Divorce judgement sends shockwaves

  • A High Court judge has taken a controversial stance by denying a husband the opportunity to divorce his wife. Photo/Courtesy of Getty Image

What you need to know:

  • Justice John Eudes Keitirima of the Family Division Makindye says “cruelty or desertion must be coupled with adultery” for divorce to be granted. 

A High Court judge has taken a controversial stance by denying a husband the opportunity to divorce his wife in a decision that has sparked intense debate and raised questions about the intricacies of divorce law.

The ruling, which has ignited discussions both within legal circles and society at large, revolves around the judge’s assertion that the husband failed to substantiate claims of adultery. 

Notably, even if the husband had successfully proven allegations of cruelty and desertion, the judge deemed these grounds insufficient to warrant the dissolution of the marriage.

In a nine-page decision, Justice John Eudes Keitirima of the Family Division Makindye said “cruelty or desertion must be coupled with adultery” for divorce to be granted. 

“Even if in his evidence the petitioner (husband) could have proved cruelty and desertion on the part of the respondent, those grounds alone are not sufficient to dissolve a marriage,” the judge ruled, adding that the husband had not proved adultery on the part of his wife.

The case
In his pleadings before the court, Mr Zedekia Karokora said he married Kellen Karokora on May 7, 1975, in a church ceremony at Kihanga Church of Uganda. He told the court that since the solemnisation of their marriage, Ms Karokora has been cruel to him.

For example, he revealed that Ms Karokora has denied him conjugal rights since 1999. He further revealed that since 2000 she has not talked, responded, or chatted with him.

Ms Karokora was also accused of “abus[ing] and humiliat[ing]” her husband in the presence of their children and guests. Mr Karokora also claimed that his wife has turned their children against him, especially their son, and they are violent and do not greet or respect him at all.

Other examples of cruelty included the wife not being thankful for anything he has done for her, as well as the wife preparing food for him in the home, prompting the husband to prepare his own food. 

He told the court that Ms Karakora defames, demeans, exploits, and manipulates him for selfish ends in their marriage.

He also claimed that the wife believes in witchcraft and blackmailing of his relatives, calling them witches who should not associate with their children, hence severing family ties. 

He further stated that he does not receive any care from the respondent or their children when sick, and that relatives are prohibited from accessing him. 

Mr Karakora told the court that the behaviour of his wife had caused him mental anguish, depression, and nervousness.

The properties
Five matrimonial properties were listed, which on top of dissolving the marriage, the husband wanted the court to distribute. 

The properties include Plot 3, Hill View Drive, Kampala, measuring 0.093 hectares, a condominium on Luthuli Rise, Bugolobi Kampala, 91 acres of farmland at Kyamuhanga, with a homestead, tea plantation, a banana plantation, a poultry farm, goats, and piggery rearing. 

Other properties include: Shs1.59 billion from proceeds of the sale of shares in City Parents School, Kera Community Counselling Services, and Z&K business associates Ltd.

In her response, Ms Karokora said she got married to her husband in 1977 and not 1975. She denied all the allegations made by the husband, insisting that she has at all times treated him with “kindness, care, love.” 

Ms Karokora told the court that the shares sold in City Parents School belonged solely to her, and that her husband does not have any interest in the proceeds of that sale. 

She also told the court that her husband has no interest in Kera Community Counselling Services, which she says is a professional entity managed and run by her based on her training and capability. 

She told the court that Mr Karakora is not entitled to any of the reliefs sought and asked the court to dismiss the petition with costs.

The judge explained that Mr Karakora had to prove adultery on the part of his wife together with the grounds he raised in the petition. He explained that the grounds of cruelty and desertion cannot stand alone or even if they are coupled as grounds for divorce.

“Therefore, the petitioner has failed to prove the grounds for divorce and the petition will be dismissed. I will not resolve the issue of sharing property since it was hinged on proving the grounds for divorce, which the petitioner has failed to prove,” Judge Keitirima ruled. He also declined to award costs as a mechanism to promote the reconciliation of the couple.

Grounds for divorce
A husband or wife may apply by petition to the court for the dissolution of the marriage on the ground that since the solemnisation of the marriage, his wife or her husband;

(a) has been guilty of adultery

(b) has changed his or her religion

(c) has been guilty of bigamy

(d) has been guilty of rape, sodomy, or bestiality

(e) has been guilty of cruelty or

(f) has been guilty of desertion.

Source: Amended Section 4 of the Divorce Act