PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – The Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has ruled that an agreement reached by a Guyanese couple after their marriage ended in 1998 is binding.
The CCJ, Guyana’s highest court, noted that the “without prejudice” agreement, made on September 12, 2007, between Rosemarie Ramdehol and Haimwant Ramdehol, was clear, had been agreed upon, and was therefore binding.
The court noted that before their marriage ended in 1998, the Ramdehols were partners in a successful auto sales business and in 2007, they agreed to negotiate a division of their matrimonial and business assets.
The man submitted that this agreement was made with the ‘without prejudice’ letter, which stated that his former wife would pay him the sum of US$262,500 in exchange for transferring his share of the jointly-owned assets to her.
Ramdehol said that the transfer was made but he was not paid the agreed sum and that the only payments he had received from his ex-wife were repayments of a loan, as well as the proceeds of the sale of a car which he had asked her to sell.
Mrs. Ramdehol submitted that their agreement was renegotiated after September 2007, however, she could not provide correspondence between their attorneys to substantiate this new agreement.
She submitted a letter, written by a new attorney and dated January 2010, addressed to the lawyer for her ex-husband disputing the obligation to pay the US$262,500.
In that letter, she set out the alleged terms of the renegotiated agreement and contended that she fulfilled her contractual obligations. She said that the new agreement was that Mr. Ramdehol would be paid GUY$25 million and that she has already paid him in excess of this sum.
During the trial, Mrs. Ramdehol also submitted that there could have been no agreement in September 2007 as the correspondence was ‘without prejudice’ and no formal agreement had been drawn up and signed by the parties.
She further submitted that she had no knowledge of the letters being sent by her former attorney as she had terminated his services, and even so, the letter being relied on by Mr. Ramdehol was not written by that attorney but by one of his partners.
Mrs. Ramdehol’s appeal to the CCJ raised three primary issues as to whether the “without prejudice” letter be used as evidence of an agreed contract between the parties; were the funds paid by Mrs. Ramdehol, and received by her husband, payment for the property settlement agreement; and whether any contractual agreement between the parties ought to reflect the application of the practice and statute as it related to the division of matrimonial property.
But in its ruling, the CCJ noted that “the terms of the contract were thus sufficiently certain.
“We therefore agree with the courts below that the contract, evidenced by the 12th September 2007 letter and later acts of part performance, is enforceable,” the CCJ ruled, noting that it relied on the fact that Guyana’s Married Persons (Property) Act gives those who are divorcing complete autonomy to settle the division amongst themselves by contract.
The Court also found that the funds received by Mr. Ramdehol were repayments of a loan and from the sale of a vehicle.
The Court ordered that Mrs. Ramdehol to pay US$262,500, in settlement of the property division to her former husband, adding that the sum is subject to deduction of monies already paid, if any, in fulfilment of the lower court’s order from June 2012. – CMC