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.


Posted by MzAgams with WordPress for BlackBerry.

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

  1. AMAKA Says:


    • 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:

    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:


  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?

  14. Viola Says:

    He married her properly in the traditional way and church wedding in a penticostal church. They had 3children but now the marriage is over. He wants to marry me now but he cannot collect the bride price back because the marriage has produced children. He also said that since there was no court marriage that he can marry me now without any legal consequence and later file for divorce when he is finacially possible. Please i want to know if all these are possible and the legal implications of them. Thank u ma

  15. wolanda Says:

    ive been battling with a wife who has decided not to see any good thing in me or the marriage , she has like a 500gig memory where she stores all the bad things that happens between us while keeping 20kb for the good things, ive been married for 5 years now and we ve not had a full month of bliss, we argue over everything and fights over stuffs as little as good morning, my family didnt really want me to marry her @ first but i stood my ground and went ahead, but on getting married sincerely ive not really enjoyed the marriage. she has 2 kids for me a boy and a girl and they adore me and i do too, but im not happy. ive had to move out of the house for some days only to come back because my kids were unhappy and were crying for me. but seriously ive started having affairs outside as some form of solace but im still not happy and its more not cost effective.

    recently she had an issue with my mum which i stood solidly behind her even though i know who she is, but afterwards advised her to lets resolve , but for 4 months now she has not spoken with anyone in my family.

    i really want out because i dont feel safe anymore becaue she has saved a lot of issue she uses against me and i feel my life is in danger because of her unforgiving spirit and i really want out.

    please advice or i would like us to have private chats . i really want out before i go crazy and i dont want to be sentenced to death for killing my wife. i just want to walk away now that i still can control myself

  16. yemi Says:

    please my sister has been married (registry )for 13 years with no children, her husband has been sleeping outside for like a week in a roll for over 5 years, she recently discovered that he is married to another woman and she have the video of the wedding as an evidence. she wants to divorce without suing him for bigamy because she doenst want him to go to jail. is it possible that she gets divorced without the bigamy clause? also the guy is not cooperative about the whole divorce issue because he still wants to be getting money from my sister, he has no job his only job is to be doing fine boy with my sisters money. he even wanted to claim all my sisters properties that she bought with her money.
    my sister met with a male lawyer who is imposing settlement on her despite all that happened. the lwayer is just insisting on mediation. she needs a new laywyer and would like to know if you can represent her and also avoid the bigamy issue because she doesnt want to e the one to send him to jail.

    please your reply will be appreciated. my sister is totally shattered, she needs to get out of the marriage me on with her life maybe GOD can answer her too.

  17. Aduke Says:

    I am married to a Nigerian man in 2011, I came t the Uk thesame year, on getting to the Uk realised I was pregnant, I had the baby in 2012.
    Before the end of 2012 my husband has impregnated another lady, who gave birth exactly 1yr 1month after my baby.
    I would like to seek divorce because he had no penny in the wellbeing of my daughter now she is 2years old.
    I opened an account for her in Nigeria so that the dad can be putting whatever he has for the well being, he never did.
    If I file in for a divorce, who gets custody of this child.

  18. Cyprian Says:

    What happens in a situation where the couple had a marriage blessing in a church, without the announcement of bans and the man did not also pay bride price traditionally or otherwise and also, the marriage was not registered at the court registry. what procedure is best if the woman wishes to remarry? does she need to petition the church for annulment or what?

  19. yemisi Says:

    is a Nigerian traditional marriage legally binding?

  20. zob Says:

    Hw can I reach you? Pls send details to my mail .

  21. helmas Says:

    Am a christian and married to a muslim lady, we did court marriage and after a year,she refused going to church with me and began to practice her religion but since she started practicing her religion my love for her faded because at first she agreed to convert to christian and now she fails to do my wish. what can i do? can i divorce her and remarry to another woman?, since she failed to submit to my authority.thanks

  22. pastore Says:

    Hello MzAgams, plz I’ll like to talk to u via email and privately. My email is

  23. frank Says:

    Hi,my constructively deserted me for 8years now.we did traditional marriage only.i asked for return of dowry and my children but no good response from her.i went to the customary court in her home town to file for divorce but the court attendant advice i first seek for marriage dissolution from the social welfare department in same her hometown as first step and if am not okay with outcome then i can file for the divorce and custody of my children.i have registerred the case at welfare yesterday.pls tell me if i am on the right track.

  24. frank Says:

    Hi,my WIFE constructively deserted me for 8years now.we did traditional marriage only.i asked for return of dowry and my children but no good response from her.i went to the customary court in her home town to file for divorce but the court attendant advice i first seek for marriage dissolution from the social welfare department in same her hometown as first step and if am not okay with outcome then i can file for the divorce and custody of my children.i have registerred the case at welfare yesterday.pls tell me if i am on the right track.

  25. Usman Ketiya Says:

    Hi there, great article Lesley. Please keep up the good work. I have a question about how to go about finding out whether a marriage was conducted customarily or statutorily in Nigeria. Are these available publicly in Nigeria? How do I go about it if one or both parties is deceased? Thanking you in anticipation of your response.

  26. chinyere Says:

    i have been married for 12yrs and 5months and it has been hell for me bcos there is constant abuse of all sorts. loveless, no trust and unhappiness all d way. i need a divorce bcos i dont want to continue. please help me out. my happiness is paramount in d whole of this stuff. thanks.
    i need a divorce as soon as possible. kindly help me.

  27. olumide Says:

    Good Day Madam,i need a divorce ,it is close to a year, when i called my wife that she need to excuse me from home.Basically here are my reasons : failing to pays her sons school after i had given her , she lies , constant abuse, lack respect for the marriage , denyance of unauthorised Atm withdrawals , procuring a loan from four micro finance bank with my properties as a collateral without my consent . Above all, i cant live with this woman again , she lacks integrity, my first son of four years is with my and he is doing well. while the second boy is with her although i sent him monthly upkeep.i actually married her from MAINLAND REGISTRY CITY HALL. My question is this: how many years can i wait before i could summon her for divorce and which court will i approach? your prompt response will be appreciated .

    • mz_agams Says:

      two years

      • Harrased Man Says:

        Good morning. Please can you explain the two years? Is there a peroid to wait before divorce?
        I have been greatly enlightened by your writeups and comments. How I wish I knew them earlier.
        I have sent you a mail, as I require legal consultations on the matter.
        please keep up this good work

  28. olumide Says:

    In addition,i have our marriage certificate with me as resulf of her carelessness.

  29. james Says:

    I paid my wife’s bride price according to thier custom of a man to posses the child after birth,but now am so confuse of the marriage cos my wife is finding every fault to pick a quarrel with me,i dnt no if she is d right one,n now she want me to take her to court n marry her cos according to her, she feel unsafe in my hands,but apart frm giving me a child,she as not contributed any thing in my life,i feel after she want to take all my properties tru court my questn is is it possible,dat she can take all my properties tru court wedding?

  30. Prince007 Says:

    @ wolanda,
    exactly the same trend i m going through in my marriage. The same number of years, but 1 kid (girl) and i love my kid so much. I m also very scared now, she sneaks at night to check my phones when i m asleep and have caught her sometimes. Since then, i m very scared

  31. M Olatokunbo Says:

    I was married at the registry in Lagos in 1989, we had two daughters and after 5 years we separated and agreed I would look after the children. The kids and I moved to the UK in 1994 and their mum has since been remarried and had two further children with her new husband. I tried to file for divorce but because I had moved several times I lost our marriage certificate and the registry could not find a copy. My ex wife has since been re-married (I don’t know the details) but we technically have never been divorced and now I would like to get married again but not sure that would be legal. My question is, are we automatically presumed divorced after a 20 year separation?

    • mz_agams Says:

      There is no certificate. it would appear there is nothing to do but move forward and remarry like your wife has done. She is not likely to sue you for bigamy.

  32. aderonke bunmi Says:

    pls send me your e mail or phone no. i need a good lawyer to help me out. My health and children’s life also at stake. God bless you.

  33. vicky Says:

    i file for divorce this month in a high court,how long can the case last because i want to go into another marriage

  34. how do i know my ex wants to get back with me Says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I truly appreciate your efforts and I am
    waiting for your further post thanks once again.

  35. Bobo Says:

    Been married to a serial cheat and liar for 22 yrs, I got married at 18 in the uk, at some point he left home for 6 month to live with another woman in NIG, I’m planning going back to NIG with my kids, we got 3 kids together which Je always abandon whenever he leaves home, can I get a divorce in NIG as the process in the uk is rather long and stressful, thanks

  36. Zuwera Ade Says:

    My boyfriend is from Nigeria,before we live in together 2003 honestly asked him if he is married man in Nigeria , He said he wasnt but a divorced in a dutch lady in Netherland. We start living together when I gave birth with our daughter in the year 2007.I start doubting on him that even though he has no family in Nigeria he always travel twice a year even no money on his pocket and I have to provide. and he always on the phone with uroba’s dialect .until one day I read some textes on his phone that a woman that he always talking that he introduce to me was his cousin was his wife because everytime he talked to that woman he always called Ulori.I comfronted him if who really she is,but still denied untill I rang the woman in Nigeria and she told me that they just married a year ago.How could this Nigerian man cheated me in such way,I trusted him so much,My question is they registered already their marriage,is that considered as real marriage ?I dont know the Nigerian laws.We have alot of properties that joint together.If anytthing happened to this guy can this woman in nigeria can claim our properties and his pension,since I am not married to him but we have a scheduled for our registry here in Ireland before getting to know the truth and I canceled it,please anybody can advice..thanks alot

  37. sholape Says:

    I have been married for about 11months now and I want to file for divorce on the basis of physical abuse. I am in desperate need of a lawyer. how do I find a good lawyer and do I have to wait for the marriage to be up to 2 years? Thanks

  38. ibe emeka Says:

    My wife sue me to civil right under ministry of justice, I went there after our statement, we both signed memordum of understanding for me to be paying N10000 monthly to her for mintenace of 2 female kids. We signed that she will be bringing my kids to welfare nd I will be paying the sum. She ran away with my kids and I didn’t pay the money. What will I do.I have gone to customry court to let them settle the matter, but her lawyer siad tht the court has no juridiiction. What can I do

  39. Oluwatoyin Says:

    Please I need to get in touch with you ASAP

  40. Oluwatoyin Says:

    I have been married for 13 years and 6 months. Few years into our marriage I got to know that he did not divorce his first wife before we got married I confronted him and he told me that it was the lawyer that didn’t finish his job. Apart from this I have been the only one responsible for the upkeep of the kids. I have been paying for my house rent for the past seven years. He has not been forthcoming with children’s upkeep & school fees. We have not had sexual relations for almost three years though. We have been living apart for the past 8 years. There has been a communication breakdown between us and I have told him I want a divorce he said I should go and bring the notice. I need to move on with my life. We got married at the Kosofe Local Government registry in December 2000. Pls tell me how to go about it. How can I see you. I want it done as soon as possible. Thank you.

  41. tola Says:

    how can i get an annulment of marriage

  42. zuwera Says:

    We are living in Europe and my bf got registered their marriage in Lagos .

  43. Moot Says:

    I married my ex wife in a traditional wedding in Aug, 2009 and we parted ways in Nov 2010. With no children. Now I got remarried to my current wife in a court weddding in Jan and pple have bn telling me to get a divorce. Is it possible to get a divorce cert for a wedding which was not legally documented and had no marriage certificate. My case is somehow peculiar cos my new wife is a resident in d states and wants to file for a resident permit for me also but I had filled my ex wife’s name in an application to d same embassy while we were married. Now the challenge is getn a divorce cert to show the consular people the marriage has bn terminated so they’ll knw this new one is valid or is it explanable?

  44. adejumo adeola peter Says:

    i got married in a customary court in May 2013 and now am really tired of this marriage due to her unrepentant waywardness.please how fast can i get a divorce and hope i dont have to wait for 2 years to get the divorce.Thanks and God bless.

  45. adejumo adeola peter Says:

    i got married in a customary court in May 2013 and now am really tired of the marriage due to her unrepentant fast can i get a divorce.please i hope i dont have to wait for 2 years.thanks and God bless.

  46. Blessing Says:

    I mrried at the Registry April 2013, but the man has not paid my dowry or mdone any introduction with his family and my family. i am tried of his wayward and actitude of not willing to work but only want me to be the one spending and his disapearing from home and not keeping to hthe ability of a husband, How do i go aut it? can u be my lawyer or inroduce me to a good lawyer?

    • mz_agams Says:

      your registry marriage is more binding than a traditional dowry or intro and you must wait two years before you can file a petition for divorce

  47. Blessing Says:

    I married at the Registry April 2013, but the man has not paid my dowry or done any introduction with his family and my family. i am tried of his wayward and attitude of not willing to work but only want me to be the one spending and his disappearing from home and not keeping to the ability of a husband by beating me up shamelessly which has led to me having high blood pressure, How do i go abut it? can u be my lawyer or introduce me to a good lawyer for a fast divorce.

  48. ekpe Says:

    What will I do if my marriage has irreconcilable differences? My wife does not have the interest of our family at heart because of her over attachments with her family. She feeds them with minute by minute updates of issues in our house and she has resisted been corrected. She nags continously and rain curses and abuses on me at will. I’ve made every move humanly possible to settle this matter but to no avail. I attempted to involve her family and they asked me to be patient. She has succeeded in painting black in her family as we speak. What can u advice Ma.

  49. obison Says:

    pls ma , pelp me out i have married for 7yrs no kids my wife is not contributing any thing in my life,. i want divorce since i married her she has be try to put me down. my question is if we divorce will she get any part of my properties? she did not buy any with me.

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