Monday, September 28, 2009

Want to kick me out of the house? Get a court order

By OLIVER MATHENGE

Husbands will need a court order to kick wives out of the house, and vice versa, if a new Bill becomes law.

And if you have given a gift to your spouse, you can’t take it back if you fall out, unless you made it clear it will be jointly owned.

The Matrimonial Property Bill prepared by the Kenya Law Reform Commission proposes that a man and his wife will own their property 50-50 and it does not matter who contributed more than the other.

Inherited property

“Ownership of matrimonial property shall be deemed to vest in the spouses in equal shares irrespective of the contribution of either of them towards the acquisition thereof, and shall be divided accordingly upon the occurrence of divorce or dissolution of the marriage provided that in appropriate circumstances a determination can be made during the subsistence of the marriage,” the proposed law says.

But property which is inherited or held in trust will not be part of the matrimonial property.

The Bill says matrimonial property are all those things which are acquired during the marriage, and which the spouses have said clearly or implied are matrimonial property.

The Bill allows a couple to have an agreement on who owns what before or during the marriage.

If the one spouse incurred debt before marriage, the other spouse will not be expected to repay it single-handedly.

The Bill also sets out how property in a polygamous marriage should be shared out, potentially putting a stop to the endless court drama in such families.

Equally liable

It protects property acquired before marriage and says any debts incurred by a spouse before marriage relating to property shall, after marriage remain the responsibility of the partner who incurred the debt.

However, if the two partners agree that it is a matrimonial property then they will be equally liable.

Speaking at forum to assess the various Bills relating to marriage earlier this year, Nancy Baraza, the deputy chairperson of the Kenya Law Reform Commission, said that it was time the law favoured both sexes equally.

“This provision has caused protest, but the fact is that we can’t talk of justice and equality between the sexes if the same rules don’t apply to both men and women,” she said, adding that if a woman really loved her husband, she would have no qualms about offering her support unreservedly when he was down.

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