In the next ten minutes, you will discover all you need to know about the divorce process in Nigeria as you read this article.
Back in the days, getting a divorce was not really an option as it is now. This holds to the fact that Nigeria is very religious and traditional as a country. Some religion centres also practised the “No divorce policy“.
While some say this policy was fair enough, it was as well detrimental because we began to hear several cases of a married couple who endured abusively, and sometimes violent marriages, putting their lives on the line – just for the sake of sustaining their marriage and protecting the future of their child or children.
Far worse, we even heard the cases of children of these parents who were suffering in silence.
Looking at the world today through the eyes of marriages all-round, one could easily conclude that the rate at which couples (and even newlyweds) get divorced is exponentially on the rise, here in Nigeria.
So, if you have finally decided to move on with a divorce in your marriage for certain reasons best known to you, I am ready to take you through the divorce process in Nigeria and promise not to leave anything out. For this reason, we can say that you are definitely in the right place for you. Welcome!
Based on my experience with familiar cases of divorce here in this country, I will also advise that you take a moment to think it through and be sure you have gone through all possible means of reconciliation and dialogue before you take that step and give up on your marriage. (This, the court will put into consideration).
I will not deceive you, divorce can eventually become hideous and extend its ugly face towards the lives of the kids, now or later in the future.
Nevertheless, whatever your reason for seeking a divorce may be, be it spousal abuse, finance, third party influence or infidelity. We got your back on all of the information made available as regards divorce process in Nigeria.
- 1 We are here to guide you on the divorce process in Nigeria
- 2 Grounds for divorce in Nigeria
- 2.1 1. That the respondent has willfully and persistently refused to consummate the marriage
- 2.2 2. That adultery has been committed by the respondent making it intolerable for the petitioner to live with the respondent.
- 2.3 3. That since the marriage the respondent has reflected unreasonable conduct that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent
- 2.4 4. That the respondent has deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of at least one year immediately preceding the presentation of the petition
- 2.5 5. 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
- 2.6 6. 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
- 2.7 7. 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
- 2.8 8 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 Divorce process in Nigeria: step-by-step guide
- 4 How much do I spend in getting a Divorce in Nigeria?
- 5 Can I divorce without a divorce lawyer in Nigeria?
- 6 How about divorcing a Nigerian from abroad?
We are here to guide you on the divorce process in Nigeria
I have put down this article particularly for people who have decided that they want to get a divorce. Simple and straight. I am in no way trying to cajole you whether or not you should try to make your marriage work out or go for a marriage counseling, No.
My main objective in this article is to point out as clearly as possible what you need to know after you have made the decision to get a divorce and what you should do afterward.
Having savored this down into your understanding, I will quickly share with you the grounds for divorce. Please note that this only applies to people who are in Nigeria as consolidated by the Nigerian Law.
Grounds for divorce in Nigeria
Actually, The court is entitled to dissolve a marriage upon one ground only (As Subject to the provisions of the Act) – that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.
However, subject to the provision of Section 15 (2) (a)-(h) of the Matrimonial Act, there are 8 different species or classes of the breakdown. And the 8 classes include the following :
1. That the respondent has willfully and persistently refused to consummate the marriage
What this means is that you must prove to the court that your spouse had failed to have sexual intercourse but in a situation where it is proved that sex occurred even once, the marriage will be deemed consummated and therefore, you can not rely on this ground for divorce.
2. That adultery has been committed by the respondent making it intolerable for the petitioner to live with the respondent.
By this, it means that you must prove to the court that your spouse has not been faithful and you find him or her unbearable to live with such infidelity.
3. That since the marriage the respondent has reflected unreasonable conduct that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent
What this really means is that you must prove to the court that there has been a presence of unreasonable conduct such as rape, habitual drinking, murder, brutality, made an attempt to murder spouse, inability to take care of the spouse, had the intention to or actually abused the spouse by inflicting serious bodily injuries.
4. That the respondent has deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of at least one year immediately preceding the presentation of the petition
By desertion, this means that your spouse must have abandoned you for a long period of time without any justification.
5. 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
6. 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
Before you can rely on this ground, you must prove to the court that you and your spouse have not been staying together for a period of 2 to 3 years.
7. 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
You must prove to the court that your spouse had failed to comply with a court order regarding the marriage or a decree of restitution of conjugal right made under the Marriage Causes Act.
8 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.
You will have to provide reasonable grounds that your spouse is dead or in cases of disappearance. Now that you’ve known the grounds for divorce in Nigeria, we shall move on to the step-by-step procedures on the divorce process in Nigeria
Divorce process in Nigeria: step-by-step guide
Based on my current research, about 1% of Nigerian couples admit to being divorced while 0.2% of men and 0.3% of women are legally married. There are so many situations that would make a couple undergo divorce in Nigeria. This particular step will briefly give you all that you need to know about getting a divorce in Nigeria.
However, Most wedding ceremonies done in Nigeria are traditional marriages which are not confined in the law.
Step One: Filing the Divorce Petition
Whether both spouses agree to the divorce or not, before any couple can begin the divorce process, one spouse must file a legal petition asking the court to terminate the marriage.
The divorce process officially commences when your lawyer files what is known as a petition for divorce in the High Court. This bundle of documents basically states your case- who you are married to, where you got married, how long you have been married for, why you want a divorce, what you want from the divorce, and any evidence to back this up.
This is where the lawyer begins to earn their fee. They will draft and file all the necessary court processes and ensure you have put forward your petition in a logical and professional manner. If you are the person who filed the petition you are referred to as the petitioner, and your spouse is the respondent.
Step Two: Seeking Temporary Orders
When you file for divorce, the court allows you to ask the court for temporary court orders for child custody, child support, and spousal support.
If you request a temporary order, the court will hold a hearing and request information from each spouse before deciding how to rule on the application. The judge will usually grant the temporary order quickly, and it will remain valid until the court orders otherwise or until the judge finalizes the request
If you need a temporary order but didn’t file your request at the time you filed for divorce, you’ll need to apply for temporary orders as quickly as possible. When you file for divorce, the court allows you to ask the court for temporary court orders for child custody, child support, and spousal support.
Step Three: Serving your Spouse and Waiting for Response
Service is the petitioner’s responsibility. After you file the petition for divorce and request for temporary orders, you need to provide a copy of the paperwork to your spouse and file proof of service with the court. This, you should know, quite well.
If you don’t properly serve your spouse, or if you neglect to file a proof of service with the court, the judge will be unable to proceed with your divorce case.
This process can be easy if your spouse agrees with the divorce and is willing to sign an acknowledgment of service. However, some spouses, especially ones that want to stay married or make the process complicated, can be evasive or try anything to frustrate the process. The best thing do is to hire a professional who is licensed and experienced in delivering legal documents to difficult parties. The cost is usually minimal and can help prevent a delay in your case.
Response belongs to The receiving spouse
The party who receives the paperwork (usually titled “defendant” or “respondent”) must file an answer or reply to the divorce petition within a prescribed amount of time. Failure to respond could result in a “default” judgment against the non-responding spouse, which can be complicated and expensive to reverse.
The responding party has the option to dispute the grounds for divorce (if a fault divorce), the allegations in the petition, or assert any disagreements as to property, support, custody, or any other divorce-related issues.
Step Four: Negotiate a Settlement
In cases where the parties have differing opinions on important topics, like child custody, support, or property division, both spouses will need to work together to reach an agreement. Sometimes the court will schedule a settlement conference, which is where the parties and their attorneys will meet to discuss the status of the case. The court may schedule a mediation, which is where a neutral third-party will help facilitate discussion between the spouses in hopes to resolve lingering issues.
Step Five: Divorce Trial
I have witnessed a case where negotiations failed despite each spouse’s best efforts.
So, If there are still issues that remain unresolved after mediation and other talks, the parties will need to ask the court for help, which means going to trial. A divorce trial is costly and time-consuming, plus it takes all the power away from the spouses and puts it in the hands of the judge. Negotiations and mediation sessions allow the couple to maintain control and have more predictable results than a divorce trial, so it’s best to avoid a trial if possible.
Step Six: The Final judgement
Whether you and your spouse negotiated throughout the divorce process, or a judge decided the significant issues for you, the final step of divorce comes when the judge signs the judgment of divorce. The judgment of divorce (or “order of dissolution”) ends the marriage and spells out the specifics about how the couple will allocate custodial responsibility and parenting time, child and spousal support, and how the couple will divide assets and debts.
How much do I spend in getting a Divorce in Nigeria?
I can not clearly say ‘this’ is the exact cost of getting a divorce in Nigeria as the process of getting a divorce could be personal or procedural. As a result, it varies from one circumstance to another and from one person to another.
Generally, a lawyer may charge a fee of about N250,000 to N600,000 for a divorce process where the custody of children or settlement of properties is not in contention.
Can I divorce without a divorce lawyer in Nigeria?
Now, The cost stated up there may look quite expensive. We often receive this type of questions from the members of the public who see the engagement of the services of a lawyer in divorce cases as unaffordable.
Well, the answer comes in two folds.
It can be a YES when a divorce petitioner at the customary court does not necessarily require a lawyer to engage in a divorce process. A party with a customary marriage may simply engage the services of a lawyer only for the drafting of the simple customary court divorce petition and represent himself or herself personally in the court.
Divorcing in Nigeria can become impossible without a lawyer when the marriage to be divorced is a statutory marriage. This is because a statutory marriage can only be divorced at the High Court, which is a court of a superior record. It is a court that is strictly adhered to certain norms and rules and the court may not grant an audience to non-lawyer.
How about divorcing a Nigerian from abroad?
For those who want to know how to divorce Nigerian man by someone who is not a Nigerian citizen or who does not reside in Nigeria, the procedure and requirements are not all that different. However, it is crucial to note that a divorce process cannot be completely done in absentia. Anyone seeking to divorce a Nigerian husband or wife must be prepared to testify in court to give evidence on the hearing of the divorce petition.
Anyway, a lawyer can represent the petitioner or respondent in all of the court sittings and the appearance of any of the parties in court is not mandatory at every sitting, except if such party is giving evidence in court. (This is because the divorce process is purely a civil matter)
Even as I conclude my piece, Let me spell it out here that The Nigerian laws are more resistant to divorce because of the need to protect family values and children of the marriage.
I do hope that you’ve been enlightened on the divorce process in Nigeria and its grounds.
I humbly welcome any other significant contribution or questions you may have in mind. Don’t hesitate to hit the comment box.