Legal Clinic: My husband has registered a marriage with another woman


 A marriage certificate.

Photo credit: File


I would like to know if my husband has registered a marriage with another woman. We did a customary marriage with no certificate and I suspect he has gone ahead and registered one with a different woman. How do I go about the search?

Hi concerned wife,

Marriage is a concept of companionship, whose legal architecture, cultural and religious trappings and practice parameters conspire to create its legitimacy, authenticity, and credibility. It is established by the Marriage Act of 2014 in Section 3, defined as the voluntary union of man and woman, in a monogamous or polygamous spousal arrangement, which is registered by the threshold set by the Act, in under Article 45 (2) of the Constitution.

Customary marriage is one of the five under the Kenyan law. Section 6 of the Marriage Act provides that a union can be registered under the Act if it meets the following criteria. If it is celebrated as per the rights of a Christian denomination, as a civil marriage, by the customary rites relating to any of the communities in Kenya, by the Hindu rites and ceremonies and by Islamic law.

Nonetheless, Sub-section 2 of 6 categorically vacates any notion, construction, or action that would otherwise reduce the monogamous structure of Christian, Hindu and Civil marriages. However, Sub-section 3, qualifies Islamic or customary marriages as polygamous or potentially so. It is unlikely that your husband committed any prosecutable offence within the confines of the Marriage Act.

Your concerns though valid, are with little legal weight to offer you any justifiable room for recourse. Your husband, if it’s true, offends none of the fundamental clauses of the Marriage Act. Nevertheless, the law anticipated that spouses, especially the untruthful ones, may choose to be mischievous, and created a process of registering a marriage to help track and identify parties.

It is expected that within six months after a customary marriage has culturally commenced and recognised, such union must be registered by the Registrar of Marriages at the State Law Office. The fact that most documents and processes used to register marriage require scrutiny by the public, it is an assumption that every other person, outside those in the union, can seek to confirm the marital status of a specific person.

If your spouse invited another wife into the union that you and he share, by registering his move, it is likely his application was accompanied by certain documents required by the Registrar of Marriages, including the couples’ and the witnesses’ copies of the national identity card or passport and a letter from the chief confirming that customary marriage took place. In addition, he must have placed a notice within three months after completion of the necessary steps that conferred husband and wife status.

Upon submitting his application, a notice of the same is often placed in strategic public spaces for at least 14 days. Once this period lapses, the parties are required to book an appointment on the E-citizen platform and appear before the Registrar of Marriages for an interview.

This likely leads to an approval process, which requires the applicants to pay Sh3,900 through a pay system on the E-citizen platform. While marriage operations are limited to parties in it, public access is referenced, which could justify the verification and submission of the various documents.

Therefore, in a search process to determine someone’s marital status, an applicant is required to have the following: a) information about their own address: b) full names of the husband, and or wives: c) dates of their births (the couple under investigation); d) place of their births: e) date and place of marriage: f) name and address of marriage registry. This is in addition to stating the relationship to the couple, or either spouse.

After a successful search process, applicants are often issued with a certified copy of the marriage certificate of the couple you seek to unearth, which is issued to certify and verify that a marriage certificate is officially recognised by the Registrar of Marriages.

This process has been made straightforward through the E-citizen platform and may require that an applicant pays Sh1,100 to complete the application and receive the results of the search. While it is your wish to find out if your husband is now officially polygamous, for reasons that you only understand, there is a force in Sub-section 2 of Section 3 giving you equal status in the marriage in regard to obligations and rights. This should include access to relevant information, pertinent to the wellness of this companionship.

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