Introduction To Family Law in Nigeria





  • Introduction
  • What Is “Family Law”?
  • What is a family?
  • The Nature Of Marriages
  • Definition And Kinds Of Marriages In Nigeria
  • Types Of Marriage
  • Monogamous Marriages
  • Customary Law
  • Judicial Precedent
  • References


Introduction of the Family Law in Nigeria


Introduction To Family Law in Nigeria. Family law may be a branch of Private The law includes those legal rules or norms that regulate the legal relationship between spouses (husband and wife), parent and kids, and guardians and wards. Introduction To Family Law in Nigeria.


The conduct of the people in any unionised society should be regulated to make sure stability and social harmony and this is often done through the mechanism of the law that has been coded unto the Matrimonial Causes Act of 2004. We tend to shall predicate our definitions of family law on those perceptions within the Matrimonial Causes Act to offer a transparent understanding of this development.

Who Are The Family And The Relationship With Law In Nigeria?

What is “Family Law”?

The family is the smallest unit within the system of each society. it’s accepted that the family is that the basis of each human community and also the family could also be considered the nucleus of society.

Family law deals with the law control the legal relationship between spouses (i.e. husband and wife) the legal relationship between a guardian or steward and also the one who is subject to guardianship or curatorship.

What is a Family?

The term “family” doesn’t lend itself to simple and precise definition. In one sense the family could also be outlined as well as all persons with common ancestors. Underneath this wide connotation, the family could embrace an oversized body of persons connected by blood to a typical root. The connection could also be derived through males, as in lineal societies or through females in matrimonial societies. The relatives, an idea that is prevailing in Africa can also be enclosed during this wide definition of family.

Green defines the extended family as: “…a group of closely related people, known by a common name and consisting typically of a man and his wives and children, his son’s wives and children and probably other near relations”.

The term “family” could still be given a much more restricted connotation. it should discuss with a smaller cluster consisting of a household the man, his wife, the youngsters and possibly the dependants who live with him. This is often abundant nearer to the idea of family in English law, that is restricted to the person, his spouse and kids.

For the aim of this study, the family are going to be treated as a unit comprising the person, his spouse or wives and also the kids.

What is The Concept of Marriage in Nigeria?

The Nature of Marriages

Marriage may be a universal establishment that is recognised and revered everywhere in the globe. As a social establishment, marriage is supported on and ruled by the social and religious norms of the society.

Consequently, the sanity of marriage may be a well-accepted principle within the world community. Marriage is the root of the family and society.

Definition and Types of Marriages in Nigeria

It is universally accepted that marriage, being a union of man and woman, involves two persons of the opposite sex. Consequently, sex constitutes an associate essential determination of a marriage relationship. To ascertain the existence of a legitimate marriage, it should be tried that the persons concerned square measure man and woman.

Ordinarily, this looks an uncomplicated question; the problem has been difficult by the existence of hermaphrodites and pseudohermaphrodites and advances in medical science that have created modification operations possible. In the English case of Corbett  V Corbett (1947) All ER 187, the petitioner and also the respondents had well-versed a marriage ceremony in September 1963.

The petitioner knew that the respondents had been registered at birth as a male associated had in 1960 undergone an operation for the removal of the testes and created a man-made canal, since the operation, the respondents had lived as a woman.

In December 1963, the petitioner filed a petition for a declaration that the marriage was null and void as a result of the respondent was someone of the male sex or as an alternative for a decree of nonexistence on the bottom of either in capability or willful refusal to consummate. The court held that the respondent had remained the least bit times a biological male which consequently, therefore – referred to as marriage was void.

Types of marriage

Unlike most European countries, two systems of marriages square measure recognised in Nigeria – the monogamous and polygamous systems. These two differ basically in character and incident. it’s necessary to stay this doctrine visible in each thought of the marriage laws in Nigeria.

Monogamous marriage

A monogamous marriage in Nigeria is the same as in England. it’s a marriage that Lord Penzance delineate in Hyde V Hyde (1886) LRIP&D one hundred thirty because of the voluntary union of one man one woman to the exclusion of all others. The laws that govern the celebration and incidents of monogamous marriage  in Nigeria is that the Matrimonial Causes
Act of 1970.

Customary Law

Certain rules of conduct square measure determined as a result of they need become customary within the sense that they’re revered by a considerable cluster of individuals. Customary law doesn’t incorporate written rules. It develops from the views of the community and is carried on from generation to generation. For a custom to become a legal rule, it should change to the subsequent requirements:

(a)            It should be reasonable
(b)            It should have existed for an extended time
(c)             It should be usually recognized and determined by the community
(d)            The contents should make sure and clear
(e)            It should not be offensive to natural justice, equity and sensible conscience

Judicial Precedent

Judicial precedent may be a source of law. Judicial precedent or case law consists of laws found in judicial decisions. Thus based mostly on judicial opinions. These judicial decision square measure reported within the numerous Nigeria law reports. The Constitutional Structure of the Nigerian judicature is shown within the chart below.

For more…





Supreme Court




Court of Appeal


Federal High Courts                                                           State High Courts



Magistrate Courts




Customary Court                                                             Sharia Court





Sagay, I.  (1999). Nigeria Family Law, Cases Principles and Statutes.

Lagos: Malthouse Publishers.


Onokah,  M.  C.  (2003).  Family  Law in  Nigeria.  Enugu:  Spectrum




Nwogugu   (2001).   Family   Law in   Nigeria.   Ibadan:   Heinemann

Educational Books.


Aderibigbe,  Remi  (2004).  Family  Law in  Nigeria.  Lagos:  Codes



Matrimonial Causes Acts and Rules.

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