Anyone planning to get married for monetary reasons should think twice after the Court of Appeal ruled that “marriage does not give a spouse an automatic half-share in the matrimonial property” upon divorce.
The Court of Appeal presided over by Justices Elizabeth Musoke, Muzamiru Kibeedi and Christopher Gashirabake, on Tuesday made pronouncements with far reaching consequences on the rights of married persons in matrimonial properties when they divorce.
In their judgment in Ambayo Versus Aserua Civil Appeal No. 100 of 2015 the court stated that a spouse’s share in the matrimonial property is dependent on his/her contribution to it.
This contribution can take either monetary or non-monetary forms or both.
The non-monetary contribution usually consists of “unpaid care and domestic work” rendered by a spouse during the marriage like caring for the children, elderly and the sick members of the family, household chores, cultivating food for the family subsistence et cetera.
When the court is determining the value of the “unpaid care and domestic work” rendered during the marriage it should take into account monetary value principles like the value or cost of similar or substitute services available on the labour or service market.
It remains unclear what standards would be used to determine the prevailing market rate for labor.
On Twitter, Samuel Makuye wondered: “So in the case of “unpaid care and domestic work” the woman will be paid at the going monthly rate for housemaids!”
He added: “I know a different ruling might surface in another case in another Ugandan court.”
The judges ruled that where one party has, in the course of the marriage, contributed towards upgrading the other spouse in terms of educating her/him, such contributions should be deducted from the beneficiary spouse’s total claim for “unpaid care and domestic work”.
The controversial court ruling stemmed from a case in 2014 in which High Court Judge Catherine Bamugemereire ruled that Joseph Ambayo Waigo received 50% value of the property jointly-owned in marriage with Jackline Aserua following the couple’s separation.
ChimpReports understands Ambayo appealed the ruling before the Court of Appeal which decided on the matter today.
Ambayo had helped Aserua to acquire formal education up to the Diploma level from an unknown level which was below primary seven level.
The judges observed that the cost of this venture can be evaluated in terms of the school fees and other money spent by Ambayo towards tuition and other scholastic requirements of Aserua.
“This cost is usually easy to quantify. But the cost or value of the education venture can also be evaluated in terms of what the respondent was disabled from contributing towards the family good as she spent (or invested) her time, presence, and resources at school. This is what economists term as being the ‘opportunity cost’ of the education venture,’” the court ruled.
The judges decided that Aserua was not entitled to 50% of the value of matrimonial property as Bamugemereire had decided but a paltry 20%.
The second highest court in the land further instructed the Chief Government Valuer to determine the value of the property the couple co-owned before their separation within three months from the judgment for Ambayo to pay its 20% value to Aserua.
Writing on Twitter, Alimas Okello found faults with the ruling, which deeply redefines matrimonial property rights of spouses.
“These court pronouncements will only destabilize marriages from the onset because each spouse will be working hard to have their own property and not build each other as family.”