Court Orders Man to Divorce His Wife and Forfeit His Home to Her
According to the provisions of the Married Woman Property Act 1882, a woman who has children for her husband and married him before a house is constructed has the right to live in the house with her children even after divorce, according to a court in Ibadan, Oyo State.
The court stated in a landmark judgment that the idea that patriarchy is so rooted in the Nigerian culture that women have no rights even under the law has been shown to be incorrect, with the majority of proponents being unaware of the rights granted under the law.
In a property suit between a divorced couple, Toyin Arajulu, formerly known as Mrs Toyin James, and her former husband, Mr James Monday, the Chief Judge of Oyo State, Justice Munta Abimbola, based his decision on the provisions of the Married Woman Property Act 1882.
“A husband who marries a wife and builds a house during the pendency of the marriage risks losing the house if he later divorces the woman who bore him children unless that woman, of her own volition, leaves the matrimonial home,” the court said.
While ruling on the case, Justice Abimbola emphasized what is known in law as the “palm tree justice,” which states that it doesn’t matter in whose name the property stands or who pays what (on the property) and in what proportion, since the determination of such matters transcends all rights, legal or equitable, and simply what order is fair and just in the circumstances of the case, citing t
Toyin Arajulu had filed the lawsuit against her ex-husband, Monday James, with whom she had four children and whom she married under Native Law and Customs in 1997.
She said that while they were married, they pooled their resources and constructed two three-bedroom flats in Ayedun, Ondo State, and a plot of land at No 7, Fadana Biala Estate, Olodo, Ibadan, where they built a three-bedroom flat and a storey building that is still under construction before their divorce in July 2014.
She said that her husband had moved out of their marital home in Olodo before the divorce, but that he only came back and try to forcefully evict her and her children, usually accompanied by thugs who assaulted her and her children.
She went on to say that one of her children, Bidemi James, was injured in one of the attempted violent evictions on August 15, 2014, and that her ex-husband and his accomplices stole N530,000 from her company.
She said he had completed plans to sell off the joint property without her consent and had continued to victimize her and the children, and she asked the court for a declaration that the property is jointly owned by the two of them, as well as an order that the landed property with the three-bedroom flat and unfinished storey building be sold and the proceeds divided equally between them, as well as an order of permanency.
In his counterclaim and defense, the ex-husband claimed that when he bought and built the Akure property, his wife was a full-time housewife with no contribution to the project, and that the situation was similar for the Ibadan property, where his wife only signed as a witness because she had no job and relied on what he gave her to look after the children when he traveled out of the country.
He says she was merely attempting to defraud him of his money, and that her claims were vexatious, gold-digging, and a misuse of the legal system.
He also requested the court to rule that the sales receipts submitted by his ex-wife were forged, and that she should vacate possession of the land, which she had refused to give up despite being served with a statutory seven-day notice of the owner’s desire to reclaim possession and a permanent injunction prohibiting her from occupying the structure.
The landed property at No 7, Fadana Biala Estate, Olodo, Ibadan, as well as the three-bedroom flat and unfinished storey building, are jointly owned by the two, according to Justice Abimbola.
In response to Toyin’s second request that both buildings be sold, Justice Abimbola stated, “I will not give such orders in respect of the two buildings.” In particular, Section 17 of the Married Women Law of Oyo State, Cap 83, Laws of Oyo State 2000, grants a court broad discretion in deciding title and possession issues. If the problem involves the upkeep of a matrimonial home, Section 18 enjoins the court to consider such property as joint property.
“The completed three-bedroom flat on the land shall be retained as the matrimonial property, and the four children shall be entitled as beneficial owners through a trust established for them by their parents. As long as she is unmarried, the mother is instructed to remain in possession of her children without being disturbed.
“Both parties are required to sell the unfinished storey building and split the proceeds equally. The half share shall go to the wife for the maintenance of the children. A divorced wife has no business being maintained,”
Justice Abimbola held.
The court also barred James from harassing Toyin any further or interfering with her and the children’s peaceful possession of the property, reasoning that “the rationale is that a husband who marries a wife and builds a house during the pendency of the marriage risks losing that house if he later divorces the woman who had children for him unless such woman, of her own free will, leaves.”
Also, a divorced woman is not entitled to any maintenance payments, but she is entitled to child support as part of the settlement.”
I’m not sure who needs this right now, but please post it so that even more people are aware before contemplating divorce. My friends, the days of packing your belongings and returning to your father’s house seem to be numbered.
What are your thoughts on the matter?
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