Is Anita Okoye entitled the the $15000 she is asking for as the cost of the maintenance of the children in her divorce petition?
According to an Article in the Punch Newspaper dated the 21st of August, 2021, the wife of the popular singer Paul Okoye in her petition for divorce, which was signed before the Abuja High Court has made the claim for the payment of a monthly maintenance sum of S15,000.00 (U.S Dollars) for the general welfare, education and health of the three Children of the union who are presently in schools in the United States of America until they are of age.
This news has sparked numerous responses, as to whether or not she had a right to ask for, and/or was entitled to such a sum.
More importantly, many wondered if under the Nigerian Law, the Courts have been empowered to grant such a claim. A lot of people are of the opinion that the only jurisdiction where her claims would likely be granted is in western countries such as USA, U.K, Canada, e.t.c. but not in Nigeria.
The focus of this article will be to enlighten us on the legality or otherwise of the Maintenance claims made by Anita Okoye in her divorce petition. It is our hope that after this legal analysis, anyone reading this would have a better understanding of the position of the Nigerian Law regarding the issue of Maintenance in Matrimonial cases.
Section 70(1) of the Matrimonial Causes Act states that “the Court may, in proceedings for an order for the maintenance of a party to a marriage, or of Children of the marriage, other than proceedings for an order of maintenance pending the disposal of proceedings, make such order as it thinks proper, having regard to the means, earning capacity and conduct of the parties to the marriage and all other relevant circumstances.”
As far as we know, Anita Okoye’s claim for maintenance in her divorce petition is not for herself, but her children. However, if she had made a claim for maintenance for herself, she would be within her rights to do so under the law.
The pertinent question here is if the Court would grant the monthly payment of the sum of S 15,000.00 (U.S dollars), which is estimated to be Seven Million, Eight Hundred Thousand in Naira.
As shown above, the earning capacity of the parties, their respective means and the conduct of the parties, as well as other relevant circumstances are what the court will consider in granting an award for maintenance.
The principle was upheld in the case of Hayes v Hayes (2003) 3 NWLR (Pt 648) 276, where the court granted the sum of N40,000.00 (Forty Thousand Naira), as opposed to the sum of N50,000.00 (Fifty Thousand Naira), prayed for by the respondent/applicant (the wife) to be paid monthly for her maintenance and that of the children. In making this order, the court went further to include; the stations in life of the parties and their lifestyles, as well as the existence or non-existence of child or children of the marriage as parts of the factors to be considered in awarding maintenance.
It was also stated in this instant case that the court must always ensure that it’s orders regulate the social order and must not adversely strike at the society’s psyche.
From the above legal analysis, it can therefore be concluded that, if this divorce petition progresses, the courts in exercising it’s power to award maintenance, would have regard to what is fair and equitable based on the evidence adduced at the trial by the parties (Anita and Paul Okoye) regarding their earning capacity, and their means of income (which would definitely reflect their lifestyles), as well as their conduct in order to determine if the monthly sum of S 15,000.00 (Fifteen Thousand U.S dollars), claimed by Anita is to be awarded as maintenance for the children. If however, the court considers that amount too excessive, the court will stipulate any sum it deems fit and award it as maintenance for the children.
Written by: Oluwatoyin .M. Asada.
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