Men can be funny, really. I realize majority of my audience on AML are men but fellas, you all can be quite funny at times, and not necessarily in a good way. I discussed this explosive family law case with you all at the close of December 2013 and also shared some documents and statements from the husband and wife. While the case remains hotly contested and makes its way to court on the divorce proceedings et al., this year, January 2nd, 2014, Dino Melaye takes to social media to share his new woman. *Smh* Tokunbo also subsequently took to twitter to share her sentiments.
This had me really curious to really search for the grounds for divorce in Nigeria’s family court. I know the rates of divorce have increased but if you want a divorce, how do you get one? Here is what I found:
In a nutshell, if you want a divorce, you file your petition with the court seeking divorce. The divorce must be based on the ground that the marriage has been broken down irretrievably. What does irretrievably mean? The court will consider eight different grounds under the act highlighted below.
1. No sex i.e. no consumation of the marriage.
3. Conduct that is unreasonable (rape, bestiality, habitual drunkard, sodomy, murderer, incarcerated (in prison), attempted murder of spouse, intent to or actual commission of serious bodily injury, inability to take care of spouse).
4. Abandonment ( must be at least one year prior to the filing of the divorce petition).
5. Separation (living apart for a continued period of two years prior to the filing of the divorce petition) and no objection by the person you want to divorce from. So, you file for a divorce, the court says how long have you been apart, you say two years. The court ask your spouse whether he/she will object to the divorce and he/she says , “no.”
6. Separation (living apart for a continued period of three years prior to the filing of the divorce petition).
7. Failure to comply with a court order regarding marriage or the sexual rights or privilege of a marriage.
8. Death/Reason to Believe Spouse is Dead.
What Law Governs?
Matrimonial Causes Act
Chapter 220, section 15 & 16
Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990
Dissolution of marriage
15. (1) A petition under this Act by a party to a marriage for a decree of dissolution of the marriage may be presented to the court by either party to the marriage upon the ground that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.
(2) The court hearing a petition for a decree of dissolution of a marriage shall hold the marriage to have broken down irretrievably if, but only if, the petitioner satisfies the court of one or more of the following facts- (Folks note you must satisfy one or more of the factors below):
(a) that the respondent has wilfully and persistently refused to consummate the marriage; (this means he or she is not giving you sex).
(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; (Abandonment – many Nigerian relationships qualify for this, especially the foreign ones where the couple marry and he or she heads to Nigeria and remain there with no communication, companionship etc. whatsoever)
(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.
(3) For the purpose of subsection (2) (e) and (f) of this section the parties to a marriage shall be treated as living apart unless they are living with each other in the same household.
SECTION 16 Shows how you Meet the Burdens in Section 15
16. (1) Without prejudice to the generality of section 15(2)(c) of this Act, the court hearing a petition for a decree to of dissolution of marriage shall hold that the petitioner has satisfied the court of the fact mentioned in the said section 15(2)(c) of this Act if the petitioner satisfies the court that-
(a) since the marriage, the respondent has committed rape, sodomy, or bestiality; or
(b) since the marriage, the respondent has, for a period of not less than two years-
(i) been a habitual drunkard, or
(ii) habitually been intoxicated by reason of taking or using to excess any sedative, narcotic or stimulating drug or preparation, or has, for a part or parts of such a period, been a habitual drunkard and has, for the other part or parts of the period, habitually been so intoxicated; or
(c) since the marriage, the respondent has within a period not exceeding five years-
(i) suffered frequent convictions for crime in respect of which the respondent has been sentenced in the aggregate to imprisonment for not less than three years, and
(ii) habitually left the petitioner without reason- able means of support; or
(d) since the marriage, the respondent has been in prison for a period of not less than three years after conviction for an offence punishable by death or imprisonment for life or for a period of five years or more, and is still in prison at the date of the petition; or
(e) since the marriage and within a period of one year immediately preceding the date of the petition, the respondent has been convicted of-
(i) having attempted to murder or unlawfully to kill the petitioner, or
(ii) having committed an offence involving the intentional infliction of grievous harm or grievous hurt on the petitioner or the intent to inflict grievous harm or grievous hurt on the petitioner;
(f) or the respondent has habitually and wilfully failed, throughout the period of two years immediately preceding the date of the petition, to pay maintenance for the petitioner-
(i) ordered to be paid under an order of, or an order registered in, a court in the Federation, or
(ii) agreed to be paid under an agreement between the parties to the marriage providing for their separation; or
(g) the respondent-
(i) is, at the date of the petition, of unsound mind and unlikely to recover, and
(ii) since the marriage and within the period of six ears immediately preceding the date of the petition, as been confined for a period of, or for periods aggregating, not less than five years in an institution where persons may be confined for unsoundness of mind in accordance with law, or in more than one such institution.
(2) Where a petition is based on the fact mentioned in section 15(2)(h) of this Act-
(a) proof that, for a period of seven years immediately preceding the date of the petition, the other party to the marriage was continually absent from the petitioner and that the petitioner has no reason to believe that the other party was alive at any time within that period is sufficient to establish the fact in question, unless it is shown that the other party to the marriage was alive at a time within that period; and
(b) a decree made pursuant to the petition shall be in the form of a decree of dissolution of marriage by reason of presumption of death.”
UPDATE (2/24/2017): One of the biggest requests I receive from readers of this blog is for referral resources for Family Law/Divorce attorneys in Nigeria.
I give three recommendations below but please note that my recommendations are not necessarily an endorsement of these lawyers. Please do your due diligence before you engage the services of any lawyer, period. In addition, make sure there is a fit in terms of chemistry with your lawyer, and that your lawyer actually listens and responds to your legal needs.
1. Tajudeen Oluwaseye Lawal
L & A Legal Consultants
3rd Floor, 62 Awolowo Road, South West Ikoyi, Lagos – NIGERIA
Tel/Fax: +234-1 – 4612213/4, 7902879
2. Ayomide Falade
Lawfields Solicitors and Advocates
3. Mrs. Dorcas Odunnaike
DA Odunnaike Chambers