Preventing Former Wife and Current Wife Wars.
By George Eze Emeghara.
A man marries a woman. Somewhere along the line, the relationship takes a turn for the worse and they divorce after many years during which they had children.
The man remarries after the divorce and goes on to have a few more children with the new wife.
Then he dies.
The first wife who he he had nothing to do with while he was alive now seeks to return to mourn him as his widow.
She battles the new wife with all the venom she can muster, as though to punish the new wife for displacing her. Even when the second wife was not in the picture when the break up occurred.
In some cases the first wife gets the upper hand with the support of some of the man’s relatives.
These are usually people who have issues with the new madam. This upper hand could also be as a result of the support she gets from her children who would be much older than the new wife’s own children, if she has any.
This scenario is repeating itself a bit too often these days. Especially with wealthy men.
When the marriage broke up the man closed his chapter with his former wife.
When he remarried he sealed the closure of the chapter.
There is no reason why the first wife should be brought back to the house to mourn him.
A house she could not come into while the man was alive. Infact, if she had any shame at all, she wouldn’t come back to struggle over anything with the new wife.
All she should be concerned about is to ensure that her children get what is due them from the man’s estate.
Not to come and be recognised as the widow or Chief mourner.
Some people say their tradition empowers the first wife’s children to bring her back when her husband dies.
No problem. If a child wants to bring his mother back to the family compound after the father’s death, he has every right to do so.
But he should keep her in his own house and not in his father’s house which she could not enter when the man was alive and which is now occupied by another woman legitimately married to the man.
Some of such returnee women brandish wedding pictures and certificates and insist that because they were married in church, that they are the real “deal” and not one who was married according to native law and custom as many “replacement” wives are.
They go further to insist that the church does not recognise divorce and so the divorce which was pronounced by a court of law and which was in force until the man died is not valid. Ridiculous!
Some of the new wives get the man to marry them in court as well.
Those ones have documents to counter the first wife and her claims of primacy which she believes a church marriage confers on her.
Men who have such entanglements, or situations, should try to protect their new wives and spare them the agony and tribulations they pass through after they die.They should ensure they spell things out clearly in their Wills and in instructions to key members of the family while they can still do so.
If the man is very wealthy, he should share or allocate his property while he is alive, announcing who gets what and informing all concerned with the help of legal documents that the transfer of property takes effect from when he dies.
Such forward planning and measures will reduce the incidents of these divorced or estranged wife and current wife battles we are reading about with increasing regularity these days.
It will also reduce family squabbles over inheritance.
It is always sad to see and read about the avoidable bickering and protracted legal battles among family members which crop up when some people pass on.
George Eze Emeghara is a Nigerian journalist, writer and public affairs commentator based in the southeastern city of Owerri. Money Palaver is his column for Nairaweb.ng