Divorce in Uganda is undoubtedly a challenging journey, given the strong sense of community inherent in our society and the recognition of marriage as a social contract.

The law in Uganda allows parties who willingly entered into a valid marriage to seek divorce in court in situations where one spouse is found guilty of adultery, changes religion, remarries, commits bigamy, engages in sodomy or bestiality, is cruel to their partner, or deserts them without justification for a period of two years or more.

In this article, we will delve into the two most prevalent grounds for divorce: adultery and cruelty.

With legal representation, a distressed spouse can file a petition in court to terminate their marriage and seek compensation for their spouse’s adultery or cruelty. Additionally, the court will assess whether, upon discovering the adultery or enduring the cruelty, the couple continued living together intimately as a married couple.

In Uganda’s legal framework, unlike the UK, adultery is defined strictly as sexual intercourse, excluding other acts such as kissing or texting someone other than your spouse. Proof of the direct act is not always necessary; it can be established through circumstantial evidence or direct evidence like photographs, videos, medical reports, or evidence of children born outside the marriage.

Cruelty on the other hand, is any conduct that produces physical or mental injury to your partner for a long period of time; complaining, silent treatment, beating, causing disappointment, deep anguish, or frustration, and denial of conjugal rights among others.

The Family Courts have held that to constitute cruelty, the conduct must be so grave and weighty to the extent that the couple cannot live together anymore. Being emotionally upset may not be a valid ground for granting a divorce on the grounds of cruelty. It must be something more serious than the ordinary wear and tear of married life or mere coldness or lack of affection, jealousy, selfishness, or possessiveness. However frequent rudeness of language, petulance of manner, indifference, and neglect may reach such a degree that it makes the married life for the other spouse intolerable.

The court will first grant a decree nisi, followed by a decree absolute after a period of six (6) months. The matrimonial property which is generated during the marriage other than those by external donation is also divided by Court.

Author: Isabella Pedun (isabellapedun@nabasalaw.com)