The Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on Friday ruled a Barbadian woman should be considered the spouse of her late partner and have the right to inherit possessions from his death.
The CCJ said that Katrina Smith should be considered the spouse of her late partner, Albert Michael Selby. It ruled that under Barbados’ Succession Act, the definition of spouse, “is a single woman who has cohabited for the statutory period of five years immediately preceding the death of her cohabitant partner (and) has the right to inherit from him on his death.”
Case filed with CCJ in March
The matter, which was filed at the CCJ in March, centered on the interpretation of Act which states that reference to a ‘spouse’ includes “a single woman who was living together with a single man as his wife for a period of not less than five years immediately preceding the date of his death.”
The CCJ examined the legislative regime that existed prior to the Act. It noted prior to its enactment, the law excluded the survivor of a cohabitational relationship from benefiting on the death of the partner who had not left a will.
Smith and Selby lived together since 2002 until his death in 2008. Selby had no children, was predeceased by his parents, and survived by his siblings including the respondent, Albert Anthony Sealy.
Court of Appeal decision set aside
In making its decision, the CCJ set aside the earlier decision of the Barbados Court of Appeal.
The Court declared Katrina Smith was the spouse of the deceased and ordered Albert Anthony Selby to pay costs in the sum of BD$20,000.
Meanwhile, the CCJ expressed concern over what it said appears to be the practice in Barbados for matters to be stayed pending the outcome of interlocutory appeals without a formal court order.
It noted that that the nine years that elapsed since the death of Selby was inconsistent with the overriding objective to resolve disputes justly and expeditiously.