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Breach of Promise to Marry |

Breach Of Promise To Marry: What The Law Says

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On one of my addictive sojourns to twitter yesterday, I happened to come across an interesting tweet about the fact that ladies should ‘not take nonsense from men this 2019. If he lies to you that he will marry you and he did not after sleeping with you, sue his ass!’

The tweet garnered a lot of memes, emotive reactions of laughter, jests and a fair amount of users who were subliminally convinced that yes, I just learned something. 

It is important to examine the provisions of the law in Nigeria concerning the concept of breach of promise to marry. Can you truly sue his ass? If yes, will your action or case succeed?

The principle is that a person can sue for breach of promise to marry if a guilty party have made such kind of promise or assurance to the aggrieved party. It is pertinent to note that the said promise is not the boyfriend/girlfriend’s mushy declarations of love and affection – “oooh I so love you” “na u I go marry las las” “when is our wedding, you are a wife material” or the white-faced lies men tell girls to get into their pants – “I am in this relationship for the long haul” “I am willing to take this relationship to any level, in fact I wan marry you”

A promise of marriage in the context of the law is an official engagement with a ring or a betrothal. A guilty party must have taken a considerable step to solidify or symbolize the promise. It is when this has been done and subsequently reneged upon that an aggrieved party has a right to sue in court.

To prove a breach of contract in court, a person must establish that:

  • There was in fact a promise to marry
  • The party must have reneged on the promise

To prove the above, an aggrieved party will have to tender substantial evidence before the court. eg the ring of engagement, statements and oral testimonies of witnesses of the engagement or proposal etc. if this are successfully tendered and proved, an aggrieved party is entitled to compensatory damages from the defendants especially if substantial amount of capital and efforts have gone into the organization of the wedding. You have to prove that you have suffered substantial damage either emotionally or financially.

It now begs the question that is it compulsory to marry someone you have proposed to? Has the defaulting party actually set a trap for himself even if he had a change of mind due to some emerging circumstances?

The legal principle of Audi alterem partem comes into play. The guilty party is of course given a chance to put up a defense.

Some of the good defenses a defaulting party can employ her

  • Infidelity of the plaintiff
  • Consanguinity and affinity
  • Physical and mental incapacity of the plaintiff
  • Deceit and misrepresentation

So fellas, it is not a walk in the park to sue for breach of promise to marry. You can’t say because he broke your heart, you will sue him. If you do sue him, you may not be successful because he too may come prepared with details of all the “pepper you have shown him”.

This is not in any way aimed at discouraging scorned ladies and gents out there. If you genuinely feel that a boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancé or fiancée have breached his/her promise of living forever after with you;



Author: Femi Ajibade

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