Marriage was defined in hyde vs. Hyde 1 as, the voluntary union for life of and woman to the exclusion of others. The above definition relates to marriage under the act 2.

However, under customary law marriage is defined as the union of one man and his wife or wives. It does follow from the above definition, which under customary law, unlike marriage under statute, a man could marry more than one wife. All over the world, marriage is the root of the family’s it is only by marriage that a woman can obtain the right to be supported by the man. As soon as a woman is married, her domicile 3 changes with that of her husband and this has a significant effect on her legal status.

Historically , under the common law, there were several constraints on the legal capacity of a married woman but the various disabilities were culminated through the gradual process of law because under a statutory law marriage, there is the concept of unity a married woman was divested of her legal capacity to contract and own property.

  1. (1866) L.R.I.P.D 130.
  2. The act referred to here means the marriage Act of England of the marriage Act, now 1990, laws of the federation of


  1. See (1) matrimonial cause act 1990, which state that a person’s domicile in Nigeria.

Among the legislation in rectifying the imbalance is the married woman property act 4, which is designed primarily to protect the earnings of the married woman.

There was also the married woman’s property act of 1882, which allows a wife to keep anything she acquired by gift or purchase. The laver act was subsequently amended and regulated and protected the married woman’s capacity to acquire and dispose of property by altering the law on for and contract so that she could sue as if she were “feme sole”5 under the statutory law marriage, a woman could inherit her late husband’s property, keep joint account with the husband’s credit. The woman could decide not to bear the husband’s name and this does not alter legal status in the society. However, under customary law marriage, the wife is more or less regard as a “Hat” which the man could out on and drop at will as if she were property. The legal status of a married woman in domicile, is almost the same as under the statute, a woman married under customary law can never inherit her late husband’s property. Whatever she owns in terms of property after her death, especially if a woman could pledge her husband’s credit under customary law marriage.

  1. Married woman property Act of 1870. Also married woman property law cap 76, law of western Nigeria.
  2. 1959, 1959 cap 98, law of Bendel state, applicable to Delta State.

Her citizenship, in most cases does not change, in most societies in Nigeria, on the death of a woman, her corpse is sent back to her family, under customary law marriage, the marriage of the woman is to the family, hence after the death of her husband, she could be bequeathed to another man within the family.

This work will briefly discuss the formation of marriage under the act and under customary law and examine the legal status of a married woman under the act and under customary law marriages, with references to, the legal Capacity of ownership of property by a married woman and would also discuss her status with reference to inheritance of personality and realty.

This work will also focus its attention on the capacity of a married woman that has no issue both under customary law marriage and statutory law marriage.

Also to be examined is the legal effect of contract in tort and criminal law of the husband and wife under both systems of marriage. Issue like domicile and citizenship 6 valid issues that can change a woman’s legal status will be examined.