THE Domestic Relations Bill was made to challenge unfair laws on marriage and sexual relationships. After a lot of resistance from the Muslim community, it was split into two:
The bill is set to be tabled before Parliament for the second reading this month. Later it will be debated, and if necessary amended and made into law. The public is, therefore, invited to take interest and contribute to the debate.
MADINAH TEBAJJUKIRA explains what the Marriage and Divorce Bill says about property rights.
Matrimonial property shall be owned in common by the spouses
The Bill defines matrimonial property as the matrimonial home and household property in the matrimonial home.
It also includes any other property, immovable or movable, acquired before or during marriage and property which was separate, but which a spouse made a contribution towards, except where the property relates to the sale of family land and seed money provided by a spouse for the establishment of a business.
The couple needs to agree
The Bill states that two persons intending to marry or cohabit or those already cohabiting or married may make an oral or written agreement in respect to the ownership of separate property of each spouse or property acquired during the marriage or while cohabiting.
The agreement should include the settlement of any differences that may arise regarding property, defining the property to which each spouse is entitled to on separation, dissolution of marriage, or termination of cohabitation.
If the agreement is oral, a witness is needed to defend it in court if necessary. Written agreements must be signed by both parties and witnessed by two persons chosen by the parties.
Court can dissolve the agreement
Court has the jurisdiction to make an enquiry into a property agreement, made during the cohabitation or marriage or on the termination of cohabitation, or dissolution of the marriage. And where there are reasonable grounds, court may set aside the agreement. This will be after any of the interested persons applies for an inquiry, alleges undue influence, fraud, misrepresentation, illegality or lack of interest among others.
A married person can acquire his or her own personal property
Either spouse can acquire his or her own separate property during the marriage. This shall not be considered matrimonial property, unless the spouse proves that he or she made a contribution to the acquisition or maintenance of the separate property. The Bill defines separate property as one which was independently acquired, acquired before marriage or by inheritance or as a gift from another person other than the spouse even after the. date of marriage.
Access to property must be equal
There must be equal access to matrimonial property by both parties in a marriage or cohabitation. The Bill outlaws transactions related to matrimonial property, unless there is written consent of the other spouse.
Who pays for liability?
In circumstances where one of the parties in the marriage acquired a liability relating to property before the marriage, the liability shall remain the responsibility of the spouse who incurred it, except when the property becomes matrimonial property.
What happens in polygamous marriages?
In polygamous marriages, matrimonial property shall be in common, between the husband and each of the wives. However, matrimonial property acquired by the husband and the first wife, shall be owned in common by the husband and first wife, and the subsequent wives shall take interest only in the husbandâ€™s share of the matrimonial property.
NB: Maria Jurua, a legal officer at Law Uganda, explains that the Bill does not recognise cohabitating but only takes care of property acquired during cohabitation. Any person cohabiting can freely marry any other person, Jurua says.
Domestic Relations Bill