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Marriage is a contract where a man and a woman enter into a legally binding relationship with consequential rights and duties imposed on them. There are two kinds of marriages in Cameroon: marriage under the ordinance which may be monogamous or polygamous marriages and customary marriages. Monogamous marriages entail one man and one woman while polygamous entails one man with many wives. Polyandry is not recognized in Cameroon and a woman cannot marry more than one man. For marriage to be valid it must be celebrated before the civil status registrar in most parts of Cameroon. Customary marriages entail the payment of the bride price.  For a customary marriage to be valid in Cameroon it must be registered at the civil status registry. The civil status registrar then has to enter this information into a civil status register of the place of birth or residence of one of the spouses. Wedding ceremonies are therefore not contemplated in the Cameroonian law and parties do not necessarily have to be married in church for their marriage to be valid.

Getting married in Cameroon? What you should know.

If you are planning to get married in Cameroon you need to register your marriage at the civil status registry (usually found at the local council) of the place of birth or residence of one of the spouses. You will have to provide your national identity card and the identity card of the two separate witnesses for both partners. This has to be done at least one month before the marriage to allow the publication of your banns. The publication of your banns is an important aspect of marriage in Cameroon.

What if I am married out of Cameroon?

It does not matter where you contracted the first marriage as long as you are married monogamously you cannot get married to another person without getting a divorce. The second marriage contracted is deemed non-existent. It does not also matter if you got married to someone abroad. This is why banns are published before marriage. The publication of banns is done one month before the celebration of the marriage. The civil status registrar to whom the marriage is declared has to publish the declaration of marriage on the notice board of the civil status registry. A copy of this publication has to be forwarded to the authority of the place of birth of the spouses where the marriage is declared at the place of birth of just one of the spouses. Also, the civil status registrar also has to notify the civil status registrar of the last place of residence of the spouses. The civil status registrar of the last place of residence must also post the declaration at the place of residence of each of the spouses. 

What is the legal age for marriage in Cameroon?

Cameroon Marriage

The woman must be 16 years old and above and the men must have attained 19 years. A waiver may be granted by the President in special circumstances.

Must I obtain my parents’ consent before I get married in Cameroon?

For marriage to be valid in Cameroon, the parties getting married must consent to the marriage. However, the law makes their consent dependent on the consent of their parents. This means that if the parents do not agree then both parties cannot get married. The consent of the parents is so important that once it is not given marriage cannot be celebrated as the consent of the partners can only be valid when supported by that of their parents.

Can I be represented by someone else in Cameroon?

Marriage in Cameroon must be contracted only by the parties concerned. In Cameroon, it is obligatory for the following persons to be present at the marriage celebration: the spouses-to-be and the parents or legal guardian. The only circumstance where a spouse may be represented by another person is where it is evident that he cannot be present at the celebration due to an apparent danger of death. In such a case the absent spouse can be represented by a brother, sister or parent and consent shall be given by that person.

What if my partner and I are just cohabiting in Cameroon?

There are a lot of advantages when people get married in Cameroon. Marriage settles a lot of issues and leaves no doubts. Particularly in the case where the parties decide to separate if they were married, they will have to obtain a divorce as opposed to mere separation if they are cohabiting. Unfortunately, we do not have the concept of ‘common law marriages’ in Cameroon and unmarried people cannot claim the benefits that go with the marital status. There are many Cameroonians who are currently living together and are not married. Couples who live together hardly have as much rights when compared with married couples. They only find this out when the relationship has broken down or where the partner dies. What they normally do is put themselves through unnecessary battles. Issues such as the man being totally responsible for you and your kids are often blurred for people cohabiting. For example, under the law where a wife deserts her husband, she can bring an action before the court to obtain alimony for both children and herself. Such remedies are not available to people who are simply cohabiting. Also, the rules of inheritance where the husband does not leave a will do not apply to people cohabiting. The only remedy that any person has is to apply for maintenance from the estate of the deceased.

Some advice on cohabiting:

a) If you are renting a place, together think about putting both names on the lease. You may lose your rights if you are sent out by the other partner.

b) If you are buying land or a house together or acquiring any property, both names should be put on the deed or the document indicating proof of ownership.

c) Make a will even if you have very little or nothing. Will cover anything you obtain after the writing of the will.

d) Make such you each have parental responsibilities.

e) Make a living together agreement. This is very uncommon amongst Africans but it is a binding contract like any other and may even be more explicit than marriage.

Joint property or separate property?

The concept of joint or separate property arises as a contract within the marriage contract. It is a default contract created in Cameroon whereas on celebrating the marriage, the parties are allowed to decide what property regime they wish to contract. While other countries allow for more detailed contracts between the parties in Cameroon this is rather vague and the parties are asked to decide on this when they are celebrating the marriage. In customary marriages the position used to be that, a woman was a man’s property and could not own property. As time changed, this position has evolved woman are no longer referred to as a man’s property and are allowed to acquire property. The property regime chosen during the marriage celebration governs three aspects: the decision of power over property during the marriage (such as who can dispose of what), the decision of wealth at the end of the marriage (who gets what) and in both instances the decision of debts (who pays for what). It is possible to change the regime during the marriage and to adopt a different regime depending on situations that happen during the marriage. This can be done by making an application in court. The regime chosen at marriage therefore covers a wide variety of aspects such as who plays what role at home. If is joint property then the woman also has to be responsible for things around the house. Alternatively, separate property means the reverse. Couples should therefore take these issues seriously. The regime of joint property means that in the case of divorce, the court will have to begin with the 50/50 rule by dividing every property which is acquired by both parties before the marriage and during the marriage. The court also has to consider other aspects before deciding on how property sharing shall be done.  It is usually quite irrelevant whose name matrimonial property is in and if it is a long marriage it will not matter how the property was acquired. The starting point in dividing up the matrimonial assets will usually be 50/50.

What are my rights and responsibilities in marriage?

Marriage brings with it mutual obligations to maintain which can continue after the marriage is dissolved unless brought to an end by an Order of the court. The Cameroonian law allows a woman to exercise a different occupation from her husband and to participate in the running of the home just like the husband. The husband may also object to the wife getting her a job in the interest of the marriage or the children. In this situation, the wife can bring an action before the court on the objection for the court to decide. It goes without saying that the husband has the obligation to take care of his wife and children. The wife may even bring an action before the court to obtain maintenance for her and their children if she deserts the husband.





‘’The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. We insist specialist advice be sought depending on your specific circumstance’’






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