Three Justices of the Court of Appeal have vetoed a dangerous precedent whose undesirable effect has been to turn marriage into a market place for gold diggers.
Lady Justice Catherine Bamugemereire had issued the judgment which had made it automatic for each one of the married couple to be unquestionably entitled to fifty percent of the total value of the matrimonial property upon termination of the contract.
No matter the fact that one of the spouses had left the relationship after being educated by the other, Lady Justice Bamugemereire had disregarded such life-long skills which the couple had added onto the other and directed that the couple be entitled to the full fifty percent share of the matrimonial estate.
Yet Bamugemereire was much like adding insult to injury since the couple who was supposed to share equally with the other one had purchased the plot of land and also used personal resources to put up the matrimonial home and to furnish it with most of the required amenities.
Justices Elizabeth Musoke, Christopher Gashibarake Muzamiru Kibeedi ruled that contribution to the marriage estate can be both direct and indirect as long as it helps to put up the matrimonial property.
As such, the judges ruled, both monetary and non-monetary contribution by either of the parties to the marriage such as the growing of food, caring for children, caring for old people and such other chores as done during the subsistence of the marriage institution, must be taken into consideration when sharing out the matrimonial properties by the couples.
But in case, one of the couples had helped the other to upgrade, say by taking the spouse to school, the money spent which is quantifiable must be deducted off the share of that one who had been assisted to upgrade during the sharing of the matrimonial property.
The judgement stems from an appeal process filed by Joseph Ambayo Waigo against a 2014 judgement issued by Lady Justice Catherine Bamugemereire granting Jackline Aserua an automatic fifty percent share into the matrimonial estate.
The Justices ruled on appeal have that the fact that Ambayo had used his own money to assist Aserua to complete primary education at Buganda road, to acquire a certificate in tailoring plus a diploma in fashion and design, ought to have been taken into consideration by Lady Justice Bamugemereire while computing the share due to Aserua other than granting her the fifty percent full share of the matrimonial estate.
Consequently, the justices upon looking at that facts, ended up cutting the share available for Aserua to twenty percent of the monetary value of the matrimonial estate.
The Justices tasked the government valuer to value the monetary value of the matrimonial estate within three months in order to establish its monetary value from which the twenty percent due to Aserua should be deducted and the seventy percent remain with Ambayo.
Much as the winner of the judgement is a man, it shouldn’t leave the men in marriage chest-thumping. This judgement is an early Christmas gift for both the man and woman in the worthwhile marriage institution.
It nails home the maxim of equity in the sense that both couples in marriage regardless of whether one is male or female is entitled to an equal share of the matrimonial estate.
Just that such a share, as per this judgement, will no longer come automatically but must be strived for by either of the spouses by each one of the two making either an indirect or direct contribution to put in place the matrimonial estate.
The sticky issue of quantifying house work
The judgment has stirred debate in Uganda’s society particularly on the issue of valuing domestic work that is predominantly the job of women in the home.
Whereas the justices acknowledged the fact that non-monetary contribution of either party in a home, such as cooking, taking care of the home and raising children as well as cultivating food in some instances is very important, many people have been left asking; how will the courts attach value to some of this work that appears largely invaluable.
The justices left the matter of determining the value of domestic work to the discretion of each judge. Some legal experts argue that although the consideration of domestic work is not entirely new, acknowledgement of support towards up skilling of one of the partners, is a novel issue.
Whether or not this matter goes to the Supreme Court, remains to be seen. The ruling is however likely to impact the long-proposed Marriage and Divorce Bill that remains on the President’s desk. President Yoweri Museveni refused to assent to it last year.