How to Get a Divorce in Nigeria – Grounds for Divorce: Adultery & Intolerability

There is only one ground for divorce in Nigeria, that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. There are 8 different ways to establish irretrievable breakdown. One of those is adultery.

You would think no woman married to a Nigerian man would ever have trouble getting a divorce. Nigerian male sexual entitlement is cliche. So is female snooping. Snoopy wives are smart wives only if they are compiling the evidence for a divorce.

Personally I never could understand the snoopy wives that looked for and found incriminating evidence only to immediately confront their man, fight and then put him in the dog house as in deny him sex till he begs forgiveness or buys her an expensive present.

If I were to start snooping its because I’m compiling evidence good enough to take before a court of law. Certainly not snooping for the sake of snooping. So what is evidence good enough for a court? What would convince a judge that adultery happened?

Adultery is voluntary and consensual sexual relations by a party to a marriage with a third party during the marriage. Note: rape or sexual intercourse while insane or impaired by alcohol or drugs is not voluntary and does not constitute adultery.

Adultery is usually proven through circumstantial evidence like familiarity and opportunity, sexually transmitted disease, visits to brothels, confessions or birth of a child, DNA tests and cohabitation with other than spouse. Direct evidence is rare.

The case law reveals a lot of gender bias. There are lots of cases cited about women having a child at a time her husband was unavailable to have caused her pregnancy. I’m on the look out for cases where a man having a child is presented as proof of adultery on his part in an action for divorce.

In one case it was held reasonable to assume familiarity and sexual intercourse between a woman and man that were seen returning late from a night club and kissing in front of her home. However in another case it was held photographs of a naked man and woman lying on top of each other did not prove sexual intercourse happened.

So witness evidence has more weight than photographic evidence unless presumably its of the pornographic variety. You will need reliable witnesses. The type that everyone believes before they even say anything. Earnest looking. Mature. Too proud to accept money to lie.

A cynical person might say you won’t find them and may even suggest (gasp in horror) you bribe Uncle Nasiru and Uncle Bitrus to say they saw Mama Nkechi kissing one man under the mango tree. I’m sure many a divorce in Nigeria is procured with methods just as deceptive and creepy. Don’t go there.

Time to step up ladies. We have an uncanny sixth sense that tells us when our man is cheating. A strange scent on him that stays no matter what he does to wash it off. Our conscious mind doesn’t always know it even. Its primal and wild. And it sets us sniffing to catch the scent.

If you’re looking to get a divorce collect and start to store the evidence when you go snooping around. Forward emails and SMS to and from lovers to your in box, do try not to leave an obvious trace. If you find her number and call her to leave your man alone record it. You might get lucky and she’ll say something admitting the affair.

And yes, if you can sneak up on the lovers photograph them having sex at that hotel down the road from your house. Shameless man. Couldn’t even go far away to have his sleazy affairs. That’s okay, that means there are probably lots of witnesses in the neighbourhood, you should find one or two willing to testify.

Avoid the witnesses that expect to be paid ‘transport’ which is a euphemism for bribe. They will say anything you want them to but will collapse under cross examination because they will over embellish the truth.

Avoid the religious conservatives and fanatics. They’ll preach the word of God that said you should not divorce but should bear your marriage like a martyrs cross. That attitude can get you killed. They’ll never come to court anyway so don’t waste your time..

Look for witnesses that are genuine in their sympathy for you and sincere in wanting to help.. You’ll always find one at least. If you look. Look hard but be aware some may not want to be seen to be involved in the ‘break up’ of a marriage. Assure them its broken and dead already and this is the funeral.

If you’re not good at snooping around (and a lot of us aren’t) outsource the evidence gathering to a trained professional or private eye. Yes we do have them, they’re just not in the yellow pages. Private investigators are a growing trend in Nigeria. If you can, use them. Ask around.

If you know the area boys and are good with them they will help you too but may lack credibility in court. If its photographic or video evidence the person who collected it should appear in court recounting the details of how he or she got the evidence and the events shown.

The standard of proof is by preponderance of evidence and not beyond reasonable doubt. Parties to a marriage are also entitled to damages from the adulterous spouse assessed according to the financial support lost due to the breakdown of the marriage as a result.

If you’ve been married a while and your husband has been having adulterous affairs and you seemed by your conduct to tolerate them the court may conclude you condoned the adultery unless you can also prove you find it intolerable to live with your spouse as a result.

Don’t forget to get names and addresses of the women you have reasonable grounds to believe are having adulterous affairs with your husband. They must be included in the action as co-respondents. They will need to be served court processes and may also be liable to you for damages. Get as much info as possible.

Of course here we can go into what constitutes a broken marriage and this will depend on why you got married and why you stay married. I guess the definition of a broken marriage will differ depending on whether you married for love and companionship or for family and security.

For a lot of Nigerian women adultery by their husband is tolerated and is not considered enough reason for a divorce unless it is so obvious and so detrimental to her and her children by which time it may be to late. ‘You want to move out so the other woman can finally move in?’

Like I said already it all depends on what you want from life and from marriage. On that I cannot advice but if you don’t file when you see your husband in an affair that actually threatens your home and life you may find yourself thrown out before you can secure your rights.

Note that for adultery to prove irretrievable breakdown of marriage it need only happen once and it has to have happened in the three years before your petition. Also a petitioner (that is the person asking the court for a divorce, the other fellow is the respondent) cannot use their own adultery as proof.

Once you’re able to establish adultery you have to also prove that you find it intolerable to live with your adulterous spouse. What matters is what you find intolerable and not what ‘a reasonable man’ would feel.

How do you establish intolerability? We’ll look at that in my next post.

Ciao

Posted by MzAgams with WordPress for BlackBerry.

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161 Responses to “How to Get a Divorce in Nigeria – Grounds for Divorce: Adultery & Intolerability”

  1. chomzy Says:

    my husband stopped liking me, he finds everything I do uninteresting. it makes him happy humilating me publically. He has told me several times that he wished me dead. He threatens me with divorce and packing out of the matrimonial home.

    he has a horrible elder sister who is married but a prostitute. Never stayed in one house with her husband or children. Whenever she visits her three brothers, they will start hating their wives. it happened to me.

    After all these abuses, he wants to make love to me. I feel down, no emotions. Right now, he wants it – no emotions, feel like crying.

  2. Ib Says:

    Hello ma, thank you so much for this opportunity. I hv been married for 9years now with 3 kids. My husband works in a good place n provides all the basic needs for the family. But I get emotional, psychological n mental abuse from him. He believes that after providing everything in the house I don’t need to be unhappy. He doesnt have time for me, he goes to work monday to Friday n on weekends he will look for an opportunity to be out of the house. We could be in the house together for 5 hours without saying a word to each other . I hv endured and hoped dat things will get better, but instead it’s getting worse and bad. I have lost every atom of love for him cause of the series of pains he has caused me. On several occasions I have been hospitalised because of low blood pressure. I am lonely n abandoned by the man I married at age 23. We sleep in the same room n on the same bed but we have not had any intimate relationship for the past two months and counting, instead most nights I see him sleeping on the bed with his hand tucked into his pyjamas. I am very tired and confuse cos am breaking down everyday. I met him when he had nothing but right now he has two houses in choice areas and one in the village. I desperately need a separation, I told him that some weeks back and he asked me why do I need it. I told him that am lonely n going crazy because of boredom and lack of companionship. He replied that yes I can have the seperation and I should tell him how I want it when am ready. Madam pls I don’t know what to do, how to go about it. Am so scared because of the custody of my kids, I want to have them and also scared that if I leave with them I might not be able to give them the kind of comfort they are enjoying right now as per accommodation and up keep. Besides every property n cars are in his name. Pls advise me on my chances. Do reply to my inbox plss. Thanks

  3. kamina Says:

    Dear IB, Your story sounds identical to mine, I am also lonely, neglected and abandoned. I understand exactly how you feel. Please email me.

  4. Sunny Onos Says:

    I am a Nigeria and reside in Nigeria, I married for 15years and with 2 kids. My wife had hyperthyroidism (i.e. thyroid gland malfunction- hyperactive condition) in 2005 and since then we have been managing the condition but not without its toll on our relationship and marital life. I have endured all the irrational behavior that comes with the illness because love my wife. This year the situation got worse, she started acting funny and aggressive. Doctor said it is part of the symptoms. Now she is requesting and agitating for divorce. I thought it was a psychiatric problem associated with the hyperthyroidism but her Doctor said though the situation may appear psychiatric my wife is not. He said my wife problem is a combination of marital and psychological problem but not her medical condition. He advised we should sort our marital problems. I can understand my wife is troubled but we still have areas of marital differences as we argue and quarrel a lot. Now she accuse of me of having a son outside and sleeping with other women which are not true as I have been faithful and supportive of my wife since we married. Now she is frustrating me seriously and I am struggling to maintain my job. I am confuse and worried. She is insisting on the divorce. Her family have step but to no avail. even my Pastor have spoken to her. She said I should sell the house I struggled build, our only home and give her share. She is very much frustrating me at home, no peace anymore. I can no longer continue as this is affecting my health and I am loosing my mind. Kindly advise me. I need your help. What is the divorce procedure and what are my chances.

    • mz_agams Says:

      See if you can get your wife to another doctor. I also have hyperthyroidism. Its a challenge but it doesn’t sounds like she is not managing it very well. The hyper behavior should reduce. And do more research online, Nigerian doctors are not very innovative in treating hyperthyroidism

      If you want a divorce see a lawyer near you

  5. carol Says:

    I did court wedding in abia state in 2009, can I file for my divorce from Lagos

  6. Kim Says:

    My sister is Canadian and she met a Nigerian online. She gave up everything here to volunteer in Nigeria so she can marry him. Now she is married and is back here living in Canada. How does she get a divorce? she tells me that she has to stay marry to him for two years as that is Nigerian law. Can you confirm if this is true and will it be easy for her to get a divorce? thank you

    • mz_agams Says:

      In Nigeria she has to wit two years, she can also apply for a divorce in Canada

      • Uyen Pham Says:

        if she files for it here in canada, will it take two years too?

      • MJ Says:

        She can file within a shorter time even in Nigeria. The law allows for a Petitioner to institute one even a month after marriage but with leave of court. For desertion or constructive desertion one year after separation is the minimum period before instituting an action for dissolution. In all, the circumstances of every given case determines what step to take. I hope I helped clear someone’s situation.

  7. rene Says:

    Hello i want ask im man married 7 years in nigeria . I got one child. Im not living with my wife over 3 years. I want get divorce as soon as is possible. Do u think its possible in 2 months? thank u

  8. Topeka Braide Says:

    If a divorce is filed in Nigeria, how does it affect the couple who both live abroad?

  9. Dudu Says:

    Hello,
    For me, I get irrational behaviours and insults on a regular basis, and I have cause to believe that “she” is cheating on me, and wants to leave the marriage, but wants me to take the first step. It goes as far as she trying to provoke me in order to assault her. What other grounds can there be for divorce apart from Adultery, of which I have no evidence?

    • mz_agams Says:

      There is only one ground for divorce – irretrievable breakdown that is established by divorce and about 14 other ways including insanity, conviction for attempted murder, habitual substance abuse and drunkenness and living apart for at least 2 years. This is not an exhaustive list but you will have to do more than suspect her of cheating or wanting to leave the marriage

  10. Lawrence Says:

    I have been married to my wife for 12 years .But for the past 4 years we have not had sex as we quarrel all the time.I dont like her and I dont think she likes me and my family as she quarrelled with my late sister all the time and still does the same to my mother.I do not have anything in common with her anymore.The only string holding me back is the kids who I want to have a good life.Can this be said to be akin toy living apart for 4 years.Is this grounds for a divorce?I am really tired of the facade and want to start living my life.

    • mz_agams Says:

      No it does not constitute living apart. Staying with an unhappy marriage is noble most kids do suffer in a divorce but it doesn’t have to be the case. Talk to your wife find out what she wants. Both of you deserve to be happy and so do your kids

  11. lawrence Says:

    Thanks for the speedy reply.For the past 4 years we havnt had sex,does that not qualify as non-consumation of the marriage over a period of not one;but 4 years

    • mz_agams Says:

      No

    • lola Says:

      I got married in 2007 to my husband in the law court.
      We had our church wedding in 2010 but we have been trusting God all along for The best.
      Crisis started few days after out church wedding. for close to 4 years now I have been abused in several ways.he has sent me parking on several occasions .he cheats on me to my face.he behaves irrationally most times.now he is asking for divorce because he has found a new girl.what do I do?

  12. Ezekiel Says:

    if a woaman has kids by another man other than her husband,pls what do you think the law of nigeria says about this

  13. gladys jumbo Says:

    My hobby has really been cheating on me, I have caught him wit another woman in my mertrimonal bed, which I did not snap, out of vexciation, there no prove of it at all, my my neigbours are all witness 2 d sene, I have found condoms in his wellet, finally, right now he store his mistress name on his phone wit pet name, there is password on his phone, so we came back 4rm service, and he was much in a hurry 2 go out, befor his phone rang, and I was close 2 the phone, that was were I found it out, when I ask him who she was, he said, he dose not owe me any explanations, dat what ever I like I should about that , at least now that am going through this write ups now, am begining 2 understand what I shuld do

  14. get back to him Says:

    I used to be recommended this website by my cousin.
    I am now not certain whether or not this publish is written via him as no one else know
    such special about my difficulty. You are wonderful! Thanks!

  15. David Says:

    Please what is the Procedure for getting a divorce??

  16. tee Says:

    Dear Agams.

    I find this post on divorce very interesting as I have friends going through this. I would like to know if you give advice on marital relationships or not. I have noticed a lot of people visit this site to pour their hearts out, in return, seek some sort advice or consolation. However, i noticed that most people don’t get much advice or consolation from you.

    if this site or blog hasn’t been created for such purposes, can you kindly let people know, so they don’t give out so much information about their marital lives with nothing in return. some of your answers are plain, rude and lack emotions.

    if however, this blog is advisory etc, it would be nice of you to give sincere and heartfelt advice. This would help people in similar situations, who want to find information on how to deal with their marital issues.

    Nigeria is a country where a lot is swept under the carpet, especially issues on divorce, due to the stigma attached to it. Many people are suffering in silence and have no one to turn to, aside pastors, who also live double lives and force people to stay in unhappy marriages that ultimately lead to their dooms.

    I hope u are able to give better advice in future without mockery.

    God bless!

  17. veronika Says:

    Hello i had a registery wedding after fighting with my husband we getting divorce we got court 1 on may. Can i ask when im able to get divorce paper and remarry again after court?? Thanks

  18. oby Says:

    What will u do if ur husband said u bribed him into marrying you after 4 years of marriage

  19. oby Says:

    What will u do when after 4 years.ur husband tell u dat u bribed him into marrying u

  20. olivia benson Says:

    Hello, I and my husband got married in Nigeria even though we both reside in the UK; reason being him not having the right papers. 7 years have gone by and I no longer want this marriage. It is obvious he married me for papers, he brought over his son and his sons mother from Nigeria and had another child with her 5 years ago. He is also physically and emotionally abusive. I would like a divorce but he is adamant that he won’t sign. He wants me to sell my house and use the money to buy a bigger one with both our names. I’m guessing once this is done he plans to divorce me and take half. Anyway I am in nigeria for two months and I was wondering if there is a way I can file for a divorce without his consent.

    • mz_agams Says:

      You should file for e divorce in the UK, you can file without his consent, he will contest the divorce but you can still get it. meanwhile do not take any financial decisions

  21. Amaka Says:

    Pls ma, i got married to an abusive man last two years December. He has done alots just to keep me unhappy to the extent of accusing me for marrying him with charms. I have not been with him for over 10 months now, and the worst is that both of us are AS AS. We had went to his place to pay back his dowery but he refused to collect it. I dont have money to undergo both customary court and statutory court processes. I wanted to settle dowery in his place and then go to high court for statutory issues but, he just decided to suffer me in all. Now i am planning of going to his place with my Father and drop the money whether he likes it or not, bcus for me, marriage is not by force. The problem now is, i dont know whether it is valid for us to give him the money by force or will court quote us wrong for not filing the paper in the customary court. Note, i will still go to high court and even church tribunal for filing of papers too, the money involve is too much on me. Somebody adviced me to go with one or two people to his place and give them the money, then the man will now file paper against me in the customary court if he is not pleased with it. But i dont know whether it is lawful. Please ma, what do you think i can do to minize cost?

    • mz_agams Says:

      You have to get a divorce in the high court if you have a statutory marriage, filing in the customary court is not enough. But you can give back the dowry. Have your family meet with his, or the witness to the traditional marriage

  22. Amaka Says:

    Yes ma but the day we went to their place, the man insisted that he is not going to take the dowery back which we leta went home with it. People adviced me to send back his money whether he accept it or not we should leave the money and go home. I dont have a child or anything to drag, only just to be free from his mess. Now i dont have money for all these expenses, that was the reason why i wanted to return the dowery without filling it in the court. Moreover ma, if i get pragnant for a man, will court grant me divorce easily without too much time and expenses?

    • mz_agams Says:

      Return his dowry before you get pregnant. In some Igbo communities if you do not the children are his.

      But I don’t think he can refuse. Drop the money with elders in his family

  23. leo Says:

    good day,

    I’d like to say first of alk that I find your column both entertainibg for its agony aunt qualities but also insightful and you definetly srem to know what you are saying.

    Now I’d like advice as to wheather a traditional marriage contracted by proxy in nigeria with a dvd as evidence of the events and I and my wifes picture and names in on the dvd congratulating us be enough evidence as proof pf marriage in our application for a spousal visa to travel to the uk? thing is we are both of Nigerian origin but she is also british and though we both reside here with me being on a student visa set to expire in a month, weof course want to apply so I can come back here.

    If it isnt sufficent evidence then what else can we supply as evidence of the marriage?

    Thanks n hope to hear back from you via emaik preferably soon.

  24. Ihenkoro Says:

    Can a divorce be filed without the marriage certificate?

  25. olushola Says:

    Hello ma, ℓ̊ am a nigerian αηd̶̲̥̅̊ ℓ̊ got married i̶̲̥̅̊n̶̲̥̅̊ catholic, ℓ̊ once travelled out of nigerian αηd̶̲̥̅̊ M̶̲̥̅γ̲̣̣̥ wife indulged i̶̲̥̅̊n̶̲̥̅̊ adultry during M̶̲̥̅γ̲̣̣̥ absence, the only evidence ℓ̊ have is at the police station αηd̶̲̥̅̊ they refused τ̲̅ȍ release it bcos she was involved i̶̲̥̅̊n̶̲̥̅̊ a case of fraud αηd̶̲̥̅̊ that’s where her atrocities was exposed, when ℓ̊ got back ℓ̊ went there τ̲̅ȍ confirm αηd̶̲̥̅̊ it was positive, ℓ̊ hv sued her for divorce but the court is asking for marriage certificate which she claimed is missing, every effort τ̲̅ȍ get it from her parish priest was furtile bcos they ϑō not support divorce, the case is still i̶̲̥̅̊n̶̲̥̅̊ court but am confuse now bcos ℓ̊ don’t hv the certificate τ̲̅ȍ set me ,pls help me what can ℓ̊ ϑō
    Thanks

    • mz_agams Says:

      there should be a copy at the local government where you married, go ask for a certified true copy. If there is none the it is a customary marriage, with church blessing and you should go to a customary court for a divorce

  26. Daniel Says:

    i m a Nigerian married to usa lady at Nigeria marraige registry may 2012 and she abandoned the marraige in July 2012 and returned to usa now she wants to divoice me in usa which i agreed to..but will the divoice document be ok here for me to remarry?will it be admissible in registry here?

  27. Esther Says:

    I’ve been married for 8 months but I want to get a divorce before I get killed. We did the normal traditional and church weddings but we signed some papers in church and returned a copy to ikoyi registery. Here are my questions.
    1. Is it (in any way)possible to get a divorce from court at this stage? I heard the marriage has to be a year or two old before I can file. Is it true?
    2. If I can’t file now… Can I move out of d house for my own safety. Reason I’m asking is that I don’t want the ” moving out” to count against me in the law court when I file.
    3. Since we did traditional wedding too, does returning the dowry count as divorce?
    4. I also haven’t done a change of name. What’s the implication
    Thanks

    • mz_agams Says:

      If the reason for the divorce is compelling like if you feel your life is in danger you can ask the court to hear your petition before the two years is up. It is by special dispensation of the court

      • snow Says:

        Hi ma,I got married without d concept of my family,nd didn’t pay any bride price,now I want a divorce 4rm d marriage,cus no one like us,ma mum is hospitalised cus of d woman I married,don’t ave any frnd cus of dat,wat wil I do,need help

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