PROPERTY DISPUTE AFTER DIVORCE IN CAMEROON
Sharing of property after divorce in Cameroon or property dispute after divorce in Cameroon also regarded as settlement of property disputes is the transfer of property of a party that may be jointly owned by the other spouse. This usually comes as an ancillary relief granted during divorce proceedings. Settlement of property dispute must be contained in a divorce petition or answer and should not be an afterthought. The power of the court to share the properties for the benefit of either of the spouse is contained in The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.
This legislation obviously empowers the judge who hears the divorce petition, to decide how property dispute after divorce in Cameroon can be settled. This discretion must however be exercised in a way that is ‘just and equitable. Due to the plurality of the Cameroon Legal System, there are different legal principles guiding property dispute after divorce in Cameroon and the settlement of properties under statutory provision (marriage under the Act).
SETTLEMENT OF PROPERTY DISPUTES UNDER STATUTORY MARRIAGE IN CAMEROON
However, under statutory marriage, either of the parties can apply to the court alongside the divorce petition for the settlement of property disputes. The legal framework for the settlement of property is contained in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 as mentioned earlier. The property to be settled must belong to either of the parties to the marriage. The court cannot share a property that does not belong to either of the parties. The property can either be real or personal property.
Under the statutory marriage, one of the ways in which the court assesses justice and fairness is when the party asking for the property to be settled on him/her, shows or establishes that he/she has contributed in concrete terms to the acquisition of the property.
Whenever a spouse says he/she contributed to the acquisition of a property or construction of a building, this must be proved before the court can grant the order for the property to be shared. In ONABOLU v. ONABOLU, the wife/petitioner claimed among others, against her husband that their joint matrimonial property be shared equally between them or sold and the proceeds of sale shared equally.
The court has carefully examined all the pieces of evidence given by the wife/petitioner and the husband/respondent on the issue of joint ownership of the property and found that the evidence of the husband/respondent positively established that he bought the land over which the property was built. The Court of Appeal held to this effect:
“It is settled law that a person who claims to be the joint owner of a property must be able to quantify his contribution. He must give detailed particulars and support them where necessary with receipts of what he bought towards the building of the property….”
FACTORS THE COURT MAY CONSIDER BEFORE SETTLING FAMILY PROPERTY
The court in determining the extent of the property to be settled would consider the circumstances of the case including the fortune of the parties and their responsibility.
In sharing of property, the court is usually guided by what is just and equitable. As such the court has a wide discretionary power to share properties as just and equitable. In exercising this discretionary power, Lord Denning in COOPER v. COOPER held that the court should act judiciously.
SHARING OF PROPERTY AFTER DIVORCE IN CAMEROON (CHILDREN)
The children produced by a marriage are also members of the family. The family property may be settled in favor of children in some circumstances.
The court will consider sharing of property for the benefit of any child below 18 years of age except in special circumstances where it is justifiable to settle the property for his or her interest even at the age above 18 years.
In conclusion, the application of the law on sharing of property as contained in the Matrimonial Causes Act is only applicable to marriages under the Marriage Act and not the marriages under the Customary Law. The presiding judge has a wider discretion to share the properties of the couple upon dissolution of marriage in a manner that is just and equitable. Therefore, the court must exercise its discretion judiciously when called upon to share the properties during a divorce proceeding.
Article by Barr. Mafany victor Ngando
“The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstance”