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of spousal property: The only way to enjoy property rights in a
Resources Foundation (LRF)
August 30, 2011
in Zimbabwe protects the registered title-holder but does not protect
the spouse whose name does not appear on the ownership papers. Judging
from the cases which the Legal Resources Foundation [an organization
which provides legal assistance to the disadvantaged members of
the society] deals with, it is clear that unregistered titleholders
in marriages, especially women, run a high risk of losing out on
properties which they would have worked hard to obtain.
It is unfortunate
that many women are not aware that the person whose name appears
on the title deeds is the only one who has a say over that property,
even though they are in a registered marriage. The contract of marriage
by its nature creates rights and obligations between the spouses
to that marriage. One of the fundamental rights that flow from the
marriage contract is the right to shelter and use of the matrimonial
The fact that
the law prefers individual property rights to matrimonial rights
disadvantages the unregistered title holder, who is left without
legal protection in the event of the registered holder disposing
of the matrimonial assets without the other spouse's consent.
It is interesting
to note that at the time of dissolution of the marriage the law
comes in with the Matrimonial Causes Act [a law that contains guidelines
to be followed by the courts when they dissolve marriages, grant
custody and access to parties as well as share property between
the parties to the divorce] to protect the interests of both spouses.
Under this law
the court can stop a sale of matrimonial property which is carried
out in anticipation of divorce. This is done to protect the unregistered
title-holder. The fact that the spouse whose name is not on the
title deed has not made any financial contribution to acquire the
property in question is not considered.
If the law
can protect spouses in this manner pending divorce there is more
reason for it to do the same during the subsistence of the marriage.
As part of its efforts to address this injustice, the organization
is working on a document to persuade Parliament
to pass a law which makes it compulsory for matrimonial property
to be co-registered.
Visit the LRF
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