A woman who took care of her estranged husband’s family and her co-wife’s children for 26 years has secured a share of the man’s inheritance.
The two married in 1981, but 11 years later the union fell apart. The woman, however, continued to take care of her 81-year-old mother-in-law and her step children.
So trusted was the 40-year-old woman, identified in court records as MAA, that the family of her former husband, referred to as AR in the court, left her to manage their property and collect rent. She ensured her co-wife’s children went to school.
Having lived separately with her estranged husband for 26 years, he divorced her last year in a Kadhi’s Court, but she continued taking care of his family.
In his judgement last week, Justice Said Chitembwe recognised her selflessness and ordered that she gets at least 30 per cent of the contested land, which her husband had inherited from his parents.
The judge observed that for the 26 years they had been separated, she was the focal point of her former husband’s family.
“It is true that the plaintiff has been taking care of the family. She also paid school fees for the children of her co-wives. She ensures the defendant’s mother is well taken care of.
“It is my finding that the plaintiff’s (MAA) efforts cannot be ignored. Despite their long period of bad relationship, the plaintiff dutifully took care of the family.
“Even after the divorce, the plaintiff has continued to take care of the defendant’s (AR) mother,” Justice Chitembwe ruled.
“The defendant acquired the land during the subsistence of the marriage. This property was not bought.
“The plaintiff’s position is that she has all along been taking care of the family, including the defendant’s mother. That forms part of her contribution to the family, and that is why she is claiming part of the property,” the judge observed.
MAA and AR were married under Islamic law in 1981. She was then 14-years-old.
Together they got three children, who are now adults, married and living independently.
At the centre of the dispute were two pieces of land inherited from her former parents-in-law. The now former father-in-law built them a house when they married.
Also in dispute was another land that AR’s mother had transferred to AR in 2012, and which had houses for rent.
The oddness of their love now gone sour is that MAA never left their matrimonial home after separation and subsequent divorce.
In the case, MAA testified that she still believed she was his wife despite their divorce.
Court records read that the man would only be seen in their home in Marsabit during elections. He, however, would go to spend time with MAA’s co-wife.
His mother, who has been incapacitated for the last 10 years, relied on MAA to change her diapers, clean and feed her.
The dispute between MAA and AR arose when the latter allegedly called a family meeting to inform everyone that he was going to sell the contested properties.
He asserted that his former wife had no claim in the land, as it was his inheritance from his parents.
“Succession Act does not make a daughter-in-law to be a dependant,” he argued.
AR argued that the title was also in his name, and that she never contributed anything to develop them.
According to AR, their matrimonial home was built by his father, hence MAA never contributed anything. He also argued that his mother gifted him the second property.
26 years’ separation
“I should be left free to manage my property. We separated over 26 years ago and got divorced. During our marriage we did not build any house. All our children with the plaintiff are married,” he testified.
He denied that he wanted to sell the contested land, instead, claiming that he wanted to develop it.