How To Divorce or Separate from Marriage in Nigeria

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Sometimes marriage can hit dead end, where couples decide to separate/divorce. In Nigeria, a law is in place which guides marriage dissolution and divorce process.

When divorce occurs in Nigeria there are several factors to be considered. The first and most important is child custody, which in most cases happen to favour the wife. There is also division of property and assets,which is a process determined by how much each contributed to the wealth. These two make the process long and tiresome.

If you have found yourself ready to divorce, here are 8 grounds in which you can be allowed to part ways:

  1.  No sex i.e. no consummation of the marriage.
    2. Adultery.
    3. Conduct that is unreasonable (rape, bestiality, habitual drunkard, sodomy, murderer, incarcerated (in prison),   attempted murder of a spouse, intent to or actual commission of serious bodily injury, inability to take care of spouse).
    4. Abandonment  ( must be at least one year prior to the filing of the divorce petition).
    5. Separation (living apart for a continued period of two years prior to the filing of the divorce petition) and no objection by the person you want to divorce from. So, you file for a divorce, the court says how long have you been apart, you say two years. The court asks your spouse whether he/she will object to the divorce and he/she says, “no.”
    6.  Separation (living apart for a continued period of three years prior to the filing of the divorce petition).
    7. Failure to comply with a court order regarding marriage or the sexual rights or privilege of a marriage.
    8. Death/Reason to Believe Spouse is Dead.

What Law Governs?

Matrimonial Causes Act
Chapter 220, section 15 & 16
Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990

Dissolution of marriage
15. (1) A petition under this Act by a party to a marriage for a decree of dissolution of the marriage may be presented to the court by either party to the marriage upon the ground that the marriage has broken down irretrievablyy.

(2) The court hearing a petition for a decree of dissolution of a marriage shall hold the marriage to have broken down irretrievably if, but only if, the petitioner satisfies the court of one or more of the following facts- (Folks note you must satisfy one or more of the factors below):

(a) that the respondent has wilfully and persistently refused to consummate the marriage; (this means he or she is not giving you sex).

(b) that since the marriage the Respondent has committed adultery and the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the respondent;

(c) that since the marriage the respondent has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent;

(d) that the respondent has deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of at least one year immediately preceding the presentation of the petition; (Abandonment – many Nigerian relationships qualify for this, especially the foreign ones where the couple marry and he or she heads to Nigeria and remain there with no communication, companionship etc. whatsoever) 

(e) that the parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition and the respondent does not object to a decree being granted;

(f) 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;

(g) 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 this Act;

(h) 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.

(3) For the purpose of subsection (2) (e) and (f) of this section the parties to a marriage shall be treated as living apart unless they are living with each other in the same household.

SECTION 16 Shows how you Meet the Burdens in Section 15

  1. (1) Without prejudice to the generality of section 15(2)(c) of this Act, the court hearing a petition for a decree to of dissolution of marriage shall hold that the petitioner has satisfied the court of the fact mentioned in the said section 15(2)(c) of this Act if the petitioner satisfies the court that-

(a) since the marriage, the respondent has committed rape, sodomy, or bestiality; or

(b) since the marriage, the respondent has, for a period of not less than two years-

(i) been a habitual drunkard, or

(ii) habitually been intoxicated by reason of taking or using to excess any sedative, narcotic or stimulating drug or preparation, or has, for a part or parts of such a period, been a habitual drunkard and has, for the other part or parts of the period, habitually been so intoxicated; or

(c) since the marriage, the respondent has within a period not exceeding five years-

(i) suffered frequent convictions for crime in respect of which the respondent has been sentenced in the aggregate to imprisonment for not less than three years, and

(ii) habitually left the petitioner without reason- able means of support; or

(d) since the marriage, the respondent has been in prison for a period of not less than three years after conviction for an offence punishable by death or imprisonment for life or for a period of five years or more, and is still in prison at the date of the petition; or

(e) since the marriage and within a period of one year immediately preceding the date of the petition, the respondent has been convicted of-

(i) having attempted to murder or unlawfully to kill the petitioner, or

(ii) having committed an offence involving the intentional infliction of grievous harm or grievous hurt on the petitioner or the intent to inflict grievous harm or grievous hurt on the petitioner;

(f) or the respondent has habitually and wilfully failed, throughout the period of two years immediately preceding the date of the petition, to pay maintenance for the petitioner-

(i) ordered to be paid under an order of, or an order registered in, a court in the Federation, or

(ii) agreed to be paid under an agreement between the parties to the marriage providing for their separation; or

(g) the respondent-

(i) is, at the date of the petition, of unsound mind and unlikely to recover, and

(ii) since the marriage and within the period of six ears immediately preceding the date of the petition, as been confined for a period of, or for periods aggregating, not less than five years in an institution where persons may be confined for unsoundness of mind in accordance with law, or in more than one such institution.

(2) Where a petition is based on the fact mentioned in section 15(2)(h) of this Act-

(a) proof that, for a period of seven years immediately preceding the date of the petition, the other party to the marriage was continually absent from the petitioner and that the petitioner has no reason to believe that the other party was alive at any time within that period is sufficient to establish the fact in question, unless it is shown that the other party to the marriage was alive at a time within that period; and

(b) a decree made pursuant to the petition shall be in the form of a decree of dissolution of marriage by reason of presumption of death.

Having understand the law and requirements for divorce, I recommend you look for a good and experienced lawyer to tackle the case.

 

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