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Onyinye Nwanna-Iwuoha: You Can Sue Her For Breach of Promise to Marry

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It’s because of Chikwendu (not his real name), a popular man in my village that I’m writing this. He was hurt, really hurt by the girl he wanted to marry (let’s call her Ngozi).

I’m sure you already know the story by now seeing as it is a common occurrence especially with my Igbo brothers but I’ll still narrate it.

After “friending” her for 2 years, Chikwendu proposed to Ngozi and she agreed to marry him. Immediately, baby boy went to see her parents to do preliminary introduction and also collect “list”. Her parents agreed on one condition, Chikwendu must allow Ngozi go to the university, as she had passed the JAMB exams.

Of course Chikwendu was up to the task. He agreed to sponsor her in school and cater to all her needs. To cut the long story short, she met another man and dumped Chikwendu. Her parents supported her decision, after all, do you want their daughter to marry someone she won’t be happy with. Her happiness is their priority.

Anyway, Chikwendu has become a topic for discussion in my house. He’s trying to move on with his life, but it’s hard, understandably. He has spent a lot of money on Ngozi, and the question at home was, how can he get the money back? Some of my aunties suggested going after the girl’s parents or the man she wants to marry. Another said he should scatter her marriage plans, get touts to disrupt proceedings. I, however, suggested suing her.

Yes, he can sue her for breach of promise to marry.

One thing a lot of people do not know is that when you promise to marry another person, you have created a contract to marry. It means that both of you intend to create a marital status with all the rights and obligations pertaining to marriage and live together as a couple.

You don’t even need to put it down in writing. This contract to marry can be created orally. So, when you go down on one knee and ask “will you marry me” and she responds with “yes“, a contract to marry has been created.

Hold on, hold on, don’t contact your lawyer yet. There are certain elements that should be present in order to constitute a breach of promise to marry. The person alleging a breach of promise must prove to the satisfaction of the court that:

a. there was in fact a promise of marriage under the Matrimonial Causes Act, or under Islamic Law or Customary Law, on the part of the other sex. This means that, outside of proposing marriage to you, he must have intended to formalise this union under the Act, Islamic Law or Customary Law.

b. the party reneging has really and as a matter of fact failed or refused to keep to the agreement of marriage.

c. the party who is suing for the breach of promise to marry must also provide material evidence to corroborate his/her testimony. It is not enough to say that you people were in a romantic relationship without anything more. Or that he bought you gifts and took you round the world.

An agreement to enter into a marriage should leave nobody in doubt as to the real intention of the parties. Applying this to my story, Chikwendu proposed and Ngozi accepted. He went further to meet her parents and collected the traditional marriage list. This, without any doubt, shows that the intention of the parties was to get married.

How do you know if a breach has occurred?

Well, apart from the very obvious one of not showing up on your wedding day, if he makes it impossible, by conduct, for him to perform his obligations, then it is a breach of promise to marry, otherwise known as anticipatory breach. Things such as announcing his/her intention not to go ahead with the marriage, eloping or getting pregnant for another man, will fall under this category.

We are not out of the woods yet. Don’t assume that the other party will sit down and watch you tarnish their reputation. There are a couple of defences available to them as well:

a. They can say you used fraud to get them to promise marriage to you. A quick example, according to my friend, is where you promise to marry her based on her appearance, such as big boobs or ass, or perfectly contoured face, only for you to find out that Tracy is actually Ekaette. We are presently arguing over whether that will suffice as fraud in the courts of law.

b. Duress – The other party can claim that he proposed marriage or that she agreed to marry you against his/her wish.

c. Misrepresentation – They can also claim that you falsely presented a state of affairs to him/her as true. This is usually the case where the promise to marry is hinged on the financial state of the other party.

d. They can also claim that they suffer from some form of infirmity which may be physical, mental or moral, and this infirmity was not known to them at the time of making that promise. Now that they’ve realized the infirmity, they have decided not to go ahead with the marriage.

In conclusion, a breach of promise to marry is an actionable wrong and an injured party can claim damages. However, the important question is, who is willing, in Nigeria, to sue for breach of promise to marry?

There are so many foreign cases on this matter, but there just a handful of Nigerian cases. We, Nigerians are very judgmental people, so I’m sure when we hear that someone wants to sue for breach of promise to marry, we will be like:

a. You don’t have self respect. Is marriage a do-or-die affair?

b. You still have feelings for your ex, if not, why are you suing?

c. You have time on your hands and plenty money to waste.

d. The battle is the Lord’s. Whatever you sow you shall reap. Forgive and move on. Don’t give him/her power over you.

And so many more.

Maybe when we start seeing this whole marriage thing as a contract (which it is), and that you can be sued for breach of promise to marry, maybe, just maybe, we will stop toying with the feelings of other people.

Anyway, Chikwendu has decided to leave matters in God’s hands. So, all this my ranting is not beneficial to him. I hope it helps someone out there.

Photo Credit: Isaiahlove | Dreamstime.com

Hi, I’m Onyinyechi, a corporate lawyer by day and a budding blogger by night. Outside of law and blogging, I love reading and daydreaming. My blog www.onyixtus.com is a lifestyle blog – light-hearted and entertaining. We talk about everything from lifestyle to practically anything that makes up life as we know it.

27 Comments

  1. demash

    March 1, 2017 at 6:54 pm

    Why do I feel you paraphrased this out of a Facebook post someone made today. If that was your inspiration , please give due credit. facebook.com/enwongo.cleopas.5/posts/1777884662538891

    • Onyinyechi

      March 2, 2017 at 6:18 pm

      Hi Demash. I actually submitted my article to BellaNaija since last week. It was only published yesterday. Anyway, Cleopas actually made a lot of sense and I’m happy to see people talking about this issue.

  2. GANNY OGUNSHAKIN

    March 1, 2017 at 7:03 pm

    He can sue her to recoup all or some of the money he had spent on her. But that doesn’t mean he will win the case. She has every right to change her mind. That’s exactly what she has done. I will only suggest to the poor guy to take heart and allow God to fight for him. Secondly, don’t do anything stupid, like trying to kill or maime her as the law does not allow jungle justice. A word is enough for the wise. I’m just saying.

    • tunmi

      March 1, 2017 at 7:48 pm

      It’s fine to let her go and wish her well and forgive and forget. Yes she has every right to change her mind. But that money, mba. I want it back with inflation accounted for.

  3. teekay

    March 1, 2017 at 7:55 pm

    Hi Onyinyechi you made me look at it from a different perspective…Well this case in a Nigerian court will stall and the party involve if they are fetish might go spiritual on it..Well all are speculations we should give it a try in Nigeria tho..Nice write up darling

    • Onyinyechi

      March 1, 2017 at 7:56 pm

      Thanks Teekay. Glad I could bring another perspective to it.

  4. Paul Adeyemo

    March 1, 2017 at 8:15 pm

    Lonely frustrated feminist teaching their fellow Aunty Gweges how to sue Nigerian men

    • Onyinyechi

      March 1, 2017 at 11:17 pm

      Thanks Paul.. Glad you saw it from that angle.

    • EE

      March 2, 2017 at 1:22 am

      Brilliantly done.

      Take note people, sometimes its not by yelling and insults.

    • funmilola

      March 2, 2017 at 8:50 am

      good response?

    • Bleed Blue

      March 2, 2017 at 8:57 am

      So weird.

      Even though the entire story was about a female defaulter, Paul Adeyemo still managed to interpret it into exactly the opposite.
      Plus the advice given in this article is completely gender neutral, except of course you immediately saw the headline and felt it pointed more to male defaulters than female? In which case, you need to search yourself to know why YOU generalized.

      Seriously Paul, what’s this immense hatred for women about really?

    • Dwana

      March 2, 2017 at 1:13 pm

      Haba Paul, that statement is so unfair on this lady, she just pointed out the law, this shd’t touch on her relationship status no matter what you think of it (am sure you don’t know if she is even in a sweet relationship & not lonely. Pls try & be fair & kind to others)

  5. Rr

    March 1, 2017 at 9:09 pm

    Paul Adeyemo did you read the story????

  6. dh

    March 1, 2017 at 9:30 pm

    No he didn’t read it ? I’m just passing-by nio have a nice day

  7. john

    March 1, 2017 at 9:36 pm

    tell chiwendu to contact me ..let us handle this spiritually. .I have done this kind of thing for a very close friend of mine..I will give him connection to a powerful Oracle ..I am serious (no joke bcos the court wont help you). .if he is intrested ..I will do it for free..that girl and her family wont even know what hit them.. they will come and kneel down to beg but it will be to late..if he is intrested, let me know and I willl post my email

    • change

      March 2, 2017 at 9:13 am

      hahaha
      my chest o

      on the other hand, who is that one saying she can change he rmind….do you mean if a guy proposes as well and he changes his mind later on there is no eish?

    • mela

      March 2, 2017 at 11:47 am

      Oga John I haf decided to start fearing you! Lol

  8. john

    March 1, 2017 at 9:39 pm

    all I need is her name and picture ..thats all

    • Toluwalope

      March 2, 2017 at 5:08 am

      Disciple John, I hope you’re into this with your brother James. Congratulations on your new career.

  9. kay

    March 2, 2017 at 9:11 am

    As long as there was no written agreement, this cannot hold up in court. What if the man was abusive and overly possessive because he is paying her school fees and enslaving her? These are personal informal affairs that cannot be taken to court, however if you badly want your money spent back, have it calculated and refunded by the parents or the new husband-to-be.

  10. demashi

    March 2, 2017 at 11:51 am

    BN you refused to post my comment on this and you’re asking us to participate in your survey.

  11. funmicristy

    March 2, 2017 at 1:41 pm

    Dis also occur to ladies not only men do get disappointment from ladies

  12. Bigzoum

    March 2, 2017 at 2:58 pm

    Please make short your next story but I think if your girlfriend refuses to marry you even you already paid all her needs, so you move on don’t ask anything from her family because if she is your really bone she will come back and then you’re a choice to do what you want.

    • Fisayo

      March 2, 2017 at 3:43 pm

      And you, please make sure you use punctuation marks in your next comment.

  13. Ever Green

    March 2, 2017 at 4:33 pm

    I will advice him to leave her to God, I am in such situation now but it differs slightly, one way or the other life has a way of dealing with betrayers, you may not see the law of Kamar working now but one way or the other it will come to pass, take it one day at a time and God will see you true…. I am sure you will look back one day and discover that disappointment has been turned to a blessing for you. I am also using this to tell myself there is always a light at the end of the tunnel and one one day it will not hurt again.
    How I wish there is a drug for heartache that cure all your emotional pain but God dey sha………

  14. lulu

    March 3, 2017 at 6:33 pm

    apart from the idea of suing sounding ridiculous,tge law regards the promise to marry someone as a social relationship without legal incident. The law does not treat such as a contract

    • neutral

      April 3, 2017 at 7:04 pm

      You should read up on things before stating such so confidently. You are wrong. Period. Please read up on it before responding. I did.

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