A man has successfully challenged an attempt by his deceased father’s business partner to claim that they were in a cohabitation relationship before his death in 2016.
Delivering an oral judgement, last week, Family Court Judge Allyson Ramkerrysingh dismissed Jassodra Sooklal’s application to certify her alleged cohabitation relationship with Kashwar Maharaj.
According to court filings, obtained by Guardian Media, Sooklal, who ran a horticultural business with Maharaj applied for the status after he passed away in December 2016.
The application was strongly opposed by Maharaj’s son Girish, who resides in Canada and challenged it because if successful Sooklal would have gotten control of his father’s estate and corresponding remaining assets including bank accounts.
In his application, Girish claimed that between 1996 and 2000, his father lived in Texas with his mother and three siblings. He claimed that after his family migrated to Canada, his father returned to Trinidad as he had difficulties finding employment. He alleged that when he visited Trinidad in 2002, his father introduced Sooklal as his business partner. In 2008, Girish came to live briefly with his father, who was staying at Sooklal’s home.
“During the interested party’s time living with the deceased and the applicant, the respondent is aware that they slept in separate bedrooms, in fact, the deceased slept on the couch while his son slept in his room,” Girish’s lawyers claimed.
His lawyers claimed that after having a confrontation with Sooklal he was forced to leave the house and return to Canada in May 2009.
In her decision, Justice Ramkerrysingh noted that Sooklal had failed to provide sufficient evidence to prove that she had a relationship with Maharaj besides their business arrangement.
While she noted that Girish’s evidence over the absence of the alleged relationship was also insufficient, Justice Ramkerrysingh noted that Sooklal had the burden of proof under the Cohabitational Relationships Act.
Justice Ramkerrysingh also suggested that if Sooklal had included Maharaj on the deed for her property during their 14 years living together, such evidence would have assisted her claim over the alleged relationship.
Girish was represented by Farai Hove Masaisai and Jennifer Farah-Tull of Hove and Associates, while Sooklal was represented by Richard Sirjoo.