No one ever plans for a divorce. Everyone always plans for a fairy tale wedding, beautiful children, and love that would blossom till eternity but the truth is, sometimes, life has other plans for you and if getting a divorce is going to get you closer to that happiness that life has planned for you, so be it. The truth is, getting a divorce in Nigeria is not a walk in the park. It is said to be a bit cumbersome compared to other countries.
One of the important things to note before seeking a divorce is that, under the Nigerian laws, a marriage can only be dissolved in 2 ways; upon the death of one’s partner or by the order of the court. What this means is, if you’re planning a divorce, you need to employ the services of a lawyer to help you through the complexities of the court, to make the process a rather seamless one for you.
Grounds for dissolution of marriage
The Matrimonial causes act, which is the law that governs the divorce process in Nigeria, lists the grounds for dissolution of marriage; it states that the only way a marriage can be brought to the law court for dissolution is only if said marriage has broken down irretrievably. It further goes ahead to state that, the court can grant a dissolution of marriage if, but only if, the petitioner satisfies the court of one or more of the following facts;
- That the respondent has willfully and persistently refused to consummate the marriage
- That since the marriage, the respondent has committed adultery and the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the respondent
- That since the marriage, the respondent has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent
- That the respondent has deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of at least one year immediately preceding the presentation of the petition
- That the parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 2 years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition and the respondent does not object to a decree being granted
- That the parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least three years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition
- That the other party to the marriage has, for a period of not less than one year, failed to comply with a decree or restitution of conjugal rights made under the matrimonial clause act
- That the other party to the marriage has been absent from the petitioner for such time and in such circumstances as to provide reasonable grounds for presuming that he or she is dead.
Now that you understand the grounds for divorce in Nigeria, you need to begin to think about what you want from the divorce; Maintenance from your spouse, if you’re unemployed? Custody of the children, maintenance fee for the children, sharing of properties, etc. Once all these are sorted, with your lawyer involved every step of the way, you can then begin the divorce process itself;
Your lawyer files a petition for divorce. This petition is a document that states everything about your marriage; who your spouse is, where you got married, how long you got married, why you want a divorce, what you want from the divorce, and any evidence you have to back it up
Once the document has been filed in court, a file number would be given to it in the family court division. The petition would then be delivered to your spouse who would be given a number of days to respond to your petition. The response would contain your spouse’s approval or disapproval of the petition
Once a reply has been sent, the case would be heard in court with witnesses to confirm your side of the story, if the judge is satisfied that a divorce should be granted, he/she grants a decree nisi, this Okays the dissolution of the marriage for a period of 3 months after which the decree nisi would become a decree absolute which fully confirms your divorce. The judge would also state who gets custody of the children, maintenance fee, or spousal support.
It is also very important to note that you must have been married for up to two years before you can file for a divorce. The law also provides additional provisions to encourage reconciliation. These are some of the steps to help you file for a divorce but most importantly, you’ll need a lawyer to walk with you every step of the way, to ensure you get one.