By Tochukwu Anayo-Enechukwu

According to Sun online news, there have been over 4,000 applications for Divorce in Nigeria so far in 2020. However, only a few of these applications have been successful, particularly owing to the fact that majority of these matters are pending in court while some have been ourightly struck out because of their lack of merit on the ground that the petitioners have failed to fulfill the requirements for divorce in Nigeria.
This article examines these legal requirements which a party who intends to divorce must fulfill.

In simple words, divorce is the formal ending of a marriage. In a more acceptable form, divorce is the legal dissolution of a marriage by a court or other competent body.
In essence, for there to be a divorce, there must be pronouncement of the dissolution of your marriage by a court of competent jurisdiction. Without such pronouncement, you are still legally married, whether you like it or not.
This pronouncement of a Court of Law in favour of the dissolution of your marriage cannot be made except the requirements for divorce are fulfilled and proved in court.

> That you are married under the Act. That is to say that your Marriage is a statutory or Church marriage in conformity with the provisions of the Marriage Act 1914.

> That such Marriage must have lasted for, at least, two years. Section 30(1) Matrimonial Causes Act provides “Subject to this section, proceedings for a decree of dissolution of Marriage shall not be instituted within 2 years after the date of the Marriage except by the leave of the Court.” This provision of law was made in order to protect the sanctity of marriage. Thus, when you are within the first 2 years of your marriage, you cannot institute proceedings for divorce except you are given the leave of the Court. Section 30(3) of the Matrimonial Causes Act provides the Circumstances where you may be granted the leave of the Court. It states “The court shall not grant leave under this section to institute proceedings except on the ground that to refuse to grant the leave would impose exceptional hardship on the applicant or that the case is one involving exceptional depravity on the part of the other party to the marriage.”

> Importantly, you must fulfill the ground for divorce: If you contracted a valid marriage under the Act which has lasted for over two years, the courts still can’t dissolve your marriage except you have fulfilled the grounds for divorce.
In Nigeria, there is only one ground for divorce and that ground is prescribed in Section 15(1) Matrimonial Causes Act which provides that “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.”

For a marriage to be said to be broken irretrievably, such party to the marriage must satisfy one or more of the following:

  • That the respondent has willfully and persistently refused to consummate the marriage
  • That since the marriage the respondent has committed adultery and the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the respondent
  • That since the marriage the respondent has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent
  • That the respondent has deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of at least one year immediately preceding the presentation of the petition
  • 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
  • That the parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of a least three years immediately preceding the presentation
  • 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 his Act; and
  • 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.

This is provided in Section 15 (3) Matrimonial Causes Act; such Petitioner must satisfy the court as to the requirements in the above listed Section 15 or in Section 16 Matrimonial Causes Act.

Failure of these aforementioned Requirements to be fulfilled is death of your petition for divorce upon arrival. Therefore, you must check whether these requirements are present before you decide to file for a divorce. Once these requirements are present, the next thing you should do is to hire a lawyer who will advise you, guide you and institute an action in court for your divorce.

About the Author:
Tochukwu, Anayo-Enechukwu is a Public Speaker, Content Creator and Prolific Writer. His proficiency in writing has earned him numerous publications in National and International Magazines. Recently, he was awarded Co-author of Songs of Peace – The World’s Biggest Anthology of Contemporary Poetry ever to be published. You can contact him via or 08109494399.

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