money to make up the purchase price without any discussion or agreement as to joint interest or that it would be a family asset, your contribution would have been a gift to him or your assistance to your husband as a caring wife, without anything more.
It seems to me that after 12 months have expired following his departure from the home and his desertion of you, that you should just apply for your divorce and forget all else, which are too shaky and doubtful for success. So just go for a clean sweep and get on with your life as you wish, without any baggage. Good luck.
Margarette May Macaulay is an attorney-atlaw, 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 advice via e-mail.
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.