KAMPALA – Court has Friday 31 formally allowed Democratic Party president Norbert Mao to divorce with his wife, Naomi Acheng Odongo in there 16 years marriage.
In her lawsuit before the High Court Family Division in 2017, Ms. Odongo filed for divorce citing acts of cruelty from her husband which she said had forced their marriage to break down.
Ms. Odongo had asked the court to grant her sole custody of their two children as Mao be given access, their maintenance, ownership of a motor vehicle and properties at plot 58 valley drive ministers village Ntinda and that located at Senior quarters in Gulu.
In his response, Mr. Moa contested the allegations of cruelty and instead cross-petitioned for divorce on grounds that his wife had deserted their matrimonial home for eight years now hence leading to irretrievable breakdown of their marriage leaving behind their two sons aged 19 and 14 years.
Citing the case of Veronica Habyarimana Vs Habyarimana (1980) HCB 139, Justice Godfrey Namundi noted that the court held; “There is no definition of cruelty in the Divorce Act but case law has established that no conduct can amount to cruelty unless it has the effect of producing actual or apprehended injury to the petitioner’s physical and mental health. There must be a danger to life, limb or health, bodily or mental or reasonable for it for to constitute cruelty”.
Justice Namundi noted that in this case, there was no evidence adduced to support the allegations of the petitioner (Odongo) that the respondent (Mao) was cruel towards her, however, the courts are required to look at the facts in totality to determine whether a marriage has irretrievably broken down.
“Looking at the facts of this case in totality and the evidence of the petitioner, it is evident that the marriage between the petitioner and respondent has irretrievably broken down. It’s accordingly a foregone conclusion that both parties want a divorce and their marriage cannot be redeemed,” the judge asserted.
The judge noted that this court has been left with only two issues for determination which include; how the property will be distributed between the parties and who should be granted custody of the minor to the marriage Nathanal Hale Rwotbar.
Court also observed that the respondent accepted to relinquish all his interests in his property located at the senior quarter, Gulu Municipality known as plot 14 Kitigum Road measuring about 1 acre and motor vehicle registration number UAH 437Z which he bought for the petitioner.
“It is the decision of this court that property relinquished by the respondent to the petitioner shall constitute her share of the properties acquired by the parties during the subsistence of their marriage,” Justice Namundi ruled.
Court has also observed that property in plot 58 Valley Drive Ntinda Minister Village is indeed a matrimonial property and thus the respondent is entitled to share but the facts before this court indicate that the respondent and the children are residing in this property with the respondent providing for the children’s school fees and general welfare.
Justice Namundi noted that according to Section 3 of the Children Act Cap 59, the welfare principle and the children’s rights set out in the 1st schedule shall be guiding principles in making any decision concerning children. In the case of IN Re M (an infant) Supreme Court Civil Appeal 22/1994, the court stated that the welfare of the child should be looked up in the widest possible sense.
“It is in the best interest of the child Nathan, the respondent is to continue occupying the house comprised in plot 58 Valley Drive located at Ministers Village Ntinda with the children for a period of 3years,” the judge ruled.
The judge also ruled that the petitioner and respondent shall transfer their interests in this property comprised in plot 58 Valley Drive located at Ministers Village Ntinda to the children of the marriage namely Nicholas and Nathan who will jointly own it.
As to the issue of the custody of the minor Nathan, Court observed that the parties agreed to have joint custody of the minor with respondent having primary custody and the petitioner having reasonable access.
“For the interest of the child, I find this arrangement proper since the respondent has been having custody of the minor and it would not be proper to alter the environment the minor is used to,” the judge ruled.