There are three(3) types of marriage that are recognized under Nigerian Family Law which are; customary marriage, Islamic marriage, and statutory marriage. Under the customary marriage and Islamic marriage, some regulations are stipulated according to the provision of their beliefs, and as such are either entitled to or not to the family property in a case of divorce. While in a statutory marriage, in the event of a divorce, the wife has rights to the property.

What is a Statutory Marriage?

A statutory marriage is a marriage that is recognized under the Act which is monogamous which means between one man and woman and neither of the party is allowed to marry another in the subsistence of the marriage until and unless they both divorce or the in the instance of death of one of the party. The Act that regulates this marriage is the Marriage Act of 1990.

The right of a legal wife to inherit from the property after a divorce is supported by several laws and judicial precedents. One of such regulations is the 1999 constitution of Nigeria(As Amended) which clearly is against any form of discrimination against women and also the matrimonial causes Act which authorizes that the settlement of property during divorce should be in favor of women in certain deserving circumstances. Section 42 of the 1999 constitution provides explicitly that no one should be discriminated against while sections 25 and 72 of the matrimonial causes Act adumbrate this.

Generally, the court is required to embrace a just and equitable method in determining the rights of a legal wife to family properties in a divorce proceeding. This approach does not require that there was the financial contribution of the wife to the purchase of the property.

In determining an equitable distribution in the settlement of family properties in a divorce case by the court, it has been vested with the power to exercise its discretionary powers vested upon it by the law depending on the facts of the case before it as well as consider the following provided below;

  1. The behavior of the parties to the divorce proceeding.
  2. The property if it was acquired during the subsistence of the marriage or the conclusion of payment for the property was done in the marriage.
  3. The income and property of each party at the time of the marriage.
  4. A determination of whether the property was acquired jointly.
  5. The age and position of the children.
  6. The contribution of both parties to the family property.


The court in some cases depending on the circumstances of the case may order a lump sum of money to be paid to the wife instead of a settlement of the property. This was decided in the case of SODIPE V SODIPE

 where the ruling court had no evidence of a direct financial direction to rely on, the court in this instance values the matrimonial property to be worth ten million naira (#10,00000), and the payment of two hundred thousand (#200,0000) to be paid to the wife who had spent 43years in the marriage.


From this post we can understand that the Nigerian Law is interested in a fair and equitable distribution of family properties between the divorcing parties. There is no hard and fast rule as to how the court will end up distributing but it has the mandate to draw from the facts of the case and marry them with the law to reach a judicial and judicious conclusion on distributing the family properties. We will also be willing to give you more insight on this topic if you want more clarification.

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