In Nigeria, marriage can only be ended in two ways namely; (1) by death of one of the partners or (2) by an order of the court. Where it is through an order of the court, it is settled that certain requirements must have been met before going to the court for divorce because even the law is not wholesomely in support of divorce. But when these requirements are met, it is legally right to opt for a divorce. In this article, we will be looking at the requirements for divorce in Nigeria. Accordingly, I will show you how to apply for divorce in Nigeria. But before we move into all of that, it is also imperative to explain what divorce is all about.
What is divorce?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, divorce is the legal dissolution of a marriage by a court or other competent body. It is a process by which the law puts an end to a marriage due to certain circumstances or conditions which are provided for in the law. In Nigeria, everything that concerns dissolution or divorce is explained in the Matrimonial Causes Act. Through this law, the court will be able to decide who will take custody of the child after the divorce.
Also, it is settled law that for divorce to take place, the marriage must be at least 2 years. If the marriage is not up to 2 years the court will not grant the request for parties to divorce. Alternatively, parties can still be divorced when their marriage is not up to 2 years if they go through a method called annulment of marriage. In this case, certain grounds must be met. They include the following:
1. Where any of the parties is unable to consummate the marriage
2. Where the wife commits adultery
3. Where any of the parties behaves in a way that is totally unreasonable. Take for instance, rape, intoxication etc.
4. Where any of the parties abandons the marriage for, at least, one year after their marriage
5. Where both parties have lived apart for three years immediately preceding your case for divorce.
6. When any of the parties gets missing for, at least, 7 years. In this case, he/she will be presumed to have been dead according to the Evidence Act of Nigeria
When any of the above is the case, parties can appeal for annulment of marriage and the Court will grant it. Now that you understand this, I will move to the crux of this work.
How to apply for divorce in Nigeria
Succeeding in an application for divorce in Nigeria requires a lot of steps, but the wisest and most important step is to get a lawyer who will educate you on your chances. Based on the type of marriage you had, your lawyer will also let you know whether it is a marriage under the Act.
When you must have concluded on all the preliminary issues like; who will take custody of the children of the marriage, where the husband will have to pay for maintenance, you can now apply for divorce following the steps below:
Step 1: Your lawyer will draft and file a petition for divorce in any of the high courts nearest to you. This document is going to state the facts of the case, the reason why you are applying for divorce, the number of years into which you have been married to the other party etc. It will contain your signature and that of your lawyer. During the court process, you will be referred to as the petitioner while the other party will be called the respondent for the sake of clearity.
Step 2: Now a file number will be given to the petition which was filed by your lawyer. Then the bailiff will file the other party the matter and give him/her a duration within which a reply is expected. The other spouse will then reply to the petition, indicating where or not he wants a divorce. Where he fails to reply within the required period, the court may decide to give judgment in your favor.
Step 3: After step 2, the court will now proceed to hear the matter. The duration it will take depends on the reply of your spouse. Take for instance, if the other parties accepts that he/she is ready for divorce lesser time will be used because the only thing that the court will need is a prof that the marriage is up to 2 years, or that any of the requirements for annulment was met. Also, parties are allowed to give evidence in order to substantiate their story.
Step 4: Based on the evidence brought by the parties, if the judge is satisfied that a divorce should be granted, it will grant a decree nisi. This means that a divorce has been granted but it will only take effect from three months after the judgment. The reason for this is for the law to see weather parties which change their mind concerning the petition for divorce.
Step 5: After granting the divorce, the judge is at discretion to decide who will take custody of the child in the marriage and whether there will be settlement of any property of the marriage. In doing this, a lot of things will be put into consideration. Take for instance, the financial situation of the parents, the gender of the child, the values of the parents etc.
In conclusion, i must clearly state that the steps involved in the divorce of any marriage depends largely on the type of marriage and the facts of the case. Above is just a general overview of the processes involved in divorce in Nigeria. Hope this article was helpful? I would like to hear from you if you have any comments or questions to ask.