By the end of this post, the readers should be able to:

·             Explain the concept of marriage.

·             Examine the purpose of marriage.

·             Explain factors to consider when choosing a marriage partner.

·             Identify the benefits of marriage.

·             Differentiate between dating and courtship.

·             Outline the advantages and disadvantages of dating and courtship.

·             Examine the preparations that will have to be made before marriage.

·             Explain the need for premarital counseling.

·             Describe the types of marriages in Ghana.

·             Explain marriage law and prohibitions.

·             Analyze the social and legal implications of marriage.

·             Examine factors that contribute to the success or failure of marriage.


Commitment between two people to take on roles of husband and wife.

Marriage may be defined as a union between people (usually a man and a woman) who agree to unite as husband and wife. It is a union in which the couple (husband and wife) have gone through all the approved steps or procedures recognized in the society for such a purpose or union.

In societies such as ours, marriage is usually a union of two families, that is, the family of  the man and that of the woman. It is a personal relationship between a man and a woman that involves love, exclusive sex, cohabitation, reproduction and child rearing.

Marriage has both legal and social implications. Legally, it is regarded as a contract, and socially it is a bond or union between two families.

Importance / Significance /Purpose of Marriage (Reasons why People Marry)

People marry for various reasons or purposes. These include:

(i) Companionship: People marry in order to provide companionship and support for each other. Marriage solves the problem of loneliness. It gives an opportunity to the couple to support each other, share ideas and their joy or good moments together. Marriage therefore helps to reduce the problems of emotional depression and hardships of loneliness.


(ii) Procreation: Marriage provides a lawful or legitimate avenue by which new ones are born into the family or community. Marriage therefore enables society to naturally bring in new members through legitimate or socially acceptable means. Children born outside marriage do not receive the respect of the society.

(iii) Sexual Satisfaction: Marriage provides people a legitimate or lawful means for sexual satisfaction and gratification. Marriage is the proper way by which the sexual needs of a husband and wife can be met. It therefore enables the couple to have a free and socially acceptable sexual relationship.

(iv) Respect and Recognition (Social Status): Marriage accords the husband-and-wife social recognition and acceptance. It is a means through which an adult derives respect and recognition in society. In African societies, men and women who fail to marry are usually frowned on.

(v) Unity: Marriage brings about peace and unity in society. Some marriage is a group affair involving the families of the couple, it creates unity among families and society as a whole.


Some Forms of Marriage

(i) Monogamy: This is a form of marriage in which a person marries one (marriage) partner at a time

(ii) Polygamy: Polygamy is a form of marriage in which a person is married to more than one marriage partner at the same time. Thus, it is the practice of having more than one wife or more than one husband.

(iii) Polygyny: This is a form of marriage whereby a man marries more than one wife at the same time. It is widely practiced in Africa.

(iv) Polyandry: This is a form of marriage whereby a woman marries more than one man (husband) at the same time. It used to be practiced among the Tonga of Tanzania.


Merits Or Advantages of Polygamy / Why Some People Practice Polygamy

Polygamy is practiced for various reasons. The following are some of these reasons:

(i) Economic Factor

Some people practice polygamy so as to have many hands (a large labor force) to help them in the economic activities such as farming, and even commercial trading. This is because in Africa, the methods of production are largely labor intensive.

(ii) Religious Factor

In many African societies superstition is widespread. For instance, in some societies, it is a taboo for a man to come into contact with a woman during her menstrual period or even eat food cooked by her. Men in such societies therefore have to marry more women to serve as reserve so that they can always fall on one when the need arises. This has given rise to polygamy and hence polygyny.

(iii) Sexual factor

Some people always want to have sex in rapid succession. Such people cannot live without sex. They therefore turn to have more marriage partners so that they can be rotating them. This is mostly common with the men especially where the woman does not need more sex. This also gives rise to polygamy — polygyny.

(iv) Social Prestige 

People such as chiefs whose positions command a lot of prestige and who can take care of many people tend to marry more than one wife at the same time so as to have a lot of children and hence, maintain their respect and prestige within the society. This is more so because, in African societies, children are regarded as prestigious gifts from God.

(v) Political Factor

In some societies, a man who is married to many women or wives and has many children tends to assume more power. Some men therefore marry many wives or practice polygamy (polygyny) in order to have more power particularly political power within the society.


Demerits Or Disadvantages /Reasons Against Polygamy

(i) Economic Constrains 

Polygamy tends to place constrains on the budget of the family since it entails the feeding of more mouths. Men who practice it are therefore mostly economically constrained. Polygamy has therefore in no small way contributed to the poor nature of families. It has also made it difficult for families to save

(ii) Jealousies and Conflicts 

Because the number of people in polygamous families is usually large, there is the tendency to be a lot of friction going on between members. It can be between the man and his wives because of unequal treatment given to the women by the man — sex and resources may not be equally distributed among the women by the man. Children from different women also come into conflict with one another just as their mothers.

(iii) Health Hazards 

There are some diseases associated with sexual intercourse which can be transmitted from one person to another during sex. Hence, if one of the women or the man has any of such diseases, it can be passed on to all the other parties involved in the marriage. For example, if any of the parties has AIDS, it will be passed on to every other party involved in the marriage.

(iv) Bad Role Model for Children

Polygamy serves as a bad role model for children who are brought up in polygamous families.

(v) Adultery 

Polygamy can lead to adultery on the part of women since the man may not be able to satisfy the sexual needs or desires of all the women.

(vi) Rapid Population 

Polygamy has in no small way contributed to the rapid population growth in Africa. This has resulted in a lot of socio-economic problems on the African continent.


Factors to consider when choosing a partner

(i) Love 

Love should form the basis for any marriage. An individual should choose a partner whom he loves. Love may come suddenly or it may develop gradually. The love that leads to marriage should be able to stand the test of time.

(ii) Physical attraction

For a successful marriage, both partners should be physically attracted to each other. Factors such as weight, size, height, color, size of buttocks, breast, legs and head could attract people to select a partner.

(iii) Personality patterns

A person should choose a partner whose lifestyle and personality patterns complement rather than resemble or replicate his. The partners should be able to tolerate each other.

(iv) Compatibility 

Partners should share similar interests, likes and dislikes. They should be compatible in as many aspects of life as possible. For example, they should be compatible in the choice of clothing, friends, food and beliefs.

(v) Background 

Differences in the background of the partners must be considered. The greater the differences in background between the two people, the less chance there is of having a successful marriage.

(vi) Economic security

The young person's contemplating marriage should ensure that they are economically ready to do so, that is, they will need to start their own home, make provision for adequate feeding, etc. It is at least important for the man to be gainfully employed.

(vii) Parental consent

In Ghanaian culture, it is demanded that the young people must seek and obtain the approval of their parents before marriage.

(viii) Health 

An individual should consider the health of the partner he intends to marry.

(ix) Character 

One should choose a partner with a reputable character. The person should be humble, respectful, modest, generous and above all, God-fearing

(x) It is advisable that couples intending to marry undergo a genotype examination in a reputable hospital or medical laboratory prior to marriage.


Benefits of Marriage

(i) Married people are better able to meet their life goals 

Married people can pool their economic and financial resources together and thus better able to meet their life goals or lead the kind of life they desire. Couples share the cost of housing, furniture, utilities, household appliances etc. the two can live for the price of one.

(ii) Children generally do better in two parent homes

Children generally are better raised in a two-parent home. They tend to do better emotionally and academically. They also get more parental attention and control e.g., Supervision and help in school work. Parents spend quality time with each child.

(iii) Married people live longer

As compared to single people, married people live longer because they have emotional support from their partners. By pooling their economic resources together, they have more economic resources available to them and are under less economic pressure.

(iv) Married people tend to lead a healthy lifestyle

Married couples tend to lead a healthier lifestyle in terms of housing, emotions, nutrition and communication and are better able to avoid harmful or dangerous behaviors such as alcoholism, interpersonal cultists, loneliness and depressions.

(v) Marriage provides security to the couple and the children.

(vi) Marriage provides an opportunity to develop an intimate sharing relationship.


Dating and Courtship


Arrangement made by a boy or a girl to go out with a member of the opposite sex for fun and which may also lead to mate selection.

Dating may not necessarily lead to marriage. It is just for fun. And may involve other people e.g., friends going out together.

Dating and Courtship


It is a period in which couple are involved in a romantic relationship which will lead to marriage. Courtship is a relationship which leads to marriage. It is a

period, when young people intending to marry move about together and get to know each other. During this period they think carefully and deeply about how they can get on with each other. They study each other's behavior, moods, likes and dislikes. They also learn about each other's family background and do a lot of things together. It is a period that affords them the opportunity to find out the extent to which they really love each other. Courtship often differs with cultures and even with families. Whatever practice is adopted, courtship should be marked with the two persons really understanding each other. People intending to get married should know the factors to consider in choosing a partner and look out for them during courtship.

Courtship is therefore a period when the couple make up their minds to marry. Couples have formal permission from parents to marry.

There is intensive interaction. Dating includes:

(i)  Entertainment and recreation

(ii) Friendship and companionship i.e., a chance to share activities

(iii)  Learn social skills

(iv) Personal development

(v)  Learn gender roles. How man/woman react to each other

(vi)  Giving and receiving love

(vii) Provides the chance to meet a suitable person

(viii) Share interests, feelings and opinions of each other


Advantages of Dating and Courtship

(i)   Help the couple to learn about each other and themselves

(ii)   Evaluate each other and their relationship

(iii)  Learn about the opposite sex

(iv)  Determine the characteristics that are best in the individual and for the partner.

(v)  For enjoyment; couple relaxes.


Limitations of Dating:

(i)   May lead to intimacy not necessarily commitment

(ii)  Skips friendship which is the foundation for stable relationship in marriage

(iii)  Dating may focus on romantic attraction and lasts only when feelings remain

(iv) Focuses on enjoying love and romance

(v)  Mistakes physical relationship for love

(vi) Takes a lot of time from the young couple and may distract them from their responsibilities e.g., learning.


Preparation Before Marriage

After courtship, the young persons who have decided that they want to live together as husband and wife introduce themselves formally to each other's family. Both families then get to know each other. The procedure for such an introduction is different with cultures.



Engagement is a stage often marked with the public announcement by partners of their intention to marry. It is often by a man that he wishes to marry a woman. The engagement period is designed to test and prove the suitability of the match before it is made final.

engagement  in Ghana

Purposes of Engagement

(i) Engagement places the partners as a pair in their own eyes, and in the eyes of both families.

(ii) It gives the two persons an opportunity to act as a pair and to think of themselves as such. They learn how to work together in different situations. 

(iii) They learn to communicate better than they ever had. They not only learn to communicate love, they also communicate thoughts, moods and negative emotions.

(iv) During the engagement period, partners explore each other's experiences and personalities.

(v) It gives the partners an opportunity to plan specifically for the marriage. They can plan how money will be earned and spent, where they will live, the number of children they will have, etc.

(vi) During this period, love is likely to deepen and broaden. This leads to a feeling of confidence in each other and a conviction that the right choice has been made.


Importance/Need for Pre-marital Counselling

(i) It helps to develop skills that improve and focus on communication and problem solving

(ii) Small group discussions help to air mutual issues.

(iii) Discusses problems that can hinder marriage stability e.g., finances.

(iv) It helps couples to examine their attitudes towards each other.

(v) It helps to explore conflicts and learn to resolve conflicts.

(vi)It helps couples to explore the strength of their relationships and growth areas.

Types Of Marriage in Ghana

Marriages are generally classified according to the process involved in getting married. There are three main processes involved in getting married in this country. These processes have given rise to three types of marriage which include customary marriage, religious marriage (Christian and Islamic marriages) and Marriage under the ordinance.


Customary Marriage

Customary marriage forms the basis of all marriages in Ghana. The consent of the parents of both parties is considered very important or significant. Customary marriage is a marriage contracted under the customary law. Customary law permits polygyny, that is to say, a man can marry more than one wife at the same time. it however does not permit polyandry, that is to say, a woman cannot marry more than one husband at the same time. Under the customary marriage and divorce law passed in 1985, customary marriages have to be registered by the District Registrar of Marriages.

Customary payment (Dowry or Bride wealth) when accepted, signifies the consent of family members to the marriage. The bride wealth is meant to compensate the parents of the girl for the loss of the services of their daughter. It is not a price paid for the woman. Thus, payment of the bride price does not mean that the woman has been bought. Marriage payments or demands differ from society to society. Despite the differences, drinks and cash are universal. However, in the Northern parts of Ghana, kolanuts are added while for some parts of Northern Ghana, drinks are not very much emphasized due to the influence of Islam.


importance of the Bride Price

(i) The bride price signifies the consent of the family members to the marriage. It signifies a formal parental or family approval to the union of the two individuals concerned as well as their families.

(ii) The bride price is also meant to compensate the parents of the girl for the loss of the services of their daughter and for nurturing their daughter for years.

(iii) The bride price is further regarded as a means of sealing the marriage bond between the couple and their families. Its payment legalizes the marriage and makes it valid.

(iv) Payment of the bride price confers honor and prestige to the bride, the family and the community she hails from.

(v) Payment of the bride price helps stabilize the marriage or discourages divorce. A broken marriage or divorce arising from indiscipline or misbehavior on the part of the woman would lead to a refund of portion or all the bride price.

(vi) It also demonstrates or shows how the family of the bridegroom places high value on the bride. This is because the items used for the payment of the bride price are quite substantial in monetary terms.


Christian Marriage or Solemnization

In order for a church marriage to be regarded as legal, it must follow the provisions of the marriage ordinance. This means that all necessary documents pertaining to the marriage must be filed and a license obtained from the registrar of marriages. The priest who celebrated the marriage must be legally recognized, the premises of celebration must be a registered one and the celebration must be within the time frame permitted by law (between eight o'clock in the morning and six o'clock in the evening). Before Christian marriage all customary laws must also be satisfied. Hence, before Christian marriage there should be the satisfaction of all conditions related to customary marriage and the registration of the marriage in the court or district council. Christian marriage does not permit polygamy, it is monogamous. Monogamous marriage is the marriage practice of one man to one woman for life.

Christian Marriage or Solemnization

Islamic Marriage

Islamic marriage which is recognized by the state is contracted by Muslims under or according to Islamic law or tradition. The rights and duties of the man and the woman are governed or regulated by Islamic law. The state however makes it possible for Islamic marriage to be registered after it has been celebrated under ordinance. Some Islamic marriages also take place after the requirements of customary marriage are satisfied. Islamic marriage allows polygyny since a man can marry more than one wife at the same time. Islamic marriage ceremony must conform to Islamic law and tradition.

Islamic marriage

Church Blessing

This is the blessing of a marriage contracted under customary law by the church. It is not an Ordinance marriage and does not have any legal support. The object of a church blessing is to give the union the approval of the Christian church. The vows the parties take signify the intentions of the parties, especially the man, to remain monogamous. It is important to explain to the parties concerned the exact nature of the relationship to avoid misunderstanding upon the death of the man. The man's wife does not automatically have any claim to the man’s estate.


Marriage Under the Ordinance

Marriage under ordinance is also termed civil marriage. It may be defined as "the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all other". A man married under ordinance may not lawfully marry another woman under any law except upon the divorce or death of his wife. Marriage under ordinance was introduced into this country by the British in 1884. The union or marriage is registered at the Registrar General's Department or the office of the District Assemblies and law courts.


Features of Marriage Under Ordinance

(i) The parties must obtain and complete a form declaring their intention to marry, from the Registrar of Marriages. That is, their consent is needed.

(ii) Twenty-eight days to three months after the application, the registrar will issue a certificate of authority. Thereafter, a date can be fixed for the marriage within three months.

(iii) The marriage ceremony can be performed by the District Registrar of Marriages or in a church authorized to do so by a qualified priest.


Marriage Laws and Prohibitions

(i)   Marriage is for a life time. It is a lifelong commitment till death do you part.

(ii) Marriage is by mutual consent of the couple not by force

(iii)  Marriage is prohibited between close blood relations

(iv) Marriage should also be with parental consent.


Advantages / Importance / Benefits of Marriage under the Ordinance to the Couple

 (i) It discourages divorce among couple and therefore ensures security of marriage for both the man and the woman.

(ii) It also discourages polygamy marriage and its attendant problems because none of the couple especially the man can marry another woman under this system.

(iii) Documentary evidence of the marriage is provided. That is, a marriage certificate is normally produced to confirm that the couple are married.

(iv) Interference from extended family members is reduced to the minimum

(v) Marriage under ordinance is recognized by the laws of the country. It therefore provides legal recognition to the marriage by society.

(vi) In times of death, it minimizes litigation over inheritance of property.

(vii) The courts are responsible for settling issues of property sharing and the custody of the children, in case of any divorce.


Social and legal implications of Marriage

Marriage In Ghana is both a social and legal bond. It is a social bond because it involves other people besides the couple, such as the families of the man and the woman. It has often been emphasized that in Ghana, marriage is between two families rather than between two individuals. It is a legal bond because it is regarded as a contract with legal implications. There are, therefore, rules regulating how it may be contracted and by whom. Customary marriage is regulated by customary law, Islamic marriage by Islamic marriage law and Civil/ Ordinance marriage by legislation.


Marriage by Residence

Marriage can also be described according to the residential status or residence of the couple (where the couple are putting up). Under this criterion of describing marriage, there are essentially four types of descriptions in this country:

Patrilocal Marriage

Patrilocal marriage is a type of marriage in which the couple lives in the father's compound of the husband. Under this type of marriage, the wife leaves or moves from her parents and stays with the man or husband in his father's compound. This type of marriage is predominant in Northern Ghana (among the Dagaaba, Dagomba, Sissala and Mamonusi societies)

Matrilocal Marriage 

In the case of matrilocal marriage, the couple lives with the family or kin group of the woman or wife. Here, it is rather the man or husband who moves to join the woman or his wife in the compound of her family. This type of marriage is predominant among some matrilineal societies in the country such as the Akans. 

Duolocal Marriage 

Under duolocal marriage, the couple continue to live separately in their respective natal homes (homes to which they have been given birth) after the marriage. This practice is common among the Gas of Southern Ghana.

Neolocal Marriage: 

Under this type of marriage, the couples establish their own home and move in there to live together.


Factors that Contribute to Successful Marriage

(i) Age at marriage

Marriage is for matured and older people. Therefore, people who are socially, emotionally economically and religiously matured are more likely to be successful than teenagers or adolescents. Matured people are likely to have less financial problems than teenagers.

(ii) Adequate preparation 

This involves the partners knowing each other to enable them make necessary adjustments when the need arises. Individuals must be sure of their readiness to want to marry. They should go for counselling and have enough information about marriage and its implication or consequences. This will make them competent in managing their home, money and taking good care of their children.

(iii) Good/Effective Communication

Effective communication between the spouses is important to ensuring successful marriage. Effective communication means that couple should openly share ideas, problems, opinions and must be ready to share feelings openly and moments of joy and sorrow.

(iv) Trust and mutual respect: 

Couples should show sympathy, tolerance and ability to adapt to situations. They must trust each other and show respect to each other's opinions.

(v) Equality in relationship

Couples must understand that marriage is a lifelong institution. To stay happily in marriage, couples must have mutual respect for each other and be able to take decisions that affect the family e.g., the number of children they would like to have.

(vi) Financial stability

Married couples should have the financial strength or generate enough income to take care of their basic needs of food, shelter, clothing and health care. It is therefore important for at least the man to be gainfully employed.

(vii) Love each other 

Love should form the basis for any marriage. The love that leads to marriage should be able to stand the test of time.

(viii) Economic security

Young person's contemplating marriage should ensure that they are economically ready to do so; they will need to start their own home, make provision for adequate feeding etc. They need to have jobs to generate regular income.


Factors that Contribute to Marriage Failure

Many factors contribute to marriage failure. Among them include:

(i) Religious Differences

When couples belong to different religious denominations or groups, they are likely to be confronted with this problem/ challenge. They are likely to disagree on many issues relating to life and this could have a negative impact on the marriage or divorce.

(ii) Financial Problems 

The couple may not have enough/adequate funds to run the home. The inability of the man to provide money to cater for basic things like food and clothing puts the  marriage under serious stress. It results in anger and unhappiness and thus divorce.

(iii) Childlessness 

The inability of the wife and husband to give birth to children could bring bitterness, anger and frustration in the marriage. In our society, childlessness is regarded as a curse and sterility and barrenness is frowned upon. Therefore, the inability of the couple to give birth could lead to divorce.

(iv) Sexual Incompatibility

Inability or failure on the part of one of the couples to satisfy the sexual needs or desires of the other marriage partner. Therefore, marriage breakdown may occur when one partner fails to derive/obtain sexual satisfaction from the other.

(v) Interference from In-laws 

Unnecessary interference from in-laws which tends to create unhealthy relationships and conflicts culminating in marital failure. Where in-laws interfere in the affairs of married couples, denying them of their privacy and independence, it could lead to marriage breakdown.

(vi) Lack of Effective Communication 

Inadequate or even lack of effective communication or free flow of information between the couple could lead to conflicts and subsequent breakup of marriage. Effective communication or free flow of information help correct misconceptions and solve many problems or misunderstandings in marriage.

Lack of Effective Communication

(vii) Infidelity or unfaithfulness 

Especially adultery on the part of the woman and/or the man can result in the breakdown of the marriage. Where the man or woman flirts outside the marriage, one may feel disgraced and will like to end the relationship. (viii)Disagreement on family size: While one of the couples may want a large family size, the other may want a small family size.

(ix) Sex Differences of Children 

One of the couples may prefer male children while the other may prefer females.


Problems/Effects of Divorce or Breakdown of Marriage

Marital failure or breakdown of marriage will result in broken homes with the following attendant consequences or results:

(i) Child Delinquency

Children may indulge in criminal acts due to inadequate parental control. Children become wayward and uncontrollable and may resort to armed robbery and other acts of indiscipline as a result of neglect by parents due to divorce.

(ii) Drug or substance abuse 

Children from broken homes resort to or take to the consumption of drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, heroin and alcoholic beverages in order to cope with the difficulties and frustrations caused by the divorce.

(iii) Single Parenthood

This is another serious effect of broken marriages. When couples separate, the children are normally taken care of by one of them, that is, either the man or the woman. The absence of one partner means the one in-charge or who takes care of them would have to play the role of both parents. This puts a lot of pressure on the parent.

(iv) Teenage Pregnancies

Girls from broken homes are likely to fall victims of sexual harassment. The result of this is early and unplanned pregnancies as well as marriages. Inadequate fending for girls and financial pressures may compel them to offer themselves to men for money.

(v) Child abuse 

Some children may have to work in order to fend for themselves.

(vi) There will also be an increase in social vices such as prostitution and armed robbery as a result of fallen moral standards due to lack of proper upbringing of children.

(vii) Increase in the number of street children as a result of lack of parental care.

(viii) Indiscipline at home due to inadequate parental care, control and training.

(ix) Increase in the number of school dropouts as a result of lack of parental care

These challenges pose a great challenge to the stability of the marriage. Hence, the couple should stay firm and understand each other. The couple should also seek guidance and counselling from competent sources, when necessary, in order to save the marriage from breaking up.


How to Overcome Some of the Challenges in Marriage

(i) Tolerance, understanding and effective communication on the part of the couple or each spouse is needed in order to overcome the problem or challenges they are facing.

(ii) The couple should discharge their duties or responsibilities effectively. They should be totally committed to their responsibilities

(iii) Marriage counselors and pastors should be contacted or consulted for advice or guidance.

(iv) The couple should be content with what they have and with each other.

(v) The couple should be transparent in all their dealings. They should be open, honest and truthful to each other.

(vi) In-laws may be called upon to intervene. They can guide and counsel the couples to save marriages.

(vi) The couple should be adequately prepared before marriage.


Family Systems (Inheritance)

The commonest forms of inheritance in Ghana include the following:

(i) Patrilineal or Paternal Inheritance 

This type of inheritance is practiced by people such as the Dagaba, the Gas, the Dagombas, Ewes etc. Under this system of inheritance children succeed their biological fathers. The property of the deceased is shared among the children with the greatest part going to the eldest son. Where no sharing of the property takes place, the eldest son takes care of it. Paternal inheritance is inheritance through the father's line.


(ii) Matrilineal or Maternal Inheritance 

This is a type of inheritance is practiced by people who trace decent to their mother's line. In a matrilineal society, children do not succeed their fathers since they do not belong to them. Under this system of inheritance, the man is inherited by brothers from his mother's line. He is usually succeeded by the eldest of them all. In the absence of any brother, he can be succeeded by his nephew. In the absence of a brother, cousin or nephew, his sister has the right of succeeding him. In the case of a dead woman, her sister succeeds her. Where there are no sisters, mother inherit their daughter. In Ghana, Matrilineal inheritance is practiced by the Akans. Matrilineal inheritance is inheritance through the mother's line.


The Intestate Succession Law

(PNDC LAW 111/112, 1985) The problems and difficulties created by the traditional system of inheritance gave birth to the enactment of the intestate succession law (PNDC Law 111, 1985). For instance, under the traditional system of inheritance particularly the matrilineal system of inheritance, when the husband dies, the wife and children may suffer from injustice with regards to the distribution of his property.

Note that the intestate succession law is applicable in a situation where a person dies without making a will or in a case where a will made by a deceased does not cover all his property. The provisions of the law apply to all persons who die on or after the law has come into force without leaving behind a will for the distribution and management of their respective properties or estates.

Under the law, the property of a deceased who dies intestate is distributed as follows:

(i) Where the deceased dies intestate leaving a spouse or/and a child, the spouse or child or both as the case may be, will be entitled to take all the household chattels of the deceased. Household chattels include clothes, furniture, books, television, refrigerator, motor vehicles, sounds system, cooking utensils, etc.

(ii) Where the deceased leaves behind a house, the spouse and children will be entitled to the house. Where he has more than one house, the spouse and children will be entitled to the house of their choice and in the case of any indecision, the high court will determine which one of the houses should go to them.

(iii) Whatever property of the deceased that remains after the household chattels and one house goes to the spouse and the children, is referred to as the RESIDUE.

The residue is distributed as follows

(according to the provisions of the law):

(i) Where the deceased leaves behind a wife and children, the residue will be distributed as follows:

3/16 of it will go to the spouse

9/16 goes to the children

1/8 will go to the parent(s)

1/8 of the residue will be distributed according to customary law


(ii) Where there is no parent, then 1/4 of the residue is distributed according to customary law.

(iii) Where the deceased left behind the spouse but not child, the residue is distributed as follows:

1/2 will go to the spouse

1/4 of it will go to the parent(s)

1/4 will be distributed according to customary law

(iv) In case there is no surviving parent, the h of the residue is distributed according to customary law.

(v) Where the deceased is survived by a child without a spouse, the residue is distributed as follows:

3/4 of it will go to the surviving child

1/8 to the surviving parent(s)

1/8 according to customary law

(vi) In case there is no surviving parent, then 1/4 of the residue is distributed according to customary law.

(vii) Where there is a surviving parent(s) but no surviving child and spouse,

3/4 of the entire property goes to the parent of the deceased and 1/4 is distributed according to customary law.

(viii) Where there is no surviving spouse, child and parent, the entire property of the deceased will be distributed according to customary law.

(ix) In case the deceased is survived by no parent, spouse nor child, his entire property will go to the state given that the deceased is not subject to customary law. However, any person who was maintained by the deceased or who was closely identified with the deceased may apply to the high court to be maintained out of his property or estate.

(ix) Where the residue of the deceased is worth less than $50,000.00, the spouse and the children if alive would take the entire estate or property.

(xi) If the deceased is survived by only a parent, he/she would be entitled to the whole estate given that the value of the estate is less than the above stated amount $50,000.00).

Note that the right of the children to inherit the property does not depend upon the registration of the marriage of the parents, but the right of the spouse to inherit the deceased under the law does depend on the registration of the marriage.

Note also that anybody who interferes or unlawfully deprives any other especially the wife and children of the deceased of the use of the property of the deceased before the distribution of the property commits an offence. This offence is punishable by law and the offender is liable to a fine of $5,000.00 or an imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months.


Examination Questions and Suggested Solutions

1. State and explain four differences between Islamic and ordinance marriage

(i) Age: Islamic marriage allows child betrothal and early marriage whilst under ordinance marriage, the persons coming together as husband and wife must be of the legal age.

(ii) Whiles Islamic marriage allows for polygamy, a man should however not marry more than four wives, ordinance marriage is monogamous, that is, it only permits the marrying of one woman.

(iii) In Islamic marriage no legal documents are required from the courts, but in ordinance marriage, a license must be obtained from the registrar's office.

 (iv) Islamic marriage requires that the ceremony conforms to Islamic laws and traditions, whilst in the case of ordinance marriage the ceremony must be carried out by a registrar, priest or lawyer.


2.a. What is child labor?

  It involves engaging children under the age of 15 years in income generating activities or gains to their detriment e.g., house help, hawking, cart pushing, etc.

b. State two reasons why child labor laws are difficult to enforce

 (i) Parents of the children usually engage them in these activities of hawking, trading, cart pushing, etc. 

 (ii) Children must work to contribute to household income, for their own up keep etc. because of economic situation of the family.

(iii)       Some of these children are engaged in fishing, farming, mining etc which take place in the hinterland and thus very difficult to trace and find out. Some of them work to raise money to pay their school fees.

(iv)       There is no clear definition of what is considered excessive and exploitative.


c. Describe or explain four ways in which a child's development can be hindered

(i)         Child's education is hindered leading to inability to develop intellectually.

(ii)        Child may not develop the required and appropriate skills for life.

(iii)       Excessive abuse and exploitation may affect the child emotionally.

(iv)       The physical growth of the child may be stunted because of poor nutrition.

(v)        The child may not be prepared psychologically for adulthood. Once they earn money, they think they are adults and tend to leave as such (as adults).

(vi)       The child is also exposed to a lot of   health and other hazards.

 (vii) Child may also be exposed to prostitution or sexual abuse which may lead them to contracting various diseases e.g., STDs.


3.a. Outline the main ideas in the Intestate Succession Law in Ghana. (1995)

The Intestate Succession Law has been promulgated to equitably distribute the property of a person who dies without making a will. The law ensures that:

(i) The living spouse and the children are entitled to household chattels.

(ii) The law states that when the intestate leave behind a house, the living spouse and the children are entitled to it.

(iii) Surviving parents, are also entitled to some portion of the property.

(iv) The living spouse and the child or children shall be entitled to all the estate, if it is worth less than fifty thousand cedis.

(v) All children regardless of whether their mothers have been properly married or not, must benefit or are entitled to their share of the property.


4a.i. What is marriage? (2005)

Marriage is a union between a man and a woman who agree to live together as husband and wife having gone through the necessary procedures.

ii. What is the importance of marriage in the society (give two points)

(i) Marriage provide companionship to the married couples by avoiding loneliness.

(ii) Marriage helps to create a good

foundation to give birth to healthy and good children who are socialized to fit into the larger society

(iii) It provides a recognized and stable source of sexual satisfaction for both partners


b. Differentiate between the following:

i. Husband - wife relationship and parents - child relationship

ii. Family of orientation and family of procreation

iii. Nuclear family and extended family.

iv. Islamic marriage and ordinance marriage

(i) The relationship between husband and wife is marriage whilst that of parent and child is blood

(ii) Family of orientation is the family into which an individual is born consisting of self, sisters, brothers and parents while family of procreation is the family a person starts / creates after leaving the family of

orientation. It consists of self, husband/ wife and children

(iii) The nuclear family is made up of a man, his wife and children. Extended family include parents, children   and other relations e.g., aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, nephews, nieces, etc.

(iv) Islamic marriage is contracted in ways stipulated by Islam. Moslem

men are each allowed to marry up to four wives (polygamy). Marriage under ordinance does not allow a man to marry more than one wife and often, legal requirements are involved under ordinance marriage.


5.a. What is the main difference between a polygamous marriage and a monogamous marriage? (2008)

Monogamous marriage is a form of marriage in which a man takes only one woman as his wife or a woman takes only one man as her husband whereas polygamous marriage is a form of marriage in which a person marries two or more spouses at the same time


b. State three factors that will contribute to

i. A successful marriage

(i) Adequate preparations

(ii) Effective communication

(iii) Hard work

(iv) There should be love and attention

(v) Trust for each other

(vi) Respect for each other

(vii) Good financial standing of the couple

(viii) Faithfulness

(ix) Love and loyalty

(x) Sexual satisfaction


b. State three factors that will contribute to

ii. An unsuccessful marriage

(i)         Unfaithfulness

(ii)        Inadequate or lack of adequate financial resources to provide basic needs

(iii)       Lack of affection and love

(iv)       Disrespect


(vi)       Lack of understanding

(vii)      Interference from in-laws

(viii)     Poor communication

(ix)       Mistrust

(x) Infertility and barrenness


6.a. Explain five factors that contribute to failure in a marriage (2009)

(i) Lack of effective communication: Between married couples can easily lead to failure in marriage (or conflict) Married couples who cannot communicate freely and solve their problems together are likely to have problems in their marriage.

  Lack of affection, love and trust. When there is no love and affection in the relationship, the marriage will fail.   Where the couples suspect each (other) partner of infidelity, the love they have for each other will diminish.

 (iii) Childlessness or infertility: Childlessness is regarded as a shame and a curse in our traditional system. It brings about frustration and bitterness and this can lead to divorce

(iv) Unfaithfulness / adultery: Sexual unfaithfulness on the part of husband or wife can lead to problems and divorce

(v) Inadequate provision of basic needs of the family may lead to quarrels or conflict

(vi) Religious differences: If couples do not belong to the same religion, they may disagree on many issues or things relating to life or when the woman refuses to join the man's religion it can

disturb the stability of the marriage.

(vii)      Lack of respect, understanding and tolerance

(viii)     Gross misconduct or misbehavior in public.

(ix)       Sexual incompatibility: If a man or woman cannot satisfy his/her partner sexually, this may result in either partner indulging in extra-marital sex.


7.a) What is the difference between civil or ordinance marriage and church blessing

Civil or ordinance marriage is contracted by legislation and states the rules which are applicable toe such marriage. Marriage under the ordinance is monogamous, that is it only permits the marrying of one woman to one man at any particular time. This marriage is derived from a colonial law-ordinance.


Church blessing on the other hand is the blessing of a marriage contracted under customary law by the church. It is not an ordinance marriage and does not have any legal support. The object of a church blessing is to give the union the approval of the Christian church.


b State four qualities parents look for in   a prospective son-in-law or daughter in-law.

(i) Physical and mental health status of partner.

 (ii) Respect for in-laws.

(iii) Economically dependent (or partners ability to earn incomes or be financially sound).

(iv) No incurable or contagious diseases in either family e.g., TB. Leprosy, madness


(v)        Whether partner is hardworking.

(vi)       Whether he/she is respected or respectable in the community.

(vii)Whether he/she is fertile-ability to have children.

7.c) Identify five factors and explain why these have contributed to the increase in the divorce rate in the country

(i) Inadequate preparation for marriage as a result of an early marriage or lack of pre-marriage counselling.

(ii)Unnecessary interference from in-laws which tends to create unhealthy relationships.

(iii)       Lack of effective communication which

leads to conflicts between couples.

(iv)       Inadequate provision of basic needs for the family.

(v)        Lack of affection, love, trust and respect.

(vi)       Unfaithfulness

(vii)      Infertility-inability to have children.

(viii) Inability to satisfy partner sexually.

8. State four (4) factors that can contribute to marital failure and suggest two ways by which each factor can be avoided.

Contributing factors

Ways of avoiding marital failure

Interference of in-laws,

other relatives and friends

i.      Couples should           learn to solve their own problems.

ii.    In-laws, relatives and friends should be treated equally.

iii. Couple must also trust and respect each other.

Inadequate preparation for marriage

i.         Couple must have adequate counselling.

ii.       They must be matured physically, mentally and emotionally before getting into marriage.

iii.    They must have investigated the background of each other to find answers for certain questions.

Lack of effective communication

i.        Effective communication helps minimise misunderstanding and suspicious.

ii.     Couple must also learn to appreciate each other's effort.

Infertility childlessness /barrenness

i. there should be counselling of the couple.

ii. Medical check up even before marriage.

iii. There should be sympathy and affection.


i.          Couple should trust, love and respect each other.

ii.        They should stand stead fast to each other.

Examination Questions

l.i. What is marriage?

ii. What procedures should be followed when contracting customary marriage?


2. State four important pieces of information that an intended couple need to have about each other before becoming committed.


3.i. What do it mean to die intestate?

ii. Discuss two consequences of a father from a matrilineal system of

inheritance dying intestate.


4.a. Define the term dating

b. State three reasons why dating is important.

c. State three disadvantages / limitations of dating (May 2012)


5.a. Explain marriage in Ghana as a

i. Social bond

ii. Legal bond


6. What is the importance of the intestate succession law in Ghana

a. Outline five main ideas in the law

b. State three factors that contribute to successful marriage


7. State and explain four factors that can contribute to marital failure

a. What is marriage

b. State four importance of marriage


8. Write short notes on the following

a. Islamic marriage

b. Customary marriage

c. Marriage under ordinance


9. a. Distinguish between dating and courtship

b. Explain five advantages of dating and courtship.

10. Explain five causes of early marriage.

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