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DOMICILE IS THE BASIS OF JURISDICTION IN MATRIMONIAL CAUSES

Dictum

The basis of jurisdiction in matrimonial causes under the Matrimonial Causes Act, 1970, is domicile. It is the domicile of a person that confers jurisdiction on the court to entertain his or her petition for dissolution of marriage. Where the domicile of a petitioner is not established the court will lack jurisdiction to decree a dissolution of marriage.

— O.O. Adekeye, JCA. Omotunde v. Omotunde (2000) – CA/I/M.57/2000

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JURISDICTION IN DIVORCE PETITION IS GOVERNED BY DOMICILE

It was held in Koku v. Koku (1999) 8 NWLR (Pt.616) 672 CA that:- “Jurisdiction of court to hear a divorce petition is governed by the domicile of the husband and not by the residence of the husband. And by operation of law, a married woman, on marriage, takes on the domicile of her husband. Consequently, the court with jurisdiction to adjudicate on a divorce matter is the court of the domicile of the husband Bhojwani v Bhojwani (1996) 6 NWLR (pt.457) 661”. Omotunde v. Omotunde (2000) – CA/I/M.57/2000

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MAINTENANCE IN DIVORCE CASES

LUMSDEN v. LUMSDEN (1963) 5 FLR 388, the Supreme court of Victoria said on the issue of award of maintenance and I quote from 392 thus: “Maintenance is intended to provide for the needs of the wife and not mark disapproval of the husband’s conduct.”

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ORDER NISI & DOMICILE

The court cannot grant an order nisi without resolving the issue of Domicile.

— O.O. Adekeye, JCA. Omotunde v. Omotunde (2000) – CA/I/M.57/2000

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DEFINITION OF DOMICILE

Black’s Law Dictionary Seventh Edition simply defines Domicile as the place at which a person is physically present and that the person regards as home, a person’s true, fixed, principal, and permanent home to which that person intends to return and remain even though currently residing elsewhere – same is also termed permanent abode. Every person has a domicile at all times, and no one has more than one domicile at once. Black’s Law Dictionary Seventh Edition defines a Residence as – (1) the act of fact of living in a given place for sometime a year’s residence. (2) The place where one actually lives as distinguished from a domicile. Whereas Residence usually just means bodily presence as an inhabitant in a given place, domicile usually requires bodily presence plus an intention to make the place one’s home. A person thus may have more than one residence at a time but only one domicile. Though the term domicile and residence are used synonymously. (3) The place where a corporation or other enterprise does business or is registered to do business. (4) A house or fixed abode.

— O.O. Adekeye, JCA. Omotunde v. Omotunde (2000) – CA/I/M.57/2000

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MATRIMONIAL ISSUES CANNOT BE BROUGHT VIA THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS RULES

The application for the enforcement of the Appellant’s fundamental rights to personal property, family and private life, dignity of her person and against discrimination was brought at the trial Court in subtle way to settle the Appellant’s matrimonial dispute with her estranged husband and brother-in-law, respectively the 1st and 2nd Respondents herein. The Appellant had ingenuously crafted an otherwise matrimonial causes matter to fit into the special procedure offered by the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules (FREPR). That special procedure, on the peculiar facts of this case, does not avail her to ventilate her matrimonial dispute.

— Ejembi Eko, JSC. Nwachukwu v Nwachukwu (2018) – SC.601/2013

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BASIS FOR JURISDICTION IN MATRIMONIAL CAUSES IS DOMICILE

Finally the basis of jurisdiction in matrimonial cause under the Matrimonial Causes Act, 1970 is domicile. The issue of domicile of the petitioner forms the foundation or pivot of adjudication in the petition. Jurisdiction of court to hear a divorce petition is governed by the domicile of the husband and not by his residence. By operation of law, a married woman on marriage takes on the domicile of her husband. If parties have acquired American Citizenship and have not abandoned same, their domicile of choice remains valid and, subsisting and endures until their Nigerian citizenship which is held in abeyance, and being their domicile of origin is revived. A domicile of choice is a domicile established by physical presence within a state or territory coupled with the intention to make it a home. Omotunde v. Omotunde 2001 9 NWLR pt 718 pg 252, Koku v. Koku 1999 8 NWLR pt 616 pg 672, Blojwani V Blojwani 1996 6 NWLR pt 457 pg 661.

— O.O. Adekeye, JCA. Ugo v. Ugo (2007) – CA/A/110/2007

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