What is marriage?

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GENERALLY, marriage can be explained to be a union of a man and a woman, known in law to mean that they are husband and wife. Marriage is even recognized by our Creator, God, right from creation when, according to the Bible in the book of Genesis, God created the first man and woman. God tagged the woman as man’s helper.

However, God didn’t stop after creating man and woman. He went further to create peace and harmony or orderliness and stability in the marriage by giving them a rule of what to do and prohibiting them on what not to do, which I will say here to be the foundation of the Laws of Marriage today.
Different Types of Marriage Under the Law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

Some may classify the types of marriage in Nigeria to be of two types- Statutory Marriage and Customary Marriage.

The Customary type of marriage may be seen as including Islamic Marriage. However, some classify the types of marriage in Nigeria into three different types, namely: (1) Statutory Marriage (2) Customary Marriage (3) Islamic Marriage.

However, for those of you who have legal questions concerning your marriage that have been causing you sleepless nights, feel free to send me your questions. Also don’t forget to learn from the different cases I will be treating every week. Book an appointment with your vendor every week for The Oracle Today newspaper!

Case 1:
Can I inherit my husband’s property
under Customary Law?

Case 2:
Do I need to do a court marriage after
a catholic wedding?

Dear Marriage & Probate Lawyer,

I and my husband got married under Customary Law in Onitsha, Anambra state. As a wife, am I entitled to inherit any part of his property in future after he dies?

From Ujunwa,

THE issue in this your case is the right of spouses. The general rule according to customary law is that a husband cannot inherit his deceased wife’s share of her family property. Also, a widow is not entitled to share in the property of the deceased husband.

An exception to this is where the widow had occupied an apartment during her lifetime, except where she has taken another husband (other than the brother of the deceased husband), in which case, she loses her right of occupation and may be asked to leave.

Also, you should note that this seemingly unfair practice exists by virtue of intestacy in customary law; whereby the devolution of property follows the blood. Consequently, a wife or widow, not being of the blood, has no claim to any share. An exception to this practice does exist: When a widow chooses to remain in her husband’s house; and in his name, she can do so even if she has no children.

This is to ensure her maintenance. Although she cannot transfer any of her deceased husband’s property outright, if her husband’s family fail to maintain her, then she has a qualified right to let out part of the house to tenants and use the rent to maintain herself.

In one instance, a widow remained with her only daughter in occupation of her late husband’s house at Onitsha. She renovated the house and let part of it to tenants from whom she collected rent, and in all other respects treated the house as her own for 44 years. Upon her death, she devised it by Will. The bequest was ruled void against her husband’s relations on the principle of nemodat quod non habet.

Nemodat quod non habet is a Latin phrase which literally means “no one can give what he does not have.”
Regarding antenuptial property, the general rule is that such property remains property of the wife except it is mixed with the property acquired during overture – that is where the wife is predeceased by the husband and all her children will go to her husband’s relatives.

Dear Marriage & Probate Lawyer,

I wedded in the Catholic Church in October 2016. I want to know if my marriage in the Catholic Church is a legal marriage. Or do I have to go to court and wed a second time? Please reply fast because I’m really bothered about it, since somebody recently told me that my marriage in the Catholic Church might not be legal. Thanks.

From Chioma,

ACatholic marriage is a monogamous one like the court. The only difference is that the Catholic Church insists that its members must be married in accordance with the rites of the Church.

As long as your parish priest or catechist directed you to obtain a license from the marriage registry from the local government secretariat near you and due process was followed before and after your wedding, you have no problem, because it is a legal or Statutory Marriage.

Also, if your priest issued you a Certificate of Marriage in Form E of the First Schedule in accordance with the Marriage Act immediately after your marriage on your wedding day, it means that your marriage is a legal marriage.
Therefore, you need not go to court for a second wedding.

A church marriage certificate is not sufficient until it follows the order of form E as stipulated by the Marriage Act. Therefore a church wedding becomes valid as a legal marriage if the place of worship is a licensed place and if the certificate of marriage issued to you is in the pattern of the Form E. Another question is: Were you given a copy of your certificate of marriage and told to deliver it to the marriage registrar at the marriage registry at the local government office nearest to you which initially gave you the license to wed, and did you deliver it within the stipulated time frame? If you followed due process, then it means that your marriage in the Catholic Church is legal.

The fact is that once you are wedded in any of the Orthodox Churches particularly Catholic or Anglican, you are issued a certificate of marriage which is the same as that issued by the Court registry so you do not need to do another marriage in the Marriage Registry unless you wish to.

The Orthodox churches are licensed places of worship. Your marriage certificate will be that of the Federal Republic of Nigeria pursuant to the Marriage Act, that is, in Form E, not that of the name of a church.

*Do you have problems or questions bothering your mind, or seek clarification on legal issues concerning your marriage, deceased spouse or probate matters? Contact the Marriage & Probate Lawyer via 08162016410 or 08075763840. Email: kenakpom@yahoo.com

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