How To Go About Getting A Divorce In Nigeria; Cost And Process Involved In Filing For Divorce For Marriage Dissolution
By Nwogbo Chibuike Emmanuel,
The truth is, all marriages cannot work. While some people have great marriages, some do not and that is the harsh truth. Thus, I won’t be giving any counsel on whether you should, or should not end your marriage. I believe if you are reading this article, your mind must have been made up on ending the matrimony with your partner. Though, divorce should be considered as a last resort ina troubling marriage.
However, I must advise that getting a divorce in Nigeria can be quite difficult and stressful, affecting your finances, living arrangements and day to day schedule, a deliberate attempt to keep contract marriages and machinations at a good low. Though, if your spouse is in support of this move, things could be a lot easier for you both. The Nigerian law however requires a lawyer to represent you in court, so I am sorry to burst your bubble if you understood you could drive on that train alone.
Nevertheless, I will be giving you relevant overviews on the divorce process, generally giving you a heads-up on what to expect on the long road to ending a marriage in Nigeria.
Like I stated earlier, the Nigerian law requires that you be represented by a lawyer in court. You need to get a good lawyer that is experienced in Family law and counsel, there are many law firms in Nigeria that are ready to pick up your case and represent you in court.
You must understand that the divorce process depends to a large degree on how the marriage was solemnized, so you must know the kind of marriage you have. Most marriages nowadays are formalized by registration (that is, you and your partner have a marriage license from a marriage registry. This kind of marriages are referred to as marriages under the act, and we shall focus more on this type of marriage on this article.
What is the reason for your divorce? Under the causes of Matrimony act in Nigeria (the law governing the divorce process in the country) there are certain stated grounds which can be used to dissolve a marriage. They include; Adultery, living apart for a long period of time (separation), habitual drunkenness or substance addict, criminal acts e.t.c. You must be certain that the reason for your divorce fits into one of this categories to efficiently prove divorce.
You must now begin to think of what you want out of the divorce. However, this largely depends on how your marriage was and the reason for your divorce. Things you should begin to consider include;
- Who will have custody of the children? Do you want full custody or will you share custody (this is where things get a little bit ugly in divorce so be cautious not to allow this take a toll on the kids)
- Will your spouse pay for the maintenance of the children?
- How will your property be shared? Do you believe you are entitled to 100% of a property because you paid for them? E.t.c
These are the things you must take into consideration nevertheless, a good lawyer will be able to provide good counsel and advice on that matter. He/she would be able to elicit information from you and make sure you are covered, and ultimately get what you deserve.
THE DIVORCE PROCESS
- Petition for divorce
The divorce process officially commences when your lawyer files what is known as a petition for divorce in a high court. This documents ultimately states your case- how long you have been married, where you got married, when you got married e.t.c. This is where the Lawyer begins to earn his payment (depending on your arrangement), they will file and draft all the necessary documents and ensure your petition is filed in a professional and logical manner. If you are the person filing for a divorce you are the petitioner and your spouse is the respondent.
- STEP 2
Once your petition has been filed in the court, it will be given a file number in the family court division. The contents of that document will then be served to your significant other and his lawyer of course. Your spouse will be given a certain number of days to respond to that petition and to either agree or disagree to the dissolving of your marriage. If your partner agrees to the divorce and he/she is satisfied with the terms of divorce then the process would be even and pleasant.
- STEP 3
Once your partner responds to the petition, the court will then hear the case in open court. At that point, if there are any witnesses that need to be called to validate any evidence they will appear in court.
- STEP 4
If the judge is satisfied that a divorce should be granted, then it grants what is known as a ‘decree nisi’, which simply means that the marriage should be dissolved. However, you will have to wait 3 months, and then the decree nisi will become a ‘decree absolute’ which basically means you are now single again.
NOTE: The judge has the right to grant settlements to whoever, and however he finds befitting. He also has the right to annul the divorce petition, grant child custody and distribute the properties to the couples. You might say ‘I can do all the paper work myself’ but honestly you can’t, you need an experienced lawyer in the field of family law to see that you get what you deserve from the marriage. You must understand that filing for a divorce is quite different from filing taxes, it could get ugly very fast, and your partner could be coming for blood depending on the scenario.
If you have children I will advise that you send them to a relative’s house for the time being, while the divorce process is ongoing. Psychological distress is common among kids when their parents are getting a divorce, and any good lawyer will advise you to take them (your children) for therapy sessions to avoid mental breakdowns and depression.