Marriage Services


ACTIVITIES UNDERTAKEN BY THE MARRIAGE SECTION

The marriage section is responsible for the registration of marriages and divorce in the Kumasi Metropolis. The steps to register the various form of marriages have been encapsulated in the notice to the public.

NOTICE  TO  THE PUBLIC
What is marriage? There are three types of valid marriage recognized by the Ghanaian law: (1) Customary marriage, (2) marriage under the Marriage Ordinance and (3) Islamic marriage under the Marriage of Mohammedans Ordinance.

What is a customary marriage? Customary marriage is the most common form of marriage in Ghana. The specific customary rites that are followed vary from group to group, although in virtually all cases customary marriage involves a gathering at which the bridegroom's family makes payment of a bride-price  to the bride's family, followed by the bride being asked if she will accept the bridegroom as her husband.

STEPS IN REGISTERING CUSTOMARY MARRIAGE.
After the families are satisfied with the necessary customary rites, the couple can then register at KMA or any district where the couple will be accompanied with one witness each and pay a small amount of money. Please the couple must perform all the necessary rites before they come to the office.

What do the different kinds of customary marriages have in common?  The customary marriage process throughout Ghana generally includes the following steps:

  • Consent by the man and woman to be married
  • Consent by the family of the man and the family of the woman that the two should be married.
  • The man, or a member of his family, presents the woman's family with gifts and asks for her hand in marriage.
  • The woman's family accepts the prospective bride-groom's gifts.
  • A marriage celebration is held.
  • The man and woman live as husband and wife, although not necessarily under the same roof. They are recognized by their community and families as husband and wife.
Can I be legally married even if the customary marriage rites were not fully performed? Partial performance of a customary marriage (where the man presents drinks but does not go through the entire customary marriage rites) is not recognized as giving rise to a legal union under the laws of Ghana.

Can I be legally married if I simply cohabit with my 'spouse'? Cohabitation or concubinage ('mpena aware'), where the man and woman live together without performance of the customary marriage rights, is not recognized as a valid marriage in Ghana.

Can a man have more than one customary wife? Yes. There is no legal limit to the number of customary wives a man may have, nor is there any limit to the number of such marriages that can be legally registered under the Customary Marriage and Divorce Registration Law, 1985 (PNDCL 112). The potentially polygamous nature of customary marriage distinguishes it from marriages performed under the Marriage Ordinance.

How does customary divorce work? Customary marriages can be dissolved by either party. A customary marriage may be ended if the wife is infertile or commits adultery, if the husband is impotent, or if the couple is not compatible. Usually the families of the couple try to reconcile any conflicts before they lead to divorce. If this is not possible, the marriage is considered over once the party requesting the divorce presents the family of their husband/wife with drinks and then move to a registrar of mariages for dissolusion.

Can a customary marriage be dissolved in a Court of Law? Yes. The Matrimonial Causes Act 1971, (Act 367) provides that a customary marriage, an Islamic marriage and marriage under the Marriage Ordinance can be dissolved before a court of law. However, in the case of dissolution of a customary marriage, the Court is enjoined to consider the customary rules of the parties.

What happens to property distribution when a customary marriage is dissolved?  When a customary marriage is dissolved before family members, it is important that jointly acquired property is distributed equitably between the spouses. If there is no joint property, the family must look at the contribution in cash or in kind of the spouses to decide on an appropriate and reasonable compensation. How much property or compensation the spouses get depends also on how many wives that man has.

The Courts also have power to distribute property between the parties when the dissolution is brought under the Matrimonial Causes Act.

What happens if a man or woman (or their families) deny that a valid customary marriage exists? Because of the comparatively informal nature of customary marriage, this is a problem that sometimes comes up in court cases, especially in divorce proceedings or in cases relating to the management of a person's estate when they die. Customary marriages can sometimes be proven on the evidence of family members or other people present at the time of gift-giving to the woman's family. However, it may be difficult to gather sufficient evidence to prove that a valid customary marriage occurred (if those present at the gift-giving have died, for example). In light of this difficulty, the courts tend to presume a valid customary marriage exists, but the best way to avoid confusion and potential conflict is to formally register all customary marriages.

What are the benefits of registering a customary marriage? It is advisable to register a customary marriage (s). By registering your customary marriage, the State knows about the existence of the marriage; it prevents disputes on the existence of validity of a customary marriage; and the certificate given to the spouses can support requests by Embassies or High Commissions in applications for visas.

Can a man register more than one customary marriage? Yes. In a polygamous marriage, it is advisable to register all the marriages.

How are customary marriages registered? Customary marriages are registered under the Customary Marriage and Divorce Registration Law, 1985 (PNDCL 112). Anyone wishing to register a customary marriage must apply to the registrar of marriages in the district in which they live. Application forms are available from the registrar. In addition, the parties must also provide a statutory declaration. The application forms ask for information regarding the marriage ceremony and the man and woman involved, while the statutory declaration is simply a legal declaration on the part of the husband, the wife, and their respective families that the marriage is valid according to the applicable customary law.

If a marriage is registered and then is dissolved, does notice need to be given to the registrar? Yes, notice must be provided within three months of the end of the marriage. To provide proper notice, the parties and their parents (if they are still living) must submit a statutory declaration that the marriage was dissolved according to customary law. A certificate to that effect will be issued by the marriage registrar.

What is the difference between marriage under the Marriage Ordinance (CAP 127) and a customary marriage? Marriage under the Marriage Ordinance is monogamous, meaning that unless the man or woman dies or the marriage is legally dissolved, neither party can marry
another person. This means that a man married under the Marriage Ordinance may not marry another woman, whether under the Marriage Ordinance or customary law. If a man currently married under the Ordinance marries another woman, this woman will not receive any of the rights or legal benefits of a wife, and the man will be punished for the offence of bigamy.

How many kinds of Ordinance Marriage are there? There are 3 kinds. (a) Marriage by a Registrar of Marriages (b) Marriage by a Marriage Officer/minister (c) Marriage by Special Licence. A Marriage Registrar is an officer at the Registrar Generals Office, Metropolitan, Municipal or District Assembly (MMDA), with responsibility to perform marriages. A Marriage Officer is a minister of a religious body (Christian or Muslim) who has been duly licenced and gazetted to perform marriages. This means the person has been recognized and given a certificate by the Government to perform Ordinance marriages. Marriage by Special Licence is where the Registrar General's Office, MMDA waives certain conditions for an Ordinance such as the length of time for notices or permits a venue (other than the Registrar General's Office, MMDA or church) to be used for the performance of the marriage.

What steps must be taken to ensure that a marriage under the Ordinance is valid? Under the Marriages Act, 1884-1985, the couple must give notice in writing to the Registrar of Marriage of the district in which the marriage will take place of their intention to marry within three months. This notice must include the names of the parties and their marital status (e.g. spinster/widow, bachelor/widower), their occupations, age, and places of residence. The notice must be accompanied by a small fee. The registrar will then issue a Marriage Certificate within three months of receiving the notice, provided that he or she is satisfied that (a) one of the parties has lived in the district where the marriage is intended to take place for 15 days before the Certificate is granted, (b) that either party is under twenty-one years old they have obtained the required consent to be married, (c)that there is no lawful hindrance to the marriage, and that neither party is married by customary law to another individual. The marriage must take place within three months of receipt of the notice, or else a fresh notice must be given before the couple can be married.

If the couple wishes to be married under the authority of a Marriage Officer's certificate, they must provide notice to the marriage officer, who will cause banns of marriage to be published in church or in the Mosque.

If a couple is married in church, is this a valid marriage under the Ordinance? Not necessarily. Churches must be licensed to perform valid monogamous marriages. If all of the steps required for a valid marriage under the Marriage Ordinance (see above) are not followed, the marriage will not be considered a valid legal marriage under the Ordinance, even if the marriage occurred in a church. In this case, the church wedding is seen as a mere marital 'blessing'.

What kinds of things invalidate a marriage under the Ordinance? A marriage is invalid if: (a) one of the parties was married to another person at the time of the marriage; (b) if the marriage was celebrated at a place that was not licensed to perform marriages under the Ordinance; if the person performing the ceremony had no authority to do so; (c) if the parties did not obtain the required certificates; or (d) if the parties are related by blood.

What is the marriage ceremony like? Couples married under the Marriage Ordinance may be married in a licensed place of worship, a registrar's office, or in another place specifically authorized by the Registrar. Most of what occurs at the ceremony is up to the couple getting married, however, there are certain elements that must be present for the marriage to be valid.

In a licensed place of worship, the ceremony must occur between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., and must be conducted in the presence of at least two witnesses other than the presiding minister.

In a registrar's office, the ceremony must occur between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on a weekday that is not a holiday, and it must be witnessed by at least two people other than the registrar.

Wherever the ceremony takes place, the person presiding over the celebration (i.e. the registrar or the minister) will fill out a certificate of marriage at the conclusion of the ceremony. The certificate must also be signed by the couple and two witnesses.

What is the difference between "the Registrar" and "a registrar"? Under the Marriages Act, the Registrar refers to a single individual, the principal registrar of marriages, whereas a registrar includes the many registrars and deputy registrars of marriages within the various marriage districts.

What is the publication of banns? The publication of banns provides notice of an impending marriage, and takes the form of oral publication for three consecutive Sundays before a church's congregation. The marriage must be solemnized within three months of the last publication of banns or a fresh notice of the intended marriage has to be given.

How can an upcoming marriage be opposed? To oppose an impending marriage, you must file a caveat, which is a written objection to the marriage stating the reasons for your objection.

What happens if someone opposes the marriage? If a person opposed to the marriage enters a caveat against a registrar's or marriage officer's certificate, the registrar or marriage officer will refer the matter to the High Court and a judge will asses the merit of the caveat. If the caveat has no merit, the judge will remove it and the marriage will go ahead. If the person filing the caveat is deemed to have done so in bad faith, they can be ordered to pay compensation to the couple.

How can a marriage under the Ordinance be dissolved?  There is only one ground for dissolution of a marriage under the Marriage Ordinance, that is, the marriage has broken down beyond reconciliation. Factors to support this ground include (a) adultery by one party (b) one party has behaved in a manner that the other cannot reasonably be expected to live with that party (c) desertion for a continuous period of at least 2 years (d) that the parties have not lived together continuously for 2 years or more and they both consent to the dissolution (e) that parties have not lived together as husband and wife for at least 5 years (f) that parties have not been able to reconcile differences.

What is Islamic Marriage? Islamic marriage is a type of marriage made in accordance with Islamic rules regarding marriage. Marriages under Islamic law may be polygamous and, under the Marriages Act, they must be registered in order to be valid.

What constitutes a valid Islamic marriage? A valid Islamic marriage will occur if all of the following conditions are met: (a) there is a mutual agreement to marry; (b)a wali (an Arabic term meaning 'friend' or 'patron') is present to legally represent the bride; (c) a dower/dowry is paid in cash or property by the husband's family; (d) two witnesses are present during the ceremony; (e) the marriage is registered at the District Office; and (f) the marriage is performed by a licensed Islamic priest.

How can an Islamic marriage be registered? The Registrar of Mohammedan marriages and divorces must be notified within one week of the marriage, or else the marriage will be declared null and void. In order to properly register the marriage, the register must be signed by the bridegroom, the bride's wali, the priest, and the two witnesses. At that point, a marriage certificate will be issued.

What if it is impossible to register the marriage within one week of the ceremony? If it is impossible for all the necessary parties to attend at the Registrar's office within a week, the bridegroom or the wali may apply directly to the High Court for a certificate dispensing with the
need for the signatures of any of the parties ordinarily required to register the marriage (with the exception of the priest). The application must be accompanied by an affidavit stating why proper registration did not occur.

Can Muslims marry under the Ordinance? Yes. However, if Muslims wish to marry under the Marriage Ordinance, they must follow the rules set out by the Ordinance in order to have a valid marriage.

How is an Islamic marriage dissolved? Registration of the divorce occurs in almost exactly the same fashion as the registration of the marriage. However, whereas Islamic marriages must be registered within one week in order to be valid, Islamic divorces are only valid if they are registered within one month of the date of the divorce.