Marriage in the English dictionary is defined as the legally or formally recognized union of two people as partners. It is also called matrimony or wedlock and this union establishes rights and obligations between the two people who are married and just like every other contract entered into by parties, it is guided by certain laws. The aim of this article is to give you an overview of the marriage laws in Nigeria.
TYPES OF MARRIAGES IN NIGERIA
Broadly speaking there are two types of marriages in Nigeria, which are Marriage under the Act, which is known as Statutory Marriage and there is also the Traditional/Customary marriage. Traditional/Customary marriage is a wedding ceremony that has been conducted in accordance with the customs of the bride and groom’s families. Customary laws regulate it but the Marriage Act, the Matrimonial Causes Act, and the Matrimonial Causes Rules regulate statutory marriages.
At this point, it is necessary to point out that a statutory marriage is different from a church marriage. The fact that a marriage ceremony is celebrated in a church does not necessarily mean that is was contracted under the Act. For a church marriage to be recognized as statutory, it must comply with the requirements of the Act. The courts have held that in order to make such marriages statutory, the parties must consciously take steps and adopt the procedure in the Marriage Act.
CELEBRATION OF MARRIAGE
It is worthy of note that there are laws that guide the celebration of marriages in Nigeria, the Marriage Act (MA) provides that the following must take place for it to be recognized as a valid marriage:
A marriage certificate is issued to the parties after a marriage has been contracted. The final step is the signing of the marriage certificate. This must be done by the couple and be witnessed by 2 people and the officiant (the person conducting the marriage ceremony). The duplicate must be sent to the Registrar of Marriages within seven (7) days after the celebration of marriage. The registrar of marriage upon receiving such certificate files it. Once all the steps are followed, it is a valid marriage under the Act.
The Marriage Act also stipulates that the marriageable age of any person is 21 as it provides that where either of the party to be married is less than twenty-one years of age, then consent must be given by the father or mother or guardian of such person.
Under the Marriage Act, there are some acts that are considered as offenses and if committed, it would lead to grave consequences. These offenses include but are not limited to:
The Marriage Act also recognizes foreign marriages that are contracted outside of Nigeria. It provides that a marriage between parties one of whom is a citizen of Nigeria, if it is contracted in a country outside Nigeria before a marriage officer in his office shall be as valid in law as if it had been contracted in Nigeria before a registrar in the registrar’s office.
In conclusion, an intending couple must always endeavors to take the right steps when it comes to contracting a marriage so as not to fall into the trap of entering into a void or voidable marriage. For a marriage to be valid under the Nigerian law, it must be conducted in accordance with the due process of law.
By Family Law Department at Resolution Law Firm