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COLUMNIST, Rubrics of Thoughts

Joint Account And Divorce Palaver

Posted: May 31, 2015 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Rubrics of  Thoughts

Properly put, marriage in the union of a man and a woman to live together as husband and wife. This simple definition could be expanded to include so many other definitions. For example, an American comedian, Bob Hope, once described marriage as, “a tenuous entanglement between a man and a woman with a possibility to disentangle on major or minor reasons.” A socialist, Cynthia Enloe, opined that, “marriage is a harmonious association of two sexes to live together in order to raise a family.”

Each of these definitions could be faulted if stretched further. But most appropriate definition of marriage is or could be said to be, “A legally residing together of a man and a woman as approved either by their common law or by the tradition of the two persons entering into such a union.”

Whatever definition one may prefer, it is proper to say that there are different types of marriages often entered into according to the tradition, culture and other native norms of a particular individual entering into such a union.

Certainly, according to many statistics, in the Nigerian context, incidents of divorce have become more rampant than ever before. Without doubt, a couple of years ago, incidents of divorce were very rare in many Nigerian cultures. For example, among the Igbo ethnic nationality and other nationalities, divorce was regarded as a taboo. Of particular interest is the saying that among the Igbo ethnic nationality “it is very difficult and costly to marry in Igbo, therefore it is equally difficult to see divorce among Igbo couples.”

Of course, this could be said to be an old theory but one could remember of a certain discussion among some people of different nationalities. A person of Ijaw tribe was asked to tell if divorce is rampant among the Ijaw and Kalabari tribes, his reply was that to marry in those areas is very less expensive and the process is very simple hence, to divorce is equally simple. An Igbo person was asked the same question which he replied, “divorce among our tribe is difficult because to marry in our tribe is difficult, costly and often protracted. Besides, marriage in our tribe is too involving, connecting parents, sisters and brothers, uncles and aunties, cousins and members of the extended family including members of ones maternal homes. Therefore, to divorce is very difficult because a lot of people may be offended or even injured by such incident.”

However, irrespective of which culture under which the marriage is contracted, in the recent past, it appears that divorce rate has escalated particularly among the elites. Admittedly, there are several reasons why divorce rate has continued to grow. Although there may be numerous cogent and non-cogent reasons for this, four causes are more prominent.

These are: incompatibility; childlessness; infidelity and family budget. Each of the above causes a breakdown of marriage of which each can be prevented through proper understanding and management. But sometimes, it is surprising that control and management of family finances has recently appeared to have a centre stage in causing a divorce. The question is simple, is it enough reason for the control of the family finance to result in divorce? To some, it should not be, to others, it is more than enough reason to cause a divorce where both the husband and the wife could not resolve the issue. It is easy to say, “let us part ways.” But it entails a lot of problems for which no matter how either or the couple could pretend, all along the line, sooner or later, each must regret the action.

According to one writer, “it is safer to continue to patch the relationship in the interest of the children and family lineage.” But to others, marriage is not patchable, if people can’t agree to live together in harmony and peace, they should go their separate ways.

Unfortunately, at the core of the problem of family financing is the issue of joint account by the couple.

There has been an endless debate on this issue. Some say that joint account is desirable, others say it is not necessary or even desirable.

No matter how we look at it, there are some merits and demerits for or against the arrangement.

If both the husband and the wife have a joint account, it releases either of them from being bugged down with the problems of going to the bank to do some financial transactions or on both individuals. Running of family is joint responsibility and if left to one, there is bound to be problems. Admittedly, there are so many things to do with money in the family. These include, feeding, payment of rents, children’s school fees, hospital bills, electricity bills, purchase of major or minor family needs etc.

If it is only the husband that runs the family account, he is likely to be over burdened with incessant requests to bring this or that, even to bring money to buy new baby’s diapers and napkins.

Although some couples make adequate arrangements to share family financial responsibilities, this arrangement works well if both the couple have a joint account with separate cheque books.

On the other hand, others argue that operating joint account does not give either of the couple some privacy or independence to control one’s finances, including salary and other profits from business transactions. One of the strong arguments against joint account is that it does not allow either of the couple to make personal savings for the rainy day.

However, it could still be quickly pointed out that operating joint account is not absolute in function and desire. Even, women being what they are, in spite of joint account, an average woman must find a way to have a “protective saving in case,” because by nature, women are too protective.

On the other part, many men don’t like the idea of joint account because it does not give them the privilege of “using their money the way they like, including doing a little pass on gesture.” To put it more sarcastically, “it does not give them the opportunity to be doing some backside business with their lady friends or money the need for inconclusive gifts which their wives would never approve of.” Some men see joint account as a means of controlling their authority and superiority in the marriage.

Unknown to many men and women, the greatest advantage of joint account lies in case either of the couple passes on without appropriate preparation to settle bank issues. In fact, if people know what a husband or a wife whose partner dies suffers in accessing money from the bank after the death of either, they would gladly ensure that they have a joint account.

In Nigeria, it is almost equivalent to a head of elephant passing through the eye of a needle. In most cases, any money in the bank deposited by a deceased person in any instance could not be accessed long after the burial. Besides, the bank and the government have to make some statutory deductions from the deposit. That is after a protracted process, which must involve a lawyer who too must take a percentage of the deposit. Thus, in a harmonious and understanding relationship, joint account should not be a problem because in all and all, its advantages outweigh its disadvantages.