Saturday, 21 April 2012

Advocacy for the Implementation of Property Rights of Women in Marriage and Divorce

STATUTORY LAW
All single women have a right to hold and deal in property, real or personal. Since 1882, by virtue of the Married Women’s Property Act (a Statute of General Application in England) all impediments against married women have been removed. So that a married woman has the right to acquire deal and hold property, real or
personal as a femme sole. During the continuance of marriage, all self acquired property belongs to party responsible for the financial acquisition of such property. Where both spouses contributed to the financial acquisition of the property in question, then both parties are joint owners in proportion to the contributions made. Where the property is acquired by the spouses during the marriage any agreement entered into in respect of the property would be binding.

At the termination of the marriage, the law provides that a “Settlement of Property Order” may be made to redistribute the matrimonial property as between spouses. The major area where discrimination manifest itself is when it involves joint property or property acquired during the Marriage. Although the laws give a woman beneficial interest in the property of the marriage, in reality however the Courts are usually reluctant to award half of the property to the wife on a break-up of the marriage. The Courts usually insist that the woman proves the facts of actual contribution to the acquisition of the property.

This is discretionary, and the courts are expected to do what is fair and just in the circumstances. A settlement of property order may be made in respect of property owned by a party to the marriage for the benefit of the other spouse and children of the marriage below the age of twenty-one years.

The High Courts seem to now recognise the non-financial contribution of a spouse, especially the wife to the acquisition of economic resources by the family, thus at termination of the marriage, this invisible contribution is sometimes recognised by the payment of a lump sum award. Where a wife claims financial contribution to any property acquired in the husband’s house she must be prepared to prove this in court by tendering evidence, documentary or otherwise. A failure to do this satisfactorily, is damaging to her claims.

The major area where discrimination manifest itself is when it involves joint property or property acquired during the Marriage. Although the laws give a woman beneficial interest in the property of the marriage, in reality however the Courts are usually reluctant to award half of the property to the wife on a break-up of the marriage. The Courts usually insist that the woman proves the facts of actual contribution to the acquisition of the property.

Compare these cases
Case 1
Egunjobi Vs. Egunjobi, the wife gave evidence of actual contribution and exhibited receipts for the construction of a building, the High Court awarded her a third of the property. However on appeal the Western State Court of Appeal held that her contribution made the husband a trustee for the wife and himself consequently, she was awarded half of the property.

Case 2
Adeyemi Vs. Adeyemi decided on 30th May 1988, the Court held that the failure of the wife to show receipts to prove her contribution to the property acquired during her marriage did not entitle her to the property.

Case 3
Sodipo Vs. Sodipo
A twenty-three old marriage was dissolved on the wife’s cross petition of adultery and probability and the fact that the husband has behaved in such a way that she cannot reasonably be expected to live with him. The financial resources of the husband was put at a conservative Ten Million Naira. It includes vast real estate at home and aboard. A lump sum amount of Two Hundred Thousand Naira was awarded to the wife as maintenance. Especially in view of the fact that she was a businesswoman herself. She however claims that she is almost 60 and thus her energy and zeal to chase contracts are waning secondly the only property she has is an uncompleted building were virtually ignored by the judge.

ACTIVITY
Discuss the above cases.
i. Identify the key Rights of women in the cases .
ii. Were the Judges Right in the decisions of
iii. Case 1 ? Case 2? Case 3?
iv. How should the cases have been decided? v What will you do if faced with such a situation in Case1, Case 2 and Case 3
vi. Justify your actions from what you have learned

It should be noted that since the settlement of property is entirely a discretionary power some judges have exercised such discretion in favour of women while others have perpetrated further injustice against women.

Some judges have held that a woman’s contribution need not be financial in nature. This is in line with contemporary English practice and similar to the provisions of the Matrimonial Causes Act.

“The fact that the wife took care of the husband and the family and that the husband had the peace of mind to acquire the property gives the wife an interest in such property.” This was the decision of the High Court which was affirmed by the Court of Appeal in the case of Kaffi Vs. Kaffi.

NOTE that the rights of divorced women need to be enforced to guarantee equitable and equal treatment of both husband and wife in the marriage.

1 comment:

  1. You have posted innovative news, keep it up. Thanks for sharing.

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