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How non-monetary contribution in marriage counts

Betty Muindi @Betty Muindi

It has been three weeks since the High Court dismissed a case by Federation of Women Lawyers (Fida) seeking to have spouses share matrimonial property on a 50/50 basis in the event of a divorce.

The story feels kinda stale, but one thing that stood out and is still a matter of contention, is the part where the law says non-monetary contribution will also be considered during division of property in the event of divorce.

However, as usual, women continue taking to social media sites to rant about how the law acted in favour of men and disregarded women, albeit from a hilarious point of view. In the women only Facebook page, Kilimani Mums, one woman after another justified their non-monetary contribution to their matrimonial property with a twist of humour.

Evelyne Wanyix pointed out that in the event of a divorce, she will justify her contribution by the number of mpango wa kandos she has had to fight off throughout her 11 years of marriage, as a way of protecting her family as well as their matrimonial property.

“God knows how many times I have physically fought off women who threatened to come between my husband and I. I think, now onwards I will start keeping all the texts, phone conversations in the cloud somewhere, in preparation for that day, my story will be more dramatic than those you see in oga movies…” read part of her post.

Another, Magdaline Zuri described how she will take photos of every chore she does in her home including house cleaning, doing the laundry, walking with children to the bus stop, gardening, among others, and keep them as evidence to be used in the court of law.

“I did not know the myriad selfies I have been taking while alone with my children when I take them out on weekends, to the hospital and to church are so valuable.

I will complain no more, let him watch from the fence as I slowly bag away our matrimonial property, in the event of dissolution of our marriage, God forbid,” she laughed.

But while the women laughed at the countless jokes all day long, obviously brushing them as mere talk that can’t hurt a fly, they were wrong. Legal experts say the little things that couples do to help prosper their matrimonial homes will be key in determining their share of their matrimonial property.

Family lawyer, Janet Okusa says it is on that day, in the dock that individuals will realise the gravity of this law, “You will realise that those details you have been brushing off as unimportant contributions to be what saves the day for you,” she says.

She gives an example of a couple, Chris and Pauline who jointly purchase an apartment, say in Nyayo estate. At the weekend, Chris spends much of his time, repairing broken taps, fixing drainages, painting the house, among other works in the house, the law will recognise the value that has been added to the asset pools through these non-financial contributions when the relationship has ceased.

“They will take into consideration, how much it would cost to pay someone else to do the same work,” she explains.

How to compute non-monetary contributions, is a question that the courts will have to grapple with. For example, for a stay at home mother, housework pay over the period could be equated to what a house girl would be paid if they had hired one. Her contribution are the domestic duties, these includes things such as cleaning, ironing, meal preparation and so on.

Teresa Omondi-Adeitan, executive director Fida, says that women maybe forced to start keeping receipts of every purchase, money transfer transactions and others to be later produced in court as evidence of their non-monetary contribution.

Fida had filed the petition seeking to declare the provision a nullity and the establishment of the principle of equal sharing of matrimonial property upon dissolution of a marriage regardless of what an individual contributed.

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