How to Get a Divorce in Nigeria.
Marriage is an institution. It is sacred and it is a lifelong commitment commanded by God, not a death sentence like some think it is. Islam and Christianity emphasizes on the sanctity of marriage, be it monogamy or polygamy. ”Thus it is for this cause that a man shall leave his mother and clings to his wife and together they become one” (Gen 2:24).
They stand before friends and loved ones and declare their love for each other taking vows stating to stay together in sickness and in health and through all other unforeseen situations until death do them part.(this implies they know it is not going to be all rosy to the end). Together they start a family and make their home.
Looking at the world today and marriages all around one can’t help but noticed the alarming rate at which couples get divorced, even newlyweds.
In the Western world one can call it a trend and not be wrong and we are beginning to pick up on it here in Africa. The major reasons for failed marriages are loss of faith in the institution and western influence.
Getting a divorce didn’t use to be an option back in the day as it is now, the fact being that Nigeria is a very traditional and religious country and some churches even practiced the no “Divorce policy”.
While this policy was good, it was also harmful. It made people stay in abusive and sometimes violent marriages and at the risk of their own lives and that of that their children and suffer in silence. Some endured in it for the sake of their children.
That trend is no more in today’s world, not with all the information made available to us now. All these notwithstanding, whatever your reason for seeking a divorce may be, be it infidelity, spousal abuse, finance or third party influence.
My advice for you is to take a moment to think it through and be sure you have exhausted all possible means of dialogue and reconciliation before you take that step and give up on your marriage. Believe me when I say this, divorce can get ugly and in the end your children are the ones who bear the brunt and suffer the most.
How to Commence Divorce Proceedings in Nigeria
In Nigeria there are two types of marriage, they are Statutory marriage and Customary marriage you have to determine which marriage yours falls under as there is no such thing as religious marriage recognized under the Nigerian law.
A statutory marriage is contracted in a customary court. Some church marriages are considered statutory e.g. The Catholic Church.
Please note, if the church that joined you and your spouse together is not as one of the churches recognized by the matrimonial causes case law, it is considered a marriage blessing of a customary marriage. To make certain, speak to a lawyer or your church head.
A customary marriage is contracted under traditional laws and customs of the brides paternal family not the groom. Marriage under Sharia law is considered a customary marriage.
Your type of marriage invariably determines the appropriate court to file your divorce petition and the type of lawyer to hire.
There are (8) eight grounds to check before a divorce or marriage dissolution can take place. “The Matrimonial Causes Act chapter 220, section 15/16 laws of the Federation of Nigeria of 1990 governs this Acts”.
However, they do not apply to couples still within 2 years of marriage who are seeking to get a divorce. This is in accordance with the law in section 30(1) of the matrimonial causes Act which states that “no proceeding of the dissolution of marriage may be instituted within two years of marriage” . The (8) grounds for divorce are as follows;
- No sex. I.e. no consummation of the marriage.
- Adultery (extra marital affair, sex outside wedlock)
- Unreasonable conduct(rape, bestiality, sodomy, habitual drunk, in prison, attempted murder of spouse and intent to or actual bodily harm that causes serious injury)
- Abandonment (should be at least a year prior to the filing of the divorce petition)
- Separation( living apart for a continued period of 2 years prior to the filing of the divorce petition and no objection from the absentee spouse)
- Separation(living apart for a continued period of three years prior to the filing of the divorce petition)
- Failure to comply with a court order regarding marriage or sexual rights, privilege of a marriage.
- Death /reason to believe spouse is dead.
How to File a Divorce Petition
A divorce petition is to be filed by the party in the marriage seeking for its dissolution. The court upon receiving this petition, will ascertain if the marriage meets the necessary requirements for divorce by using the above mentioned grounds for divorce as a yard stick to verify the situation and determine that the party can no longer stand or tolerate the behaviour of the respondent (the other spouse), that the respondent has committed one or more of any of the above mentioned acts .
Once the court has determined this, the petitioner is then granted the right to divorce the respondent. Other things such as settlement and child custody will then be sorted out.
The presiding judge in the divorce case petition usually ensures that both parties exhaust all forms of dialogue and reconciliation to save the marriage especially in cases where a child or children are involved.
The appropriate court for a customary marriage is initiated in a customary court or area court. In the case of a statutory marriage be sure to choose your lawyer wisely and ensure he or she is well experienced at the high court.
Having read through this piece , my advice still remains, take a moment and think it through. mind you, this does not mean that I am in support of a marriage where one spouse is in constant abuse and is at risk of losing their life.
I guess what I am trying to say is this, divorces can be avoided if you choose your life partner carefully and be sure to marry for all the right reasons.
Think before getting married, because marriage is lifelong commitment and it is meant to foster love and togetherness not hate and torture.
Divorces are ugly and can drag on for a long period of time. Sapping you of energy and valuable time that you cannot get back. Also, it exposes your children to all the ugliness and emotional trauma.
Divorce has been known to lead to suicidal tendencies and depression. I wish you all the best, while praying you figure it out.