Does performance of domestic duties and services of a spouse amount to a contribution to matrimonial property? - Justice Centres Uganda
division of matrimonial property

Does performance of domestic duties and services of a spouse amount to a contribution to matrimonial property?

LAND & PROPERTY RIGHTS

Marriage is a contractual union between a man and a woman who decide to live together as husband and wife for the rest of their lives. Marital property is property that is acquired during marriage and that is subject to distribution or division at the time of marital dissolution.

The property to which each spouse should be entitled is that property which the parties chose to call home and which they jointly contribute to.

Contribution with regards to both properties registered in one spouse’s names and joint property is a key factor to be considered to assess whether property falls under matrimonial property. Justice Mwangusya observed that a spouse’s contribution to the acquisition of property may be direct where it is in monetary form or indirect where it is in non-monetary form[1].

Does performance of domestic duties and services of a spouse amount to contribution?

There have always been issues as to whether the performance of domestic duties can amount to substantial contribution to the acquisition of property in a marriage.

The Courts have held that a wife who indirectly contributed towards payment of the household, preparation of food, purchase of children’s clothing and generally enhanced the welfare of the home amounts to substantial indirect contribution to the family income and assets and such entitle her to equal share in the couple’s joint property.[2]

A spouse not having contributed monetarily does not disentitle her/him to the property because contribution does not only have to be monetary but can be in other forms which include domestic work.[3]

Therefore, domestic duties performed by a spouse are sufficient contribution for him or her to acquire an interest in matrimonial property.

What is the procedure/ process for one to obtain a share of the matrimonial property?

A spouse can obtain a share of the property during the dissolution of a marriage through petitioning for divorce.

Divorce is the legal dissolution of a marriage by court. For more information about divorce please follow this link.

Matrimonial property distribution is handled during the divorce proceedings (as well as maintenance and custody). After ascertaining the contribution of a spouse, some courts have followed the English cases[5] in awarding spouses 50% shares in the matrimonial property.[6]

Since putting together the petition for divorce JCU provides free legal representation to individuals with issues involving marriage and divorce where matrimonial property is in dispute.

However, it is also worth noting that the contributing spouse’s share is not restricted to a maximum of 50% share either in the matrimonial home or in other jointly held property.  In some other cases, the courts have awarded a higher percentage share either in the matrimonial home or in some other properties.[7]

This means that a share of a contributing spouse is not fixed at a maximum of 50% but it is on a case-by-case basis where courts are at a discretion to decide whether it is equal to, lower or higher than 50%.

Further readings:

Can one bequeath a matrimonial home in a will where there is a surviving spouse?

Can one sell off or use matrimonial property as security for a loan without the other spouse’s consent or knowledge?

You need some assistance?

JCU generally provides free legal services to the vulnerable communities through the following ways.

  • Legal Awareness. JCU creates legal awareness through community outreaches, online platforms and radio talk shows to sensitize the community about different laws and rights that may include matrimonial property rights.
  • Legal Advice. JCU provides legal advice to walk-in and call-in clients in regards to many issues including marriage and divorce.
  • Mediations. JCU also mediates issues relating to matrimonial property and other issues as a means to settle the matters amicably.
  • Court representation. JCU provides free legal representation to individuals with issues involving marriage and divorce where matrimonial property is in dispute.
  • Referrals. JCU acts as a referral pathway to and from other institutions that provide assistance to individuals facing issues not limited to matrimonial property rights. These among others include Legal Aid Project of Uganda Law Society, FIDA, Uganda Christian Lawyers Fraternity, World Voices Uganda, UGANET, Uganda Human Rights Commission, Children and Family Protection Unit- Uganda Police Force

Sources:

[1] Kagga V Kagga High Court Divorce Cause No. 11 of 2005

[2] Supra (see note 10)

[3] Justice Wilson Musene in Katuramu Robert V Elizabeth Katuramu HCT – 01 – CV – MA NO. 026 OF 2017

[4] Section 4 of the Divorce Act Chapter 249 Laws of Uganda

[5] Chapman v. Chapman, [1969] All E.R. 476

[6] Sempiga v Sempiga Musajjawaza, High Court Divorce Cause No. 007 of 2005 (Unreported),

[7] Julius Rwabinumi V Hope Bahimbisomwe (Civil Appeal No.10 of 2009) Hon. Dr. Esther Kisaakye JSC’S decision at page 12.

[8] JCU Marriage & Divorce folder (can be downloaded)

Further sources:

  1. Constitution of Uganda, 1995 
  2. Land Act, 1998 Cap 227 (as amended) Laws of Uganda
  3. Marriage Act Chapter 251 Laws of Uganda
  4. Divorce Act Chapter 249 Laws of Uganda
  5. Hindu Marriage and Divorce Act Chapter 250 Laws of Uganda
  6. Marriage and Divorce of the Mohammedans Act Chapter 252 Laws of Uganda
  7. Customary Marriage (Registration) Act Chapter 248 Laws of Uganda
  8. The Registration of Titles Act Chapter 230 Laws of Uganda
  9. JCU Marriage & Divorce folder (can be downloaded)
  10. Case Law pls. see citations
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