The divorce is obviously not a very pleasant subject to discuss, considering its effect. Divorce will ultimately tear family apart and a person in a marriage would always be urged to exercise a greater restraint
However, there could be some extenuating circumstances that could make a union to be totally intolerable. Some of this event could include chronic domestic violence, which would amount to intolerable behaviour.
Having said all that, I would briefly highlight the process by which a marriage can be dissolved in Nigeria.
DIVORCE IN NIGERIA
Divorce in Nigeria depends on the type of the marriage conducted. There are primarily two major types of marriage in Nigeria. The Statutory marriage made pursuant to the Matrimonial Causes Act (“the Act”) and Customary Marriage.
A Statutory marriage (otherwise and popularly known as Court marriage) is simply the marriage conducted in a registry or place (churches) licenced. Where a church that conducted the marriage is not one of the ones licensed in accordance with the Act, such marriage would be deemed to be customary marriage.
Customary marriages are usually the types of marriage conducted in a traditional way. The Islamic marriage is also considered to be customary marriages, same as the marriages conducted in unlicensed churches.
The above emphasis of different types of marriage is important because it would determine the types of Court that has jurisdiction or power to hear the divorce case.
Where a marriage is considered to be Statutory Marriage, it is the State High Courts and High Court of Federal Capital Territory that has the jurisdiction to hear the case and dissolve the marriage. Where a marriage is considered to be Customary Marriage, the Customary Court in each local government is empowered to adjudicate on it.
A party seeking to dissolve a marriage is known as Petitioner, while the other party being sued for a divorce is known as Respondent
GROUND FOR DIVORCE
Subject to the provisions of the Act, there is only one ground upon which court is entitled to dissolve a marriage- that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. However, subject to the provision of Section 15 (2) (a)-(h) of the Act, there are 8 various species or classes of the breakdown. And the 8 classes shall be restated as follows:
a. that the respondent has wilfully and persistently refused to consummate the marriage;
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;
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.
By and large, it is obvious the reasons of the breakdown are expanded enough to contain most of the issues couple ordinarily raised in divorce. However, each and every one of them could also pose huge difficulties to establish in Court. A party contemplating dissolution of marriage can contact a lawyer in Lagos or in any part of Nigeria to discuss the specific reasons upon which the divorce is being sought for more explanation on each of the species of the breakdown and how they fit into individual circumstances.
The Petitioner authorizing his or lawyer to institute a divorce petition usually commences the divorce process. Such petition will be served upon the husband or wife to be divorced and such spouse has up to 30 days to respond to it. The Court might go ahead to give judgment and dissolve the marriage where the party served the divorce petition and hearing notices failed to respond by filing an answer to the petition.
In conclusion, most people contemplating dissolution of a marriage often wish to know the cost of getting a divorce in Nigeria. The truth is that there is no specific or fixed cost for such process. The reasons being that divorce proceeding involve a proper litigation, which can be won or lost. In this regards, it is advised that anyone contemplating a divorce should talk and bargain with his or her lawyer for an affordable cost. However, a lawyer would likely charge lower for a divorce matter that is unlikely going to be very contentious or for customary marriage’s divorce case, compared to extremely contentious statutory marriage divorce.
Written by Olusola Jegede, a Partner at Resolution Law Firm, Ikeja, Lagos