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Types Of Marriage And Their Legal Implication


There are three types of marriage recognized by law in Nigeria. They are customary marriage, Islamic marriage and Statutory marriage ( in lay man's language called court marriage). Customary and Islamic marriages allow more than one wife as the man may desire. It is only statutory marriage that doesn't allow more than one wife.

Let me point out here that majority of the marriages solemnised in a licensed place of worship by a validly licensed minister fall under statutory marriage.   Examples of such places are Catholic Church, Methodist Church, Anglican Church, Assembly of God, Deeper Life Church, Winners Chapel, Presbyterian Church, Redeemed Christian Church etc. What it means is that if your marriage was solemnised in any of these places, your minister derived his power from Marriage Registrar in charge of marriage in Nigeria to celebrate and solemnise your marriage, having obtained such license and collected marriage certificate from him to issue to you in accordance to law of the land guiding marriage. In such a situation the minister is doing work of the Registrar and his own consecutively. He will issue both statutory Marriage certificate and church marriage certificate to the bridegroom and the bride.

It is an offence for a minister of a place of worship to solemnise marriage without the licence and any marriage so celebrated therein is null and void. If you wed in church without being issued such certificate of marriage ( not church certificate of marriage now) your marriage is customary marriage. 

In Africa the difference between statutory marriage and customary marriage is the former is graduated from the latter. Therefore the former cannot exist without the later but the latter can exist without former. 

The marriage certificate issued to the couple is the presumption in law that all the legal requirements have been complied with.


Customary marriage is contracted in accordance with custom and tradition of the bridegroom. The major legal requirement is consent and bride price payment to the father of bride. Igbankwu is just a ceremony not a rudiment of marriage. The major weakness of customary marriage is that it is easy to dissolve it by either partner at a will. It should be noted also it is customary court that has jurisdiction to dissolve it. It cannot be done in your house by conduct or orally to have the force of law. You don't need many explanations to divorce in customary court. Just indicate your willingness to divorce, that's all. You have it by returning your bride to court if she is a woman. Living apart or separated no matter how long it may be can't have the force of law as a divorce.

In customary marriage if a man dies intestate his property will be shared in accordance with the custom of the man. If customary marriage divorce is not done formally in court your partner still rightfully belongs to you with the attendant rights over your estate.

Statutory marriage is a marriage contracted in accordance with the marriage laws. This marriage takes away the partners away from their customs and tradition and subjects them to written law and the estate of the man will be administered in accordance with Estate and Succession laws. This marriage is very difficult to dissolve except in exceptional circumstances recognized by law. It is jealously protected by law and it is only the high court that has power to dissolve it.

You cannot marry one woman under the statute and another under the custom. If you so, the second wife is at best your concubine because the second marriage is void abi initio. It is an offence and it's called bigamy. 

Islamic marriage shares similarities with customary marriage. It holds sway among Muslims. Muslims don't have other culture except Islamic tradition unlike Christians but like custom practitioners. 

To circumvent some legal hurdles as regards each of the marriages in terms of estate of a deceased partner, make a will and determine how your property should be shared when you are no more. It helps to resolve acrimony that associates with estate inheritance.

NOTE: What I shared here may not concern a poor man who has no asset to inherit by his successors. It is for people who have assets/estate and who won't want some persons that don't sow to reap where they do not sow in their death. It will ensure adequate compensation for the loved ones because the implementation lies more in the property after death than in any other thing. Nevertheless I don't wish my people to experience such disheartening practice 

Content created and supplied by: Godwin84 (via Opera News )

Anglican Church Chapel Deeper Life Church Islamic Methodist Church


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