A Grand Court judgment delivered on March 10, 2023, found that a man’s wife signed an instrument of transfer to sell their marital property without his knowledge and consent in a scheme to deprive him of his rights in the property. In the circumstances, the Grand Court agreed that the proceeds from the sale of the property should be added back to the marital assets for the divorce sought by the husband.
Concerning the series of events that led up to the sale, Court documents said:
During the course of the marriage, the husband and wife acquired a piece of land in Breakers for the sum of $50,000 (the “Land”). It was financed with a loan from the Credit Union and was registered in both their names as joint proprietors.
In September 2020, the husband was approached by a prospective purchaser for the Land who later advised him that the Land had been sold.
The husband made his own inquiries and discovered that the Land had been sold to a purchaser for value for $70,000 in March 2020.
On the heels of that discovery, he filed a Petition for Divorce on the ground that the wife, among other allegations, had behaved unreasonably in selling the Land without his knowledge or consent.
According to the judgment, the wife’s case was that the property was “not a marital asset as it was not the product of the parties’ common endeavour but was non-matrimonial property brought into the marriage by her to which the husband contributed nothing.”
As to the wife’s version of the events, the judgment added: “In consideration of her contribution to the Land and the further sum of $10,000 which she had lent him to develop a property owned by him in Jamaica, which he had not repaid, they had agreed that she should sell the Land and keep proceeds of the sale and he would keep the property in Jamaica.”
In relation to the husband’s response to his wife’s account, the judgment noted:
The husband rejected the suggestion that he had agreed with the wife that she could sell the Land and keep the proceeds because she had repaid the greater part of the loan and had given him $10,000 to assist in building a dwelling on property he owned in Jamaica in 2004.
He insisted there was no such agreement.
The judgment continued:
He also rejected the suggestion that in pursuance of the agreement that she could sell the Land and that he had attended with his wife on the Notary Public to have the instrument of Transfer notarised.
He recalled an occasion when he visited his wife who had agreed to help him get his Caymanian status on the basis of their continuing marriage. He said he had signed some documents related to his immigration application but he had refused to sign it another document she gave to him because it was unrelated to the immigration matter.
After analyzing the submissions on behalf of the husband, the wife, the relevant laws and evidence, the judge said:
The cellphone evidence which was adduced makes it clear that the wife deliberately gave and called evidence which was untrue.
It supports the husband’s evidence that he did not see her on 11 March 2020 or go with her to the Notary Public’s office or give her permission for her to sign his name on the Transfer or Mr. Wilson permission to witness his signature.
If ever there was a smoking gun, the evidence adduced from the cellphone was one.
The judge added: “I… find that she signed the transfer without his knowledge and consent and was assisted in her scheme to deprive the husband of his rights in the Land by Mr. Wilson who certified the identity of the signatories in breach of his notarial duties.”
The judge concluded:
I reject the wife’s evidence that she and the husband had agreed that she could sell the Land and keep the proceeds.
The Land to which they both contributed was very much the product of their common endeavour and a marital asset to which each was entitled an equal share.
I am also satisfied and find that the husband made contributions throughout the marriage, both in cash and in kind, to the running of the household and the upkeep of the FMH and converted the garage and the dining room to rental to studio units which generated the rents that were applied to the mortgage. Although the FMH is registered in the sole name of the wife and was brought by her into the marriage, they were both engaged in a common endeavour as far as their home was concerned and it is a marital asset.
As to who should pay the husband’s court costs, the judge said: “In my judgment, the wife’s conduct of this litigation is deserving of moral condemnation and should be met with an order for on an indemnity basis. The wife is to pay the husband’s costs of and incidental to the proceedings on an indemnity basis.”