Brief Summary of the Process and Cost of Getting Divorced in Nigeria

commercial law firms in Nigeria
What is the effect of not stating the proportion of sharing profit and loss in partnership agreement?
September 9, 2017
September 19, 2017
Show all

Brief Summary of the Process and Cost of Getting Divorced in Nigeria

Brief Summary of the Process and Cost of Getting Divorced in Nigeria

Brief Summary of the Process and Cost of Getting Divorced in Nigeria


The divorce is obviously not a very pleasant subject to discuss, considering its effect. Divorce will ultimately tear a family apart and a person in a marriage would always be urged to exercise a greater restraint. However, there could be a situation that may make a union be inconceivable. Such situations may include chronic domestic violence, which would amount to intolerable behaviour among other factors.

Having said that, I would briefly highlight the process of a divorce in Nigeria and a general guide to a dissolution of marriage under the Nigerian law.


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 on different types of marriage is important because it will 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


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 willfully 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 for grounds for the breakdown of a marriage 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 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 a petition will be served on the husband or wife to be divorced and such spouse has up to 28 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.

A party who has been served with a petition for divorce, but believes that all facts contained in the petition that was served on him or her are wrong and such party wants the court to dissolve the marriage other than the reasons giving by his/her spouse may also contact a lawyer to file what is known as a cross-petition against his or her spouse, praying the court to still go ahead to dissolve the marriage, but on different reasons from the ones initially alleged by his or her spouse.


In respect of people seeking 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 almost the same. However, it is important to know that a divorce can not be 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.


The divorce in Nigeria can be said to be a little expensive, as it has been widely reported.  Most people contemplating the 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 a 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’s divorce.

However, it is important to know that a divorce of a statutory marriage could cost as low as N250,000 and could be as high as above N1,000,000. Like it has been previously said above, the important determinant in the cost of divorce is the likelihood of contention in the proceeding. Another important factor in determining the cost of divorce is the type of lawyer being engaged in such a divorce process. A relatively young lawyer may charge lower than a highly experienced lawyer. Meanwhile, a divorce petitioner or respondent contemplating or facing divorce proceedings where matters such as custody of the children and settlement of properties are in high contention is advised to engage an experienced lawyer for such matter.


We often receive this type of questions from the members of the public who because of the temporary financial difficulties are unable to afford the engagement of the services of a lawyer for divorce matters. Meanwhile, the answer to the above question is both Yes and No. It is YES in the sense that 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. However, a person divorcing in a customary court is also advised to engage the services of a lawyer where there is a likelihood of contention in such a divorce matter.

The answer to the above question can also be said to be NO, where 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. Therefore, the services of a lawyer are not only required to draft the lengthy divorce petition at the High Court, but lawyers are also required to represent either the divorce parties (petitioner and respondent) throughout the divorce process.

An indigent person with statutory marriage seeking for a divorce may contact any law firm in his or her vicinity to inquire whether they offer pro-bono services. However, lawyers rarely offer pro-bono or free services for a divorce matter because it is not considered a grave legal problem that could warrant the free services of lawyers, but a lawyer may subsidize the cost of divorce for an indigent person on a compassionate ground.


One question every divorce petitioner often seek to know is: how long does a divorce process take in Nigeria? A divorce at customary marriage may be as quick as 3 months in customary, especially where there are no contentions. But the divorce of statutory marriage in High Court may never be less than 6 months even without any contention. In fact, a highly contentious divorce case could take more than 2 years to be concluded.

We have had situations where some unknown third consultants who are not lawyers have tried to mislead people about concluding a statutory divorce case within 2 months, this is absolutely falsehood and fallacies. Any person seeking to engage in a divorce should only speak with a lawyer of good standing at the bar who can tell him or her the whole truths. An honest lawyer will never represent to someone that a statutory divorce can be concluded in less than 2 months.


In conclusion, it is worthy of note that the divorce the process has never been an easy or smooth process in Nigeria. The Nigerian courts are often not enthusiastic to divorce couple. Moreover, our laws, especially the Matrimonial Causes Act and the Matrimonial Causes Rules, which govern the divorce proceedings in Nigeria are not tailored to support an easy divorce. The Nigerian laws are more resistant to divorce because of the need to protect family values and children of the marriage. For instance, with the huge increase in the Nigerian population and with high numbers of the divorce petitions, a statutory marriage divorce can only still be filed and heard in the High court of the states, which are few in numbers. The process would have been less thorny had the courts of summary jurisdiction like Magistrate courts are allowed to hear a divorce case. Giving a jurisdiction or permission to Magistrate Courts to hear a divorce petition would require the amendment of the Nigerian main divorce legislation, the Matrimonial Causes Act by the National Assembly.


Written by Family Law Team at Resolution Law Firm, Nigeria.

The Law Firm can be reached with the contact details below.

Tel: 08099223322




  1. Ernest says:

    I have been married for 14 years but legalized my marriage three years ago but honestly i have always managed to remain in it but the situation is getting worst, she hides her phones and put codes on all her phones and her phones are always on silent and I have several times burst into her phones and discovered some nasty porn photos and chats with men and i even took a screenshot of it as evidence. I do not have any code on my phone and she also knows my atm pin and i do not know hers. I want a divorce, my kids are my fear because she is a very violent woman with no caution on her choice of words so letting her be in custody of my kids is my problem and several times she has threatened me that if I divorce her she will have me killed. She will lie that she is visiting the aunt and I will also trace her and I ended up tracing her to a hotel with the help of the police officers near us and so many lies that I cant bear anymore. What do I do please, I need her out of my life.

  2. MKE says:

    Please advise, is it legal for a husband in Nigeria to throw His wife out of the house without divorce, after over 16 years of marriage with 4 kids.

  3. olayemi says:

    please i need your advise. Am about to go into marriage, but my husband to be, has been engaged into a marriage(Registry Precisely) before. but the lady was caught with an adulterous act and has packed out from his house over 4years now. But now that he has proposed to me and planned to settle down with me at the same time processing the divorce paper, can we go further for the wedding.

    also i need to confirm if the marriage official verify if someone has been married before.


  4. DeeBally says:

    Thanks a lot for this… plz I want a divorce as well, he abuses me emotionally, mentally, and he has started physically, I’m scared he’ll never stop, he does not correct me with love, we don’t stay in Nigeria together, but when he comes home , he leaves in the morning and comes very late at night , he has severe infidelity issue, ones gave me STI, all his siblings complains of his carelessly as their brother, allll my family also complain he does not behave like an in law on terms of having a good relationship with them, when he comes home, he always ask his friends to come live with us throughout his stay in Nigeria,? When I complain I need privacy, it doesn’t end well, I serve him and his friends yet they got out together to have fun with other girls, he complains about me to them making them respect me less, when he comes home to stay for just a month, that month is always terrible for me. He doesn’t like us going to church together, prefers doing that with friends, he sometimes leaves me in the master’s bedroom for the room his friends are. So much to say I can’t own down…. he’s supposed to have filed for us to join him but keeps bringing up stories. I’m really tired of living like a single. We’ve been together for 5years and I’ve not for ones cheated on him. Now I’m really tired I want to leave this marriage please help me out. We only had court marriage, hasn’t paid my dowry.

  5. TinuAlayo says:

    I am married for 4Years and had physical abuse about 6times. We had a church wedding which was documented at Ikoyi but the church gave us the certificate. I discovered how mum and sister hated me so much and wanted me out. He abuses me with words nor takes care of the children. He even abuses my father and siblings. He has pushed me to the wall and brought out the beast in me. Please can I file for divorce and how?

  6. Evelyn says:

    Pls I want a divorce on d ground of infidelity. How do I go abt it. Tnks

  7. Shally says:

    Please I need your advise,I got married exactly six years ago and my husband slept with me twice during first month of our marriage,I got pregnant and deliver a boy. Since then he did not touch me and all my effort and plead to know what the problems was prove abortive . he works in another state and most time he denied me and my son to come and greet him at his place of work. Three days ago,his secret was exposed,he got married to another woman and they have a nine month daughter now. I confronted him on phone and he did not feel remorseful about it,I have an an audio he recorded as evidence where my husband and the new wife went to an herbalist and he lied to the man that am barren of which his the one that did not have sex with me ,the story is long I can’t stay in such marriage anymore I need to save my head. Please what can I do. We did our wedding in a court of law. Thanks

  8. Uche says:

    I need an advice l m an American citizen.
    I married in Nigeria and l have two daughters
    But l regretted going into the marriage.
    Now l wanted to know if l should file for divorce in nigeria or in the United state.
    My ex wife reside in Nigeria. I have never filed
    For her.

  9. TY says:

    I had been married for 6 years we have a four year old son together but no peace, My husband abuse mentally and physically with all kinds of words. ( sometimes beat me) He is yet to pay my dowry,though we are married legally but he use this issue of dowry to abuse me everyday that he doesn’t recognise me as his wife and that he has plan but the plan is not matured yet to activate it . He said his family doesn’t recognise me also because of this dowry issue.
    This Is beginning to affect me mentally because of the abusive words towards me day and night.
    Anytime he visits his family house I also he is always very unfriendly towards me.

    I need a separation.

  10. Olisa says:

    Nice post very helpful.. I and my wife want to get a divorce we both came to this conclusion . We both live in South Africa but got married in Nigeria.. Pls advice us on how to go about it..

  11. OSAS says:

    This is an helpful information. Meanwhile, I did statutory marriage at ikoyi registry 2016,I have been married for two years now though I dated him for almost two years, i got pregnant and we eventually got married. It was after our marriage that I discovered a lot of things are hidden from me.he has never stayed with me since we got married am still staying in my parents house,whenever i asked him about his plans of we settling as one family he will pull up a flight and threaten me he will never have anything to do with me am not his kind of woman, i gave birth without him around took care of the baby for more than 6 months he then showed up and begged and we all thought all is well, he left and repeated same thing, the last time he came visiting i found out that his plan was to come take his child away through a text message another woman sent to him instructing him not to have sex with me,i confronted him about that and he confirmed it after somedays he left and till now i don’t know his where about, i have being the only one catering for my son and am also leaving life as a single mother. i really want a divorce to dissolve the marriage so i can move on with my life and do something meaningful with my life….please help out

  12. Anthony says:

    I need an advice l m an American citizen.
    I married in Nigeria and l have two daughters
    But l regretted going into the marriage.
    Now l wanted to know if l should file for divorce in nigeria or in the United state.
    My ex wife reside in Nigeria. I have never filed
    For her.

  13. Agbaje Olusola says:

    I have been married for over 10yrs but I have never had peace & this has really affected my health. The mother of my children was someone I shdn’t have married in d first place but I did so out of ignorance cuz she got pregnant then. We used to fight & quarrel alot even physically at times. Now she’s moved out with my kids almost nine months now to her mother’s place. The truth is I want a rest of mind & I DON’T EVER WANT TO CONTINUE WITH THIS FRUSTRATING SO-CALLED MARRIAGE AGAIN, NEVER! … How can get a ‘QUICK’ DIVORCE petitions/papers served to her plz? (I know it’s what she might have been expecting too cuz she had wanted out too b4 this time)

  14. Okposo Esther says:

    Please I really need ur help and more clarification. I’m forced to want to divorce my husband on d grounds of infidelity, it’s taking me so much time to heal and front the shock of the whole thing I need guidance on how to proceed with this action

  15. Ky says:

    I have married for two years now though I dated her for 8 month before we eventually got married. It was after our marriage that I discovered a lot of things are hidden from me. My wife has not conceive once since we got married because of some health related issue and I have spent a whole lot of money but issue persist. I really want a divorce now before it’s too late. Kindly advice

  16. Charles don hill says:

    This is an helpful information. Meanwhile, I did statutory marriage at ikoyi registry simply because I didn’t have a background knowledge of it then, and I was been pushed to do it. Now I find out that I have made a mistake because the woman that I married was not in a proper reasoning as a wife and she’s a type that doesn’t show care or love neither apologize when she’s wrong but though we didn’t courtship at all before I get married to her. She got pregnant for me, her family and one of my sister pushed me to it. But now I want a divorce petition to dissolve this marriage has I don’t want continuity’s to avoid story that touch. Please help out

  17. Ola says:

    Thank you so much for this blog. i am habitually resident in the UK. Soon to be ex husband filed for divorce in a customary court whilst marriage was statutory. This blog has been enlightening as it has helped me come to the realisation that his petition is not valid. I am starting the whole process again here in the UK

  18. […] Filing for a divorce in Nigeria can be a stressful experience: affecting finances, living arrangements, household jobs, schedules etc. Meanwhile, it is better to learn more about how to get a divorce in Nigeria before filing for a divorce. It is also important for anyone seeking a divorce to know that there are different disputes resolutions and mediation mechanisms in Nigeria that can intervene on matrimonial matters, and the divorce should only be considered as a last resort for anyone facing a troubling marriage. However, if someone must consider the option of a divorce, the followings are necessary steps or things to put into consideration: […]

  19. This is really interesting, You are a very skilled blogger. I have joined your rss feed and look forward to seeking more of your magnificent post. Also, I have shared your website in my social networks!

  20. Very efficiently written information. It will be beneficial to everyone who usess it, including yours truly :). Keep doing what you are doing – i will definitely read more posts.

  21. Thank you a lot for sharing this with all of us you really know what you are speaking about! Bookmarked. Kindly additionally talk over with my website =). We could have a link change arrangement between us!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Chinese (Simplified)EnglishFrenchSpanish
Skip to toolbar