If you or your spouse have any legal connections to Uganda and wish to divorce in the UK your link to Uganda may have an impact on your final financial settlement and arrangements for your children. Our team of international divorce lawyers regularly advises people in this position, who are seeking divorce in England, ensuring that their rights in terms of property division and access to children are protected fully.
Uganda’s family law system has been influenced to a degree by the nation’s British colonial past. But more significantly the rules have been developed in line with local custom. Here we look at the divorce process in Uganda and touch on the key issues you may wish to consider if there is a Ugandan angle to the dissolution of your marriage.
Uganda’s Divorce And Family Legislation
Uganda’s Marriage Act recognises civil, Muslim, church, Hindu and customary marriages. The UN reports that, despite a constitutional guarantee of equality, in practice Ugandan family and divorce law discriminates against women. The Marriage and Divorce Bill has been before the Ugandan parliament for several years without being approved. If passed it would represent a strengthening of the equality principle because it provides for guarantees regarding consent to marriage and the age when a marriage can be entered into. The proposed legislation also envisages a regime of equal property rights on divorce.
Grounds For Divorce In Uganda
A husband may seek a divorce on the grounds of his wife’s adultery. A wife needs to establish adultery and/or desertion for upwards of two years. In the case of a Christian marriage a wife can also seek a divorce of her husband renounces her Christianity.
Any Ugandan resident can apply for a divorce. If one spouse is not African the petition must be lodged in the High Court (as opposed to a lower court for divorces between spouses of African nationality). Following the filing of a petition the Ugandan divorce process echoes that of the UK. The steps are as follows:
- Filing of supporting documentation regarding finances and children,
- A summons is issued to both parties,
- A response to the petition is made by the respondent in the proceedings,
- Court hearing
- Issuing of decree nisi
- Issuing of the decree absolute
Arrangements For Children In Ugandan Divorce
The Divorce Act enables courts to make ‘such order as it sees fit’ regarding
the custody, maintenance and education of minor children. In practice couples rely heavily on mediation to agree matters regarding children, enabling them to avoid the costs and uncertainty of court proceedings.
How Is Property Divided In Uganda?
Uganda’s Constitution and Land Act gives men and women equal rights to own land and property. Marriage in Uganda doesn’t remove this right.
On divorce, courts can make various orders in relation to property, including that the wife retains the matrimonial home and property division orders where property is sold and the proceeds divided between the spouses. In reaching any decision courts have regard to:
- Ensuring fair treatment of all parties
- Guaranteeing a just outcome for both sides irrespective of social or economic status
- Promoting reconciliation in the case of customary marriages
In practise when it comes to division of property on divorce it’s not unusual for women to forfeit property – even solely owned property. This is because of the ways certain customs and traditions in Uganda dictate that women cannot own property or can do so only to a limited extent. Where the marriage is a customary one, property rights are determined according to the customs of a specific tribe or community.
Advice On Ugandan Family Law
If you or your spouse have a connection to Uganda and are seeking divorce in England, it’s essential to get advice from an experienced international lawyer. Any Ugandan resident can initiate divorce there. If you wish the English courts to decide the details of your divorce settlement it may be necessary to start proceedings in the UK as a matter of urgency before your spouse starts a Ugandan divorce.
At Brookman we represent a broad range of international clients. Even if we have not dealt directly with Ugandan cases our international experience enables us to provide robust legal guidance on any international aspects of your divorce when you need it.
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