Recover from Your EX for Breach of Pre Marriage Agreement

marriage : breach of agreement to marry, pre marriage contract.

Recover for Breach of  pre Marriage Agreement

by TAkim Etta




When parties enter into a pre-marriage agreement, it is determined whether this agreement is binding or merely a promise. However, this depends on how the promise was made and the circumstances surrounding it. Individuals who have indeed promised to marry must fulfill that promise according to the law or pay damages for breaching the agreement to marry. This article aims to address the question of under what circumstances a person can recover for breaching an agreement to marry.


Because of the emotional trauma people go through after a breakup, which sometimes leads to death or mental retardation, the law cannot close its eyes but has provided a remedy for those who fail to keep the promise of an agreement to marry. As a means of pacifying aggrieved parties, the law provides a remedy for this breach. This is to reduce the rate of fake promises and make people make only serious promises because marriage is a matter of the heart.

What is Marriage?

Marriage has been defined as the voluntary union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others[1]. Marriage is defined as the union between two persons of adult age.[2] Marriage is a legally and socially sanctioned partnership, usually between a man and a woman, that is governed by laws, norms, conventions, beliefs, and attitudes that prescribe the partners’ rights and duties and accord status to their kids.[3]Marriage is not for children, as the laws have always defined the marriageable ages for people intending to marry.

With the Decision in Obergefell v. Hodges The Status of Marriage in the United States has changed as gay marriage has been introduced, changing the position in the case of Hyde v. Hyde. In Nigeria, the age for marriage is 18 years, the same as in the United States. Also, in the United Kingdom, the marriageable is 18 Years. Previously, persons could marry at the age of 16 or 17 with parental authorization, and there was no rule prohibiting ceremonies for younger children who were not registered with municipal governments.[4]

The parties to marriage must voluntarily agree to marry, as it has been settled globally that forced marriage is prohibited.[5] 

The Nigerian Supreme Court ruled in Egbe v. Adefarasin (1987) NWLR (Pt. 133) 594 that violation of pledge to marry is actionable. The court stressed that where there is a clear and explicit promise to marry, the harmed party may seek damages for the breach. The court emphasized the need of establishing the existence of a promise and reasonable reliance that resulted in a loss.

Breach of Pre-Marriage Agreement.

A breach of a marriage Agreement is the voluntary refusal to continue with a marriage agreement.[6] According to Sabisi, the Breach of promise to Marry is the flagrant refusal to fulfill the agreement to Marry.[7] “Promise to Marry” refers to the refusal to keep and fulfill marriage promises.

However, for a person to recover for the breach of the Agreement to Marry, certain conditions must be met, without which the aggrieved party would be crying in vain, and there would be no recovery whatsoever.[8]

It is worthy to note that aggrieved parties who wish to recover for the breach of the agreement to Marry can approach the court of competent jurisdiction and file a petition for breach of the agreement to Marry. This would only succeed where these three elements are present.

1. The petitioner must be the aggrieved party.
2. There must be an actual promise to Marry.
3. The aggrieved party must have relied on the promise made.
4. The Pre-Marriage Agreement was collaborated upon.

1. It must be the aggrieved party.

Only those who have suffered from a breach of promise to marry can approach the court for damages due to the breach of the agreement to marry. A person who initiated the breakup cannot approach the court to recover for the breach of the agreement to marry.

A person who catches their partner cheating and decides to break up cannot approach the court for breach of the agreement to marry; cheating is not an actual breach of the agreement to marry but a factor that warrants a breakup.

A person who initiates a breakup, no matter how severe the courtship may have broken down, cannot recover for any breach initiated by him or her. The party must expressly inform the other that they can no longer continue the relationship. Only those who suffer from the breach can approach the court.

2. There must be an Actual Promise to Marry.

In legal terms, a promise to marry is a serious commitment that requires genuine intent from both parties involved. The guilty party must unequivocally promise to marry the aggrieved party. However, the validity of this promise depends on the context in which it was made.

For instance, making a promise during sexual activity does not constitute a valid agreement to marry. Similarly, if someone receives a gift and agrees to marry out of anxiety or happiness, it does not suffice as a genuine commitment. The parties involved must be in a serious state of mind, fully aware of the significance of the promise to spend their lives together.

An agreement to marry is a mutual understanding that involves two essential components: a clear promise to marry and a willing acceptance from the other party. If one party does not willingly accept the proposal, there is no valid agreement to begin with. In such cases, the individual who did not agree to marry cannot legally claim a breach of agreement, as there was no agreement in the first place. The responses from both parties must be explicit, indicating their willingness to share vows and commit to a life together.

In essence, a genuine agreement to marry is not just a verbal commitment; it is a heartfelt promise that reflects the true intentions of both parties. Clear communication and mutual understanding are key in forming a valid agreement to marry, ensuring a strong foundation for a lifelong partnership.

3. The parties must have relied on the promise.

Parties to a pre-marriage agreement must have relied on the assurance of the guilty party that the relationship would lead to marriage. When there was no reliance by the party entering the marriage contract, the aggrieved party could not recover, as it was just a mere puff since both parties were not serious. The element of reliance could be deduced when parties have a strong commitment with the expectation that the agreement made would materialize on a future date.

4. The agreement must be corroborated.

In Nigeria, for a person to succeed in a petition for breach of an agreement to marry, such agreement must be corroborated. This can be in the form of formal writing or, when the agreement was made, witnesses who were present could testify in court about the existing agreement. For example, a text message or, in one case, a sister of the aggrieved parties overheard the guilty party making the promise, and it was considered corroboration.

Remedies breach of agreement to marry,

The only remedy for breach of agreement to marry under Nigerian law is compensation for the aggrieved party. The court cannot order the guilty party to marry the aggrieved party because marriage is a voluntary activity. Doing so would amount to a breach of fundamental human rights for the party.

Marriage is a matter of the heart; people go through a lot during breakups. We advise that before a promise to marry is made, the parties should be convinced that the person in question is who they want to spend the rest of their lives with, rather than going in and out and paying compensation for heartbreaks.


  1. Hyde v. Hyde (1866) LR 1 PD 130
  2. Bell, D., 1997. Defining marriage and legitimacy. Current Anthropology38(2), pp.237-253.
  3. Britanica– Definition of Marriage
  4. BBC-Minimum marriage age rises to 18 in England and Wales
  5. Callan, V.J., 1987. The personal and marital adjustment of mothers and of voluntarily and involuntarily childless wives. Journal of Marriage and the Family, pp.847-856.
  6. Mason, T.R., 1961. Breach of Promise to Marry. Okla. L. Rev.14, p.283.
  7. Sibisi, S., 2019. Breach of promise to marry under customary law. Obiter40(2), pp.340-352.
  8. Mason, T.R., 1961. Breach of Promise to Marry. Okla. L. Rev.14, p.283.


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