Court Defines The Rights To Property After Divorce.

In Summary
  • Court ruled that the share depends of his or her monetary and non monetary contributions in a home.
  • The case arose from a man after amicably divorcing his wife contested an award of a 50% each share of their matrimonial home.
  • The woman claimed she physically and financially contributed to the buying and construction,  but the man disagreed.  
Justice Elizabeth Musoke
Image: Courtesy Photo

The Court of Appeal has  ruled that being married to someone does not automatically give you a right to his or her property.

A panel of three justices led by  Justices Elizabeth Musoke, Muzamiru Kibeedi and Christopher Gashirabake have ruled that Marriage does not give a spouse an automatic half-share in the matrimonial property,  but instead, his or her shares is dependent on their contribution, either in form of  monetary or non-monetary forms or both.

The judges have also defined the, the  non-monetary contribution, including; 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 among others.

The judges further ruled of the said unpaid care and domestic work could should be determined through taking into account the  monetary value principles like the value or cost of similar or substitute services available on the labour or service market.

The Court further 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 landmark pronouncements that will immensely create a big paradigm shift in how property acquired during marriage is shared, involved the marriage of Mr. Joseph Waigo Ambayo and Ms Jackline Aserua.

Facts leading to the appeal were that the two started cohabiting in 1989 when Mr Ambayo was 24 years, while Ms Aserua was 19 years.

At the time of the judgment, the husband is 57 years while the wife is 52.

When the two started cohabiting under an “early marriage” arrangement of sorts, Ms Aserua had not completed her formal primary level education.

Her husband supported and financed her return to formal schooling and Ms Aserua made very commendable formal academic gains.

Among such gains were completing her primary education at Nakasero Primary School, obtaining a certificate in tailoring, and a diploma in designing and dress making.

She also acquired driving skills.

During the cohabitation, the couple had two daughters and two sons.

After cohabiting for 16 years, the couple went on and solemnised their marriage in 2005, at Our Lady of Africa Church.

It was during this time that the land where their matrimonial house stands was purchased and most of the family developments were done.

The plot on which the matrimonial house stands is unregistered/ untitled, but the purchase agreement for the plot was written in the sole name of the husband as the purchaser.”

It is the contribution of each of the party to the property purchases and development which was the subject matter of the Court of Appeal to determine.

But prior in 2007, the couple started developing differences that led to the irretrievable breakdown of their marriage.

This saw the husband, in 2012, commence divorce proceedings against his wife before the High Court, Family Division, seeking dissolution. He cited grounds such as adultery, cruelty and desertion.

But the wife also put in a cross-petition for dissolution of the said marriage on grounds of cruelty, desertion and irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

When the matter came up before the High Court, the parties partially settled the disputes by consent and the trial judge, Catherine Bamugemereire, issued a decree dissolving their marriage.

Further, court granted an order for the joint custody of the children, who were still minors.

But the contentious matter was the issue of the wife’s contribution to the matrimonial home that is located in Mutungo, Nakawa Division, Kampala.

But after hearing evidence from both sides, Justice Bamugemereire ruled:

“Whereas the contract upon which the matrimonial home stands is in the appellant’s names (husband) alone, the house, nonetheless, belonged to the couple jointly in equal shares.”

To that effect, Justice Bamugemereire ordered that the said house be sold or be valued and 50 percent of the value granted to the wife who worked so hard to acquire it.

The husband was dissatisfied with the decision of the High Court and appealed to the Court of Appeal, leading to yesterday’s decision, setting aside the 50 percent order of sharing the matrimonial property and instead substituted it with 20 percent share.

The main task for the Court of Appeal was to determine how the trial judge had determined the wife’s contribution to the matrimonial property before arriving at a conclusion that she deserved a 50 percent share of it.