A court held on Friday in Ibadan, Oyo State, that a woman that has children for her husband and had married him before a house is built has the right to live in the house with her children even after divorce under the provisions of the Married Woman Property Act 1882.
The provisions of the Married Woman Property Act 1882 formed the basis of the landmark judgement by the Chief Judge of Oyo State, Justice Munta Abimbola, in a property suit between a divorced couple, Toyin Arajulu and her ex husband, James Monday.
The court held that “a husband who marries a wife and builds a house during the pendency of the marriage, stands the risk of losing that house if he later divorces the woman who had children for him unless such woman, of her own volition, leaves the matrimonial home.”
Justice Abimbola, while ruling on the matter, emphasised what is known in law as the “palm tree justice,” which indicates that it does not matter in whose name the property stands or who pays what (on the property) and in what proportion as determination of such matters transcends all rights, legal or even equitable.
But simply what order is fair and just in the circumstances of the case, citing the case of Home Vs Home (1962) 1 WLR 1124 at 1128.S 17 Married Woman Property Act 1882, which is a statute of general application.
In her suit, Toyin had claimed that while she was married to James, they had put resources together and built two flats of three bedrooms at Ayedun in Akure, Ondo State and procured a plot of land at No 7, Fadana Biala Estate, Olodo, Ibadan, where they built a three-bedroom flat and a storey building which is still under construction before their divorce in July 2014.
In his counter claim and defence, the ex-husband stated that when he bought and constructed the Akure property, his wife was a full housewife and had no contribution to the project.
However, Justice Abimbola, while ruling on the case, held that the properties are jointly owned by the two.