Grenada is discussing the possibility of allowing cohabiting partners to have the right to apply for spousal maintenance in the event of a relationship breakdown.
The measure is part of the Grenada Spotlight Initiative, which “is designed to focus attention, coordinate human effort, and strategically apply resources to the implementation of a well-conceived comprehensive national programme to contribute to ending family violence and all forms of violence against women in Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique”.
Funded by the European Union and the United Nations, the initiative is organised around six pillars of programming, namely: legislative and policy framework; strengthening institutions, prevention and social norms; delivery of high quality, essential services; data availability and capacities’ as well as supporting women’s movements.
According to a statement issued by the project, discussions are also focusing on proposals for legal reform which address rights to the division of property when cohabiting partners split up.
“Further, it is pushing for legal reform on the inheritance rights of ‘common law’ spouses in Grenada. Currently, common-law spouses have no right to an interest in their deceased partner’s estate.
“Any such legislation would remove inequalities between lawful marriage and common-law unions, correcting outdated legislation with no real relevance to the Caribbean region,” said the statement, adding that the proposed reforms fall under Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG goal five of eliminating gender inequality and Article 16 of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) which was ratified by Grenada in 1990.
Article 16 obliges state parties to commit to taking all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations. Presently, the United Kingdom Matrimonial Clauses Act 1973, (as amended) applies to Grenada.
The statement said that the 1973 Act is ill-suited to the country, does not recognise how the family is commonly understood and allows no rights to maintenance after a cohabiting relationship.
“This legislation makes no provision for unions other than marriages and thus ignores the prevalence of non-marital unions throughout the region and specifically in Grenada,” said the release.
Under this law, only married spouses are entitled to apply for a division of property at the end of the marriage and there are no rights for cohabiting partners to share a property if it is only registered in one name.
“The new legislation being proposed, if effected, will extend the 2010 Domestic Violence Act which currently provides partial relief and offers some recognition of non-marital unions. Stakeholders and Policymakers are also looking at whether there is to be a limitation that the property must have been acquired during the course of the relationship to qualify for a declaration of interest.”
On the legislative reform agenda, also, are whether there should be options of a lump sum, a periodic payment, or a transfer of a specific asset to a surviving common-law spouse based on the circumstances.
Currently, there is no right to entitlement to an interest in the deceased’s estate, regardless of the length of the cohabiting relationship or the existence of children born to the union, when a cohabiting partner dies intestate.
The National Insurance Act Cap. 205 (section 3) allows the Director of the Social Security Scheme in Grenada to award a survivor’s benefit as though the cohabitants were a widow or widower, but this is seen as inadequate.
This section only stipulates that the single person must have been living with the deceased at the date of death. No further requirements are articulated and the discretion is left with the Director of National Insurance to grant the benefit or not.