How to Get a Divorce in Nigeria

First of all what type of marriage do you have? There are two types of marriage in Nigeria. Statutory marriage and customary marriage.

A statutory marriage is contracted in a marriage registry and in some Churches eg the Catholic church marriages are recognised as statutory.

Customary marriages are contracted under the native law and custom of the brides paternal family. Not the groom. Marriage under Sharia is treated as customary marriage.

There is no such thing as a religious marriage recognised under Nigerian law. If your marriage was in a church that is not recognised by the courts under Matrimonial Causes case law it is considered a church blessing of a customary marriage.

If you’re not sure whether your church marriage is recognised speak to a lawyer or to your church administrator.

The type of marriage you have will determine the appropriate court to go and the lawyer you should hire. If its a statutory marriage you’ll need a lawyer with experience at the High Court.

A divorce in a customary marriage is initiated in a customary court or area court. Look for a lawyer with experience in those courts.

Choosing a lawyer is a very personal experience. Some lawyers do not take divorce matters on principle. Others believe it is their duty to reconcile a couple on verge of divorce and insist on mediation.

Personally I assume that by the time a party to a marriage comes to me for legal options the marriage has already broken down irretrievably. Mediation can be emotionally exhausting for parties and their lawyers.

I also think its wrong for a lawyer that is expected to represent a clients in litigation to first play role of judge and mediator.

In Nigeria before someone visits a lawyer to discuss their legal options family, friends and church have usually tried and failed to broker a reconciliation. Don’t let a lawyer brow beat you into something you don’t want.

Choose a lawyer that listens to your needs and puts them first, not his church, not his religion, not his messianic ego. Assess his or her understanding of matrimonial law and whether it meets your needs.

In my practice I meet clients whose previous lawyers had convinced they couldn’t get or didn’t deserve maintenance or settlement or custody. They felt uncomfortable with the lawyer but didn’t leave immediately.

If you’re not comfortable with the advice your lawyer is giving you go to another one. Keep talking with different lawyers till you find one you are comfortable with.

They’ll all try to keep you as a client, some are more insistent than others. Just remember you don’t have to retain a lawyer just because you stepped into his office. Ask if the lawyer charges a consultation fee and pay it.

If you don’t like what you hear you can leave without lying that you’ll be back and without feeling you have to retain this particular lawyer because you just spent the past hour interrogating him.

Of course its also just good manners. If I had a penny for every smart alec that spends hours grilling me then high tails out when they learn our fees. In my practice I no longer see clients without charging a consultation fee. Just respect for our time and yours. Its deductible from our fees if we take the case.
If you’re reading this then you can also search the online lawyers directories. Most of us wouldn’t hire a staff at home or office without interviewing several candidates. Don’t choose a lawyer just because he or she is ‘a friend’. Be as vigorous in assessing their experience and advice.

Beware of lawyers that hustle you, you know the hustle when you encounter it. The ones more intent on getting your money than explaining to you your rights and how they will secure them. The ones that use fancy legalese talk that you don’t understand.

That’s the whole point. For you not to understand and for them to appear even more powerful and god-like. You’ll always have problems with the glib talking lawyer. They’ll never listen to you. Its all about them.

Once you’ve chosen a lawyer and paid the agreed fees do take your lawyers advice. Your lawyer works for now and that means paid to give you the best advice possible on how to achieve your goals during your divorce process.

In my next post I’ll write about various grounds for divorce to help you assess whether you have enough grounds.

Ciao

Posted by MzAgams with WordPress for BlackBerry.

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325 Responses to “How to Get a Divorce in Nigeria”

  1. AMAKA Says:

    AGAIN TO ADD TO IT MA, WE HAVE NEVER HAD SEX AND THEIR WAS NO FORM OF BANNS FOR MARRIAGE ANNOUNCED BEFORE THE MARRIAGE. ALL I DID WAS SIGN PAPERS BECAUSE I THOUGHT THAT WAS ALL TO IT LIKE I WAS TOLD

    • mz_agams Says:

      Dear Amaka, you cannot remarry anyone without a divorce, the section of the law you quoted doesn’t work the way you want it to but you can go and try if you wish to.

  2. Takon Elijah Danjuma Says:

    Good morning mam. How was your night? Please i want to ask is it
    possible to settle a divorce case out of court cos i may not be able
    to afford a lawyer and undergo all the court proceedings due to my
    financial status ma

  3. ada Says:

    Please send me a mail I’l like to talk with you directly Thanks

  4. Millicent Says:

    My marriage has been very rocky,am nt thinking a divorce now but I know I definitely want a separation,how do I go about it?

  5. Abiola Akinyemi (@jjustcruizing) Says:

    Hello,
    My question is can a statuary marriage contracted in Nigeria be annulled in Ireland? Please kindly explain if it will be legal. Thank you.

  6. ADESHEWA Says:

    I WAS NT ACCEPTED BY MY INLAWS SINCE THEY WERE INFORMED OF MY TWIN PREGNANCY IN 2008 TILL NOW. I HAD MY WEDN AT IKOYI APRIL 2009, I LATER REALISED I MARRIED A GUYMAN AFTER HE DUPED ME & MY MOTHER. HE LATER DUPED SOME PEOPLE THAT TOOK HIM TO KIRIKIRI. FROM 2011 TO 2013 WE HAD NO .. & WE RE STAYING TOGETHER, I RENTED OUT HIS FATHER’S APARTMENT THAT WE RE STAYING ON HIS ORDER PAID MY CHILDREN DEBT OF SCHL FEES, RENTED AN APARTMENT IN JAN 2013 IN WHICH I LIVE WIT MY KIDS TILL NW, I GAVE HIM SOME AMOUNT TO SORT HIMSLF, SO I VE BEING TAKING FULL RESPONSIBILITY OVER MY KIDS WITHOUT HIS ASST HE NO LONGER CALL THEM PLS HW LONG CAN I WAIT WITHOUT DIVORCE IN CASE I DECIDE TO SETTLE DOWN WITH SM1 ELSE? BCS HIS FAMILY DID NOT BOTHER TO INTERFERE OR KNW WHAT WENT WRONG OR ATMPT SETLMNT. TNKS

  7. Abby Says:

    Pls my marriage is definitely irreconcilable. I have a daughter with my husband but I stay in d US while he stays in Nigeria and my daughter was born in d US too.I tried to talk to my husband calmly about this and explain to him that this decision is for the sake of my health and my daughter’s because we r at war every single time both when I was in Nigeria n when I travelled (can u imagine him cursing me out on the phone while I was in the labour room)but he keeps threating me with fetish things and even says the only reason he is gonna grant me a divorce is if I give him he child.he doesn’t even have a job,he lost his apartment and he has not sent me a dime for taking care of my baby which will soon be turning two.
    I am thinking coming to Nigeria soon(although am so scared) to start a divorce case,please where do I stand? How can I get custody of my kid?what r my chances?

  8. Chika Says:

    Good day ma, i only did traditional wedding- no paper signed. Can i sue for a divorce in court and get compensated for time invested in the marriage? I also contributed in building a house with my husband. What kind of court does that?

  9. Ade Says:

    Goo morning.Pls advice me,if it is okay to marry a second wife statutorily,having married the first wife in Islamic way? Though ,the first wife consent to the marriage but not to the registry things. The family of my second wife-to-be is pressuring me to go to registry,even if the family knew i had a wife already.

  10. Natalie Says:

    I have a question if you don’t mind. I am an American citizen and reside in America. I made a mistake getting married in Nigeria and I am seeking a divorce. Are there any specific steps that need to be done since I am not in Abuja, Nigeria to take care of this matter? What advice can you offer me?

    Thank you in advance for your time with addressing this matter.

  11. Natalie Says:

    I,was not aware I could file for a divorce in the USA if I was married outside the country. What paperwork would I use? Also, we haven’t been married even a year. It’s only been 6 months. Is there an annulment that can be done since we were married less than a year?

  12. Tania Says:

    Good afternoon,

    I´m a European girl that is dating a Nigerian man. When I met him, he told me he had finished his relationship with his long-term girlfriend.
    They got married in the traditional wedding, but told me he was never sure to go on for the white wedding and it is when he broke off with his fiancée. I have some questions related Nigerian weddings:
    1. Once you got married in the traditional wedding, do you have to go for the white wedding?
    2. If you got married in the traditional wedding, are you considered to be legally married? That is, do you need to get divorced if you want to marry someone else?

    I really appreciate your advice on this issue.
    Kind regards

    • mz_agams Says:

      Answwer to both questions is no. A traditional divorce involves returning the bride price by woman or sending a word and returning daughter by man

  13. sweeta Says:

    Good day.

    I have a lawyer who is dealing with my divorce at the moment, He recently told me that I need to file for divorce at the church I married which is Living faith church and also the Court registry he is charging me for both fees which is pretty costly. Is this procedure true? I thought he would only need to file for divorce at the court registry?

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