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Judge makes about-turn after ruling on couple’s bitter divorce

CENTRAL
By Lydiah Nyawira | May 19th 2018
Lincoln Karathi 81 at his home in Tetu, Nyeri County on May 16,2018. Karathi filed for divorce from his wife of 44 years, in 2005 and had to split all his property including their latrine with her 50:50 [Photo: Kibata Kihu/Standard]

A Nyeri octogenarian forced to share a pit latrine on a 50:50 basis with his estranged wife has lauded the High Court decision which disapproved the principle last week.

And in an ironic twist, the same judge who handed the principle a blow last week, Justice John Mativo, ratified it when handling some matters arising from the octogenarian’s divorce.

Lincoln Karathi is at peace with himself having moved on from the divorce with his wife of 44 years, but has lauded the ruling saying it was long overdue.

He recounted how the case unfolded, and how Justice Mativo ruled in favour of the 50/50 principal when the couple went back to court after the first case.

At 71, and having been married since 1961 with 8 children, Mr Karathi filed divorce against his wife Lily Gathoni, 64 at the time, with accusations and counter-accusation of illicit affairs, denial of conjugal rights, cruelty and desertion featuring prominently.

Proceedings

By the time the nasty and bruising divorce proceedings ended up before Nyeri Senior Principal Magistrate JK Ngeno in 2008, it was clear to him that there was no marriage between them worth salvaging.

While the retired nurse pitched for 50:50 sharing of four properties belonging to the family- including the matrimonial home, Karathi a retired banker, objected saying he solely acquired the same. In the end, Justice JK Sergon ruled in favour of Gathoni on two properties but rejected her account on two properties registered in the name of Karathi’s parents.

Consequently on May 6, 2013, the pair recorded a consent agreeing to share half of their matrimonial house, half of the family store, half of the latrine and half of the water tanks.

“We had to divide the toilet, our timber house, water tanks, coffee and tea bushes; everything we owned was to be split into two,” Karathi recalled.

The timber house was valued at Sh470,400, the store Sh21,175, latrine Sh10,000 and the tanks Sh3,500. Karathi was to pay off Gathoni half of each of the three items for her to leave.

“I had to pay the money in installments so that she could get her share, failure to which we would have lived fighting over the property, thankfully I was able to pay up so she could leave the home,” Karathi says.

However complications arose as to the value of tea and coffee bushes in the farm as well as to the issue of a second house in the compound which allegedly belonged to Karathi’s late mother but which Gathoni said they built together.

This is the matter which sucked in Justice Mativo who had to rule between two valuations done on the plantations and on whether the house was a matrimonial property.

In his ruling adopting the plantation valuation supported by Karathi, Justice Mativo also quashed off the house from the list of matrimonial property saying it belonged to their mother.

“The upshot is that the house in question was not part of the matrimonial property hence the same is not subject to division between the parties herein. I up hold the total value for the coffee and Tea bushes as Ksh74,860/= and order that the applicant is entitled to half of the said sum,” he said while restating the 50:50 arrangement.

He also ordered the two parties to pair their respective costs of application “owing to the nature of this case and the period it has been in court.” The details justifying the 50:50 arrangement had however been handled by a different judge, Justice Sergon.

Years later and this week, Karathi is at peace with himself having moved on from the divorce. Remarried with four other kids, he does not regret the divorce but wishes he did it earlier. He has fond memories of Justice Mativo. “He was very understanding and fair and because the law was clear, he had no choice but to ensure he ruled to divide the rest of the property 50:50,” he said.

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