The Matrimonial Causes Act 1971, (Act 367) and the Marriages Act, 1884-1985 (CAP 127) are the laws which govern an annulment of marriage in Ghana. An annulment of marriage, therefore, is a process by which a party to the marriage seeks to completely obliterate the marriage on the basis that the marriage right from the beginning is void or voidable.
The grounds for the initiation of voidable marriages are governed by the Matrimonial Causes Act while, the Marriages Act deals comprehensively with the grounds on which void marriages can be initiated.
A void marriage is one that will be regarded by every court in any case in which the existence of the marriage is in issue as never having taken place and can be so treated by both parties to it without the necessity of any decree annulling it.
Void marriages can be annulled if;
- Either party to the marriage is lawfully married to another person.
- The marriage is based on consanguinity and affinity.
- Both parties knowingly and willfully acquiesce in its celebration in any place other than the office of a registrar of marriages or a licensed place of worship (except where authorized by Special Licence).
- The parties marry without the Registrar’s Certificate of Notice or the Marriage Officer’s Certificate of Notice or Special Licence.
- The marriage is solemnized by a person who is not a recognized minister of some religious denomination or body or a registrar of marriages.
- The parties celebrate the marriage under a false name or false names.
- Either party to the marriage is not of marriageable age, that is below 21 years of age.
A voidable marriage is one that will be regarded by every court as valid subsisting marriage until a decree annulling it has been pronounced by a court of competent jurisdiction. Section 13(2) of Act 367 states that, a marriage is voidable on the grounds that;
- the marriage has not been consummated owing to the willful refusal of the respondent to consummate it; or
- at the time of the marriage, either party to the marriage was of unsound mind or subject to recurrent attacks of insanity; or
- the respondent was at the time of the marriage pregnant by some person other than the petitioner; or
- the respondent was at the time of the marriage suffering from an incurable venereal disease in a communicable form.
However, the court will not grant a decree of nullity on grounds (b), (c) or (d) of subsection 2 of Act 367 unless the court is satisfied that;
- the petitioner was at the time of the marriage ignorant of the facts making the marriage voidable,
- proceedings were instituted within one year from the date of the marriage, and
- marital intercourse with the consent of the petitioner has not taken place since the petitioner discovered the existence of the facts making the marriage voidable.
Marriage is a creation of law. Therefore, a marriage is valid if it is in conformity with all legal requirements as established. To establish that marriage is either void or voidable, an initiating party must prove with certainty any of the grounds as listed above to succeed in a nullity proceeding.
It is crucial for a party to a marriage to consider the option of divorce. In particular, where he or she cannot establish a ground for nullity since there are several grounds for divorce under the Matrimonial Causes Act, 1971, including the ground of unreasonable behaviour.
The contents of this publication, current at the date of publication set out above, are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your particular circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action based on this publication.
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