My spouse deceived me into marrying him. What can I do?

If the nature of deceit would have made you not to marry him in the first place, you may file for the annulment of the marriage. So, in a case of deceit, a petitioner is not filing for divorce but an annulment of a marriage because, in law, there is no valid marriage to be dissolved as none exists in the first place.

 A similar incident happened in a decided case in Abuja where a woman, Mrs. Rekiyat Erogunaye[1] filed for the annulment of her marriage to Mr. Ayodele Erogunaye. She stated in court that she was introduced to her former husband by her pastor and his wife, and when she enquired about the educational background of the man, his spiritual status as well as his work, she was told that he was a graduate of the Delta State University, Abraka, a pastor in the Christ Embassy Church, and a staff of the Shell Petroleum Development Company, Warri. On meeting the man, she further asked him the same questions and she was given the same answers. However, on getting married to him, she discovered that the man was none of what he was said to be and what he also said of himself. In court, she asked the court to nullify their marriage because if she had known the truth about the man, she would not have agreed to marry him. The woman herself was a Master’s degree holder from a British university. The court agreed with her and nullified their marriage.

Another example of where a marriage may be annulled on account of deceit is if a party to a marriage presents a doctored result of genotype test in order to marry a person with whom he or she is not genetically compatible. For instance, if a man claims to have the genotype ‘AA’ when he knows himself to have ‘AS’, and marries a woman who has ‘AS’,  the woman may file for annulment of the marriage, if she later knows the truth. It is important to understand the distinction between a null marriage and a valid marriage. For those whose religious or other beliefs abhor divorce, the distinction is significant so that a person in a null marriage will not just continue to endure it with the wrong notion that it requires a divorce petition to terminate such “marriage”. For emphasis, a null marriage simply requires a petition for nullity, and not divorce, to terminate it. Petition for divorce is only required where a valid marriage exists in the first place. The same rule also applies where a person who is already married deceptively marries a single person under the Act. 

NOTE: This post is an excerpt from my book, What the Law Says About Marriage and Divorce.

[1]. See, Erogunaye v Erogunaye (unreported) SUIT NO.:- FCT/HC/PET/105/2013 in the High Court of the FCT, Abuja. The judgment is available online at (accessed on 9th July, 2016).