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Mary pondered at what the future would hold and how she would manage the family Chike had before he met her, along with the family they had created over time. Chike was battling cancer and all the indications pointed to the fact that he seemed to be losing the battle. She had learnt, through the hard knocks of life that relationships are empty canvases that people build over time. She had built a solid relationship with him or so she thought.

Being a full time housewife had given her time and opportunity to build a cohesive family where even she had a good relationship with the children of his first marriage.

Chike’s first wife had started to come to hospital to visit and she had started to make calls to ask after his health. Suddenly she was interested in Mary’s husband and seemed to want a buy-in to his life all over again.

The whole scenario seemed to frontally attack Mar’s thoughts as she rode in the car to pick her daughter from school. Then she saw her friend, Wura. They had become friends since their daughters met at primary school and remained friends. Wura had given her legal advise from time to time about her so many issues and so it was a big relief to see her.

Wura sensed at once that something was up and proceeded to ask her. They sent the girls back to Wura’s house while the older girls went off to a nearby cafe to chat over afternoon coffee.

Then the real story came out…. Chike had commenced his divorce with his wife when he met Mary. They had quickly fallen in love and before any time she had moved in with him, keeping house for him. Since they shared the same bed every night, without any sexual protection it was not long before Mary was expecting her first child for Chike.

Life seemed to be a joyful roller coast as the years went on and as she added two more babies to their brood. Chike was a good provider to the other two children also and had made sure they went to the best schools abroad.

Chike’s divorce never completed. He had simply stopped going to court and it suited his wife . She hadn’t wanted a divorce to start with. They remained bitter enemies till now.

Wura had the displeasure of telling her friend that the customary marriage Chike performed with her had no validity. He was still married to another woman and she was entitled to all what a widow would be entitled to in the event of his death.

The way out was for him to make a will. Chike was too ill to make one that would not be invalidated if the wife contested it…..and she would.

What does Mary’s life tell us?

1. Separation does not mean divorce. You have to be properly divorced from your spouse before you are able to conduct any valid marriage. Customary or otherwise.

2. When a person, who has a subsisting marriage, conducted under the civil laws, dies his widow/widower inherits a third of his property and takes before the children.

3.Under Nigerian law a child shall not suffer any discrimination by reason of the circumstances of his birth; so Mary’s children would inherit as much as the older children, equally.

4. In the circumstances Mary has nothing to hold unto and the estate does not have any space to look after her.

Are you married to someone who had a marriage relationship with someone before? Do you need to check if their marriage is legally dissolved?


Don’t allow love to cloud your eyes; relationships are canvasses that you build your love upon. Is your canvas legal?


Sisi Lawyer aims to give you legal clarity in your relationships.

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