Cost & Procedure of Divorce in Nigeria (2024)
If you’re considering divorce in Nigeria, understanding Nigeria’s divorce laws and procedure is crucial. In addition, the cost of getting a divorce in Nigeria this 2023 is a current topic of concern.
Nigeria’s primary divorce laws are the Matrimonial Causes Act (MCA) LFN 1990 and the Matrimonial Causes Rules. However, there are various judicial decisions that supplement these laws in guiding the divorce process.
THE GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE IN NIGERIA
The MCA specifies that only one ground exists for dissolving a marriage – irretrievable breakdown. However, there are eight classes of breakdowns that fall under this ground, as outlined in the Act:
- Willful refusal by the respondent to consummate the marriage.
- Adultery committed by the respondent since the marriage, which the petitioner finds intolerable to live with.
- Behavior by the respondent since the marriage that makes it unreasonable for the petitioner to live with them.
- Desertion of the petitioner by the respondent for at least one year preceding the petition.
- The parties to the marriage have lived apart for a minimum of two years preceding the presentation of the petition, and the respondent does not object to a decree being granted.
- The parties to the marriage have lived apart for a minimum of three years preceding the presentation of the petition.
- Failure by the other party to comply with a decree of restitution of conjugal rights made under the MCA for at least one year.
- Absence of the other party from the petitioner for such a time and in such circumstances as to presume they are dead.
While these reasons Nigerian couples divorce encompasses most issues raised in divorce cases, they can still pose challenges in court. It’s advisable to consult an experienced lawyer to discuss the specific reasons for seeking a divorce and seek further clarification.
COURT PROCEDURE OF DIVORCE IN NIGERIA
To commence divorce process or ending a marital union in Nigeria legally, an application must be drafted and submitted to the High Court of the State. The application must be meticulously prepared and properly filed, and then presented to the other spouse, who will be regarded as the respondent in the case. The respondent must be served personally with the application. If the respondent refuses to accept the service, the court may direct substituted service, which may entail affixing the application on the wall or door, dispatching it by post, electronic mail, or WhatsApp.
After being served, the respondent has a span of 28 days to provide a response known as an Answer. Upon receiving the Answer, the application can be set for a hearing. At the hearing, the petitioner is obligated to provide testimony. In the present day, some courts in Nigeria enable remote hearings via video conferencing platforms for petitioners who are not geographically situated within the jurisdiction during the hearing.
Following the hearing, the attorney representing the petitioner must advocate for the case’s strengths before the matter is postponed for judgement. In the event of a successful case, the court will distribute a decree nisi (a provisional order) during the judgement, which becomes absolute or final after 90 days.
HOW LONG DOES A DIVORCE PROCESS LAST
Divorce is a complex legal process that is often sought after by couples who have irreconcilable differences. One of the most common questions that prospective divorce petitioners ask is how long the process will take.
The duration of a divorce in Nigeria depends on several factors, including the type of marriage, the location where the divorce is filed, the level of contention involved, and the experience of the lawyer hired for the case. A divorce of customary marriage can be completed in as little as two months in customary court, provided that there are no contentions. However, a divorce of statutory marriage in the High Court can take up to six months or more, even without any contention. In some cases, a highly contentious divorce case can take over two years to be concluded.
HOW LONG CAN A DIRVOCEE WAIT TO RE-MARRY
In addition to the duration, another common question that arises is how long someone must wait before remarrying after a divorce. As per the Matrimonial Causes Act in Nigeria, an individual who has undergone a divorce is required to wait for a duration of 90 days following the issuance of the decree nisi before they can enter into matrimony once again. This implies that a person who has been divorced is only eligible to remarry after the decree nisi has been made absolute.
COST OF FILING FOR A DIVORCE IN NIGERIA
The cost of obtaining a divorce in Nigeria can be influenced by several factors. In most cases, divorce proceedings in Nigeria are frequently complex and involve a legal process that could span a considerable amount of time. As such, legal practitioners will charge fees based on their expertise, skill level, and the nature of the dispute at hand. Generally, the expense of hiring a proficient lawyer for divorce cases in Nigeria can range from ₦700,000 to more than a million Naira. Nonetheless, it’s important to note that legal fees could differ depending on the specific lawyer or law firm involved in the case.
It is important to note that divorce laws in Nigeria are designed to safeguard family values and the interests of children from the marriage. As a result, the legal process of obtaining a divorce in Nigeria is not straightforward, and no significant efforts have been made to reform these laws over the years.
Despite the significant rise in the population and an increase in the number of divorce petitions in Nigeria, the only option available to couples seeking a divorce is to file a petition at the High Court. This poses a challenge because there are only a few of these courts in the country. If smaller courts, such as Magistrate courts, were permitted to handle divorce cases, the process would be much more accessible and easier for couples.
In Nigeria, the process of obtaining a divorce for a statutory marriage is a serious legal matter that requires the services of a qualified legal practitioner. This process can take up to seven months, and some cases may even take up to three years to complete, depending on various factors. On the other hand, divorcing through customary marriage is faster and easier. The process typically takes place at various Customary Courts and is less formal than the statutory marriage process.