Court of Appeal Justices led by Justice Muzamiru Mutangula Kibeedi, and assisted by Elizabeth Musoke and Christopher Gashirabake have ruled that a spouse is entitled to only 20% of the matrimonial property during divorce not 50%.
In their judgement today, the justices made a declaration in a landmark 10 years divorce case in which High Court Judge Catherine Bamugemereire directed Joseph Ambayo to give 50% of property he owned while in marriage with Aserua Jackline in 2014.
“This appeal concerns the handling of matrimonial property by court of law when a marriage breaks down and the parties part. This is a critical subject with far reaching consequences for the marriage institution and its future,” Justice Kibeedi said.
“The facts leading to this appeal are that the appellant and respondent started cohabiting in 1989 when the appellant was aged about 24 years, while the respondent was aged about 19 years. At the time of this judgment the respondent is about 52 years of age, while the appellant is about 57 years,” he added.
He further narrated, “As usually happens in matters which have now been baptised “early marriages”, the respondent at the time she started cohabiting with the appellant had not completed her formal primary level education. But the appellant supported and financed her return to formal schooling and the respondent make very commendable formal academic gains. She completed Primary Education from Nakasero Primary School, obtained a Certificate in tailoring and a Diploma in designing and dress making.
“She also obtained driving skills. By the time the divorce proceedings were instituted she was self-employed as a seamstress, tailor, and baker. During the cohabitation the parties also sired two daughters in the years 1992 and 2001, and two sons in the years 1990 and 1995.
“lt was during that period that the vacant plot on which the contested matrimonial house stands was purchased, and most of its development into a family home done. The parties moved in and started living there as a family around 2002. The plot on which the matrimonial house stands is unregistered/untitled; but the purchase agreement for the plot was written in the sole names of the appellant as the purchaser. The contribution of each party to the property purchase and development are the subject of the dispute between the parties.”
He divulged, “After cohabiting for a period of about 16 years, the parties solemnised their marriage in 2005 from Our Lady of Africa Church, Mbuya, Kampala in accordance with the traditions of the Roman Catholic Faith as recognised by the Marriage laws of this country. ln 2007, the parties appear to have started onto the journey of developing the differences that eventually led to the irretrievable breakdown of their marriage.
“ln 2012 the appellant commenced divorce proceedings against the respondent in the High Court of Uganda, Family Division, at Kampala, seeking the dissolution of the marriage on the grounds of adultery, cruelty, and desertion, to wit: Divorce Cause No. 10 of 2012. The respondent opposed the Petition and cross-petitioned for dissolution of the marriage on the grounds of cruelty, desertion, and unretrievable breakdown of the marriage. At that time, the appellant was employed by Verona Fathers as a Maintenance technician for vehicles, generator, plumbing and electrical work. He also did some consultancy works.”
Justice Kibeedi further noted that when the matter came up before the trial court, the parties partially settled the dispute by consent and the trial Judge issued a decree “nisi” dissolving their marriage.
“Further, court granted an order for the joint custody of the children who were still minors. What remained contentious thereafter 50 was the issue of the respondent’s contribution to the matrimonial home,” he said.
Justice Kibeedi disclosed that after hearing the evidence of both parties, the trial Judge, Hon. Lady Justice Catherine Bamugemereire, (as she then was), held that whereas the contract upon which the matrimonial home stands was in the appellant’s names alone, the house nonetheless belonged to the couple jointly in equal shares.
“She ordered that the house should be sold, or it should be valued, and fifty percent of the value granted to the responded “who worked so hard to acquire it’. The appellant was dissatisfied with the decision of the trial Judge and appealed to this court.”
However, Justice Kibeedi has today November 15th 2022 ruled that after re-evaluating the evidence before the trial court and trying my best to weigh the peculiar circumstances of this case, “while not losing sight of the principles which I have discussed in detail herein above, I would declare that the respondent is entitled to 20% share in the suit property.”
He added, “I would consequently order that the suit property be valued by the Chief Government Valuer within three months of this judgment. The appellant shall within six months of this judgment pay the respondent 20% of the value of the property as established by the Chief Government Valuer, failing which execution shall issue at the cost of the appellant.”
Below are the details of the whole case;
By Sengooba Alirabaki