How To Do Court Marriage in Nigeria: Court Marriage otherwise known as Legal Marriage, is the Legal authorization of a Marriage between two people who have come together to live together as Husband and Wife. A Court Marriage can further be defined as the Marriage conducted in the Court Registry.
A Court Marriage is a common form of Marriage in Nigeria, and it is governed by the Marriage Act 1914, which is the Law regulating the procedure of conducting a Marriage in Nigeria. A Court Marriage is desirous by all because once the requirements and procedures of a Court Marriage are met, such a person can be said to be legally married without neither any encumbrance nor issue which may arise in the future about the Validity of such Marriage.
Hence, if you want to Contract a valid Marriage in Nigeria, Court Marriage is preferably, and it may be initiated through you complying with the varying procedures of Contracting a Court Marriage in Nigeria.
Procedures of Contracting A Court Marriage in Nigeria
The following are the step by step procedure to be Legally married in Nigeria:
1. Notice of Marriage: Firstly, Parties who intend to get Married as Husband and Wife shall give a Notice of the intended Marriage to a Registry of their choice.
A Registry is a Government agency which administers all Marriages to be conducted in Nigeria, Solemnizes all Marriages, and keeps record of Marriages that have been Contracted in Nigeria.
In Nigeria, there are two kinds of Marriage Registries: The Federal Marriage Registry which is only located at Abuja and Lagos State, and the Local Government Marriage Registry which is located at each Local Council in States in Nigeria. This Registry is under the control of the Principal Registrar of Marriage or the Deputy Registrar when acting as a Registrar.
Thus, if you intend to get Married in Nigeria, you may go to any Registry of your choice, and cause a form of notice of your intended Marriage to be issued to you by the Registrar of the Registry which your Marriage is intended to take place.
Here is a Sample of the form of notice of Marriage:
When you obtain this form from the Registrar, you are to appropriately fill the form, annex your signature on the form, and submit the form to the Registrar alongside two coloured passport Photographs.
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b. Notice to be entered in the Marriage Book: As provided under Section 8 of the Marriage Act, upon the receipt of your notice of Marriage, the Registrar shall cause your Notice of Marriage to be entered into the Marriage Notice book, and the Registrar shall cause this Notice of Marriage to be published by causing the copy of the Notice to be affixed on the outer door of the Office of the Registrar, and exposed there until the period of three months elapses or until the Registrar grants his certificate.
3. Certificate of the Registrar: Once your Notice of Marriage expires, you are to pay the prescribed fee as imposed by the Registry of Marriage. Upon the payment of the prescribed fee, you are to submit an affidavit satisfying that:
a. You are a Resident within the district which the Marriage is intended to be celebrated.
b. Each of the parties are of age and the necessary consent has been obtained.
c. There is no impediment of affinity, kindred, or other lawful hindrance to the Marriage.
d. Neither of the parties to the intended Marriage is Married by Customary Law to any person other than the person with whom such Marriage is proposed to be contracted.
These conditions must be contained in and Satisfied by an Affidavit sworn before either the Registrar, an Administrative officer or a recognized minister of Religion. In the course of swearing this Affidavit, the penalties involve for lying on oath or violating any of the rules shall be explained to you.
Upon your fulfilment of this requirement, the Registrar shall sign and issue a Certificate to you.
Here is a Sample of the Certificate of a Registrar:
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4. License of the Minister: Once the aforementioned three steps have been duly complied with, the Minister upon proof being made to him that there is no Lawful impediment to your proposed Marriage, and that the necessary consent to the Marriage has been obtained, shall dispense with the giving of Notice and issuance of Certificate of the Registrar, and Grant his License known as Form D.
This License of the Minister authorizes the Celebration of a Marriage between the parties named in the license. Thus, once you get the Minister’s License, you will be authorized to celebrate your Marriage in Nigeria.
Here is a Sample of a Minister’s License:
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5. Caveat: Caveat is a Warning enjoining one from committing an Act. In this context, Caveat means the opposition of an intended Marriage. This occurs by any person who has or knows of any Just cause on why he or she thinks the intended Marriage should not go on, entering a Caveat against the issuance of the Registrar’s certificate, as provided under Section 14 of the Marriage Act 1914.
Whenever a Caveat is entered against the issuance of a Certificate, the Registrar shall refer the matter to a Judge of the State High Court, and the Judge shall thereupon summon the parties to the intended Marriage and the person who entered the Caveat, to appear before in Court. The Judge shall require the person who entered the Caveat to show a just cause on why the Registrar should not issue his Certificate.
Where no just cause is shown or if the Judge decides that the Certificate ought to be issued, then he shall remove the Caveat by cancelling the word “Forbidden” in the Marriage Notice with the words “Cancelled by order of the High Court”, and signing his name thereon. Upon this, the Registrar shall issue his certificate, and the Marriage may proceed as though the Caveat has not been entered.
6. Legal Authorization: When the Legal authorization is granted by the Registrar, Minister and the High Court in case of when a Caveat is being entered upon, the Parties to the intended Marriage shall choose a wedding date which should be within three months from the date the notice was placed with the Registry.
7. Celebration of the Marriage: As provided under Section 21 of the Marriage Act, the parties to the intended Marriage shall celebrate the Marriage in any licensed place of Worship by any recognized minister of the church according to the rites of Marriage observed by the Church.
In the Course of the Celebration, the Principal Registrar shall cause the Certificate of Marriage to be printed and delivered to the several Registrar’s and to the recognized Minister of licensed place of Worship.
Here is a sample of the Marriage Certificate:
This Certificate shall then be signed in duplicates by the officiating Minister, the parties to the Marriage and two or more witness to the Marriage.
The Minister shall also sign his name to the counterfeit and shall sever the duplicate Certificate therefrom. The Minister shall therefore deliver one certificate to the Parties, and shall within seven days thereafter transmit the other Certificate to the Registrar who shall file same in his office.
8. Registration of the Marriage Certificate: This is the final bus stop of Contracting a Court Marriage in Nigeria. In this process, the Registrar shall cause the Certificate of Marriage to be filed in the Marriage Register book, which contains every Certificate of Marriage, with the entry of the Certificate of Marriage in this Register book made in the order of the date wherein the Marriage was contracted and the Certificate of Marriage signed.
Here is a sample of an entry in a Marriage Register book:
Importance Of A Court Marriage
The following are the importance and benefits of Contracting a Court Marriage:
a. Legal Security: Contracting a Court Marriage in Nigeria gives the parties to the Marriage the requisite Legal security to their Marriage. In a previous Article, I examined the instances wherein after the celebration of a Marriage, the Marriage could be declared Void or Voidable due to the default of the Parties in complying with some requirements of Contracting a Valid Marriage in Nigeria, but this can never be the case in a Court Marriage, as there must be certainty of no impediments which will affect the Marriage, before you are permitted to contract a Court Marriage.
Furthermore, a Court Marriage protects you from committing the offence of Bigamy (which is a criminal offence punishable to a party who marries another woman or man during the subsistence of their Marriage with their Partner). Before you enter into a Court Marriage, there must be a certification to the fact you are not in a subsisting Marriage. This requirement therefore protects Parties to a Court Marriage from committing the offence of Bigamy.
b. Speedy Celebration of Marriage: Another benefit of Contracting a Court Marriage is the fact that it is concluded speedily. The celebration of a Court Marriage is usually short. It may last for just 30 minutes or at most 1 hour, 30 minutes. This is really hasty compared to a Traditional Marriage and other sorts of Marriage in Nigeria which usually takes a lot of time to celebrate.
c. Cost Effective: Contracting a Court Marriage saves cost, as Court Marriage is the cheapest form of Marriage in Nigeria. The registration and payment of the requisite forms for the Marriage does not cost more than 20,000 Naira. Additionally, you don’t need to spend money in organizing the Court Marriage, unlike in other forms of Marriage wherein you have to get a Venue, decorate the venue, get sound system, music band, D.J, and other equipment’s and materials necessary for conducting the Marriage ceremony.
d. Stress free: A Court Marriage is the least stressful form of Marriage in Nigeria. In a Court Marriage you do not need to put in so much energy into planning for your wedding. A Court Marriage also accommodates a limited number of guests, unlike a Traditional Marriage wherein a whole Village; even people who do not know you will even come to celebrate with you on your wedding day. Hence, you need to plan to accommodate a whole lot of people, and that’s stressful.
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e. Flexible Dress Code: Another known advantage of a Court Marriage is it’s flexibility in dress code. This means that in a Court Marriage there is no stipulated dress code. Hence, you can wear whatever you like or pleases you, and this will definitely save you the stress of wearing what you don’t like because it is the dress code or the cost of borrowing, hiring, or buying a new dress just for the purposes of the wedding.
These advantages is the reason why most people in Nigeria Contract a Court Marriage. I will personally advice anyone intending to Marry in Nigeria, to contract a Court Marriage, as beyond these stated in this Article; it’s benefits are bountiful.
I trust this Article has done Justice in expatiating the meaning of a Court Marriage in Nigeria, and the step by step procedure of how you may enter into a Court Marriage in Nigeria? For more informative Articles, stay glued to this blog!
Edeh Samuel Chukwuemeka ACMC, is a Law Student and a Certified Mediator/Conciliator in Nigeria. He is also a Developer with knowledge in HTML, CSS, JS, PHP and React Native. Samuel is bent on changing the legal profession by building Web and Mobile Apps that will make legal research a lot easier.