Child Custody Proceedings In Nigeria I


In divorce proceedings  in Nigeria under the Matrimonial Causes Act the party seeking custody must provide details of the maintenance arrangements made for any offspring of the marriage. Offspring includes adopted children.

When filing for an uncontested divorce under section  15(2)(f)after living 3 years or more apart that is the primary thing that the court will look to determine. If you are looking for a quick uncontested divorce then be thorough and detailed in writing up a maintenance agreement.

Anticipate any future conflicts that may arise; don’t just agree that school fees will be paid by either parent. Agree and document which schools you as parents would like the children to attend and make it an integral part of the agreement or the party responsible for paying may insist on a cheap but sub standard school and deadlock payments after your decree absolute is granted.

Stipulate precisely how custody will be shared if you intend to share custody or have a regular visitation schedule.  Don’t accept a vague ‘spending some weekend with father (parent) depending on the situation and exigency of work.’ A parent has to make time to regularly and in a non disruptive manner visit their offspring.

Children need stability and routine, not a father or mother that ‘drops in’ when they please or on a whim. That is in the best interest of the child and should be reflected in establishing visitation rights and schedules and in the maintenance agreement.

In addition if offspring are to spend alternate holidays with one or the other parent the agreement should be specific on the provisions made for childcare as it can become a contentious issue if the children are exposed to danger or threat.

Some men in Nigeria see child custody as their property right. In many customary legal systems once a bride price has been paid for a woman all children born to her thereafter ‘belong’ to her husband till the bride price is returned. They may lack the capacity to care for children in a nurturing manner but use this obnoxious custom to deny an ex-wife custody and visitation either punitively or vengefully.

Others leave custody to the women and refuse to support children financially so long as she has custody or until the children are old enough to seek them out independently.  Some women do the same thing, leave and have nothing to do with their children till they are of age to seek them out.  The offspring grow up traumatized not by the divorce but by the separation from mother or father.

The Nigerian Supreme Court  has warned that custody should not be used punitively against an erring party, i.e. presumably the one whose behavior led to the grounds for divorce.  The fact that either party committed adultery or was violent to the other is not enough to deny that party custody. The petitioner must prove that the children’s physical, mental and spiritual welfare is at risk from that party’s behavior.

Under the MCA and more recently the Child’s Rights Act custody is decided by the court based on the child’s perceived best interest. If you are a mother seeking custody and your spouse is contesting custody now is a good time to tell the court if he’s a closet alcoholic that spends days hiding in his study while on an alcohol binge but be ready to provide evidence.

If you’re considering a divorce except there is a clear and present danger you shouldn’t be too hasty about taking the first step. A divorce or separation is a major transition and should be planned for with as much care and thoughtful insight as the wedding was, part of those preparations include collating evidence to support your grounds for divorce as well as making sustainable economic plans.

It also note worthy that the party requesting custody is required under the MCA to reveal if he or she has committed adultery. So if your spouse is likely to demand custody proof of adultery could block that request.



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128 Responses to “Child Custody Proceedings In Nigeria I”

  1. Pius Says:

    I have a son who will be 5yrs old by July. The mom and I was never married cuz the pregnancy came in when I just left the university and started working. I took full responsibility, housed her, paid all bills, met with family with the intent of marriage. Sometime in 2011 things feel apart as she moved into another boy’s house in the name that he’s going to marry her. To cut the story short, I’ve condoned and taken every act been done by she and her mother and tried to reconcile with her until she openly denounced me. I moved on with life after staying a yr at home taking care of my son before a new job took me out of town. I left the child in the custody of her mother and have maintained care and assumed all responsibility even to the snack he takes at sch. Recently am stabilized in a relationship and looking forward to get married soon. She and her mom can’t take it and had once again retorted to the act of using the boy as a weapon to influence my judgement. Completely refused that the child visits me or my parents in the guise that only the mother of the child can assure the safety of my son. In other words, they don’t want me to marry. I bend on my knees to see my son and currently decided to take a job that will keep me home every night if I can have custody. Pls how do I proceed, when is the permitted age fit my son to come home? I have followed your thread and I met all criteria for custody including my parents should it be in doubt that am not yet married.

  2. Margaret Madu Says:

    Am Margaret,i met this guy in 2008,though he promised to marry me,he did an introduction. After i might have given birth to my first child,he changed automatically(not caring for me and the baby).in which i left.He came to me with some of his family,begging me to come back that he will make it up to me.”i followed him but i became a victim”. I put to birth a second time,only for him to tell me that he was no longer going to marry me again. When i was leaving,he told me not to go with my first child. My family cannot help cos we are not financially bouyant and i too. He got married within 5months.what am i to do cos i need my child back.i left my child when she was 4yrs old,now she is isnt really easy now for me.pls i need an advice

  3. ifedayoiroche Says:

    Reblogged this on Legally and Inspiringly Her and commented:
    We never pray for these things but I believe it is imperative to at least know one’s rights under Nigerian law should it ever come to this…

  4. davinson Says:

    I married a British woman and we have a child. We seperated from London. She abandon a child with. I came back to Nigeria with my child to formalize may document but I was deny entry. She have married and have baby for another man. I have been with child in Nigeria for 9rs. Can I apply for divorce and child custody here in Nigeria?

  5. nancy Says:

    want to separate from my abusive husband but scare of loosing my kids custody cos of my place the man only owns the kids. i don’t want to continue in this marriage anymore cos of the emotional,psychological an mental negative effects on me and kids please how do i start the processing an the requirements for this. thanks,

  6. Omalicha Says:

    I did only traditional marriage with my husband, we were planning white wedding before we broke up cause of infidelity and beating. I was already pregnant for him before I left, and when I left he has always threatened to take away our son once he is 2 years old. Recently he took me to social welfare and accused me of denying him the rights to see his son (which of cause is a huge lie). They have ordered that he is to take him on weekends (Saturday and bring him back on Sunday). But am not comfortable with this because not only is my son not up to 2 years old(he has stopped weaning though but he doesn’t eat normal food yet, he feeds only on custard and golden morn), I equally don’t trust leaving him alone with his father. This is a man that threatened not once not twice to take my son away from me because(according to him) igbo custom gives the man the child custody automatically without equity in play? Please am I right to refuse this social welfare order? I want him to take me to court rather so that I will know he will be mandated by the law to bring him back safely at the stipulated time. Thank U

  7. valanchee Says:

    My wife left with our two kids boys 2 n 4 yes respectively n I’ve been d one caring for their medicals, clothing, feeding n sch fees. I do not want to cont with d marriage cos of her abusive, authoritative n highly temperamental nature. She threatened to stab me to death. For now I want my children to be coming home to spend some time me. Questions:
    Don’t I have such right, cos it will aid their psychological development.
    When can I have full custody of them, information reaching me is that sometimes she leaves them under d custody of maid n go out for two days. We did statutory marriage. Thanks for ur response ma.

    • mz_agams Says:

      Yes, you have rights. Go to the social welfare office in your town and find out how they can help before seeing a lawyer

      • tinuke Says:

        Good name is tinuke from ogun state, I have a critical, depressing issues going on with the father of my baby …He got me impregnated when I was just 17 and he’s about mum was so furious about it and knowing the kind of person he is asked me then to terminate the pregnancy ….dunno what to do I decided I keep the baby and gave birth to a baby girl …not knowing my problems with him has just begun, he manipulate me with words …I cry day and night in his house so one day I decided leaving his house after some months in his house and left for my mum place …gradually I think of what to do I secure a job and after I’m paid I’m going to sit for my waec and some necessary exams and go back to school ..since my mum is not financially ok so I used to leave her with my mum..Then he came to kidnapped my baby without any body consent the first and the second time…I was told not to go and report to the police and all sorts of things …that when the child grow up she’s going to look for her mother..since I’m young to know all this kind of things I kept quiet about and later I will go and see her and buy things for her …buh anytime I get there I’m not always happy with the way I see my child..first then at the age of two she’s not yet going to school I speak to her dad about the school thing of which I told him lemme take this girl and put her to school you might as well go and see her in school too he refused and he replied that b4 he started schooling he was 5 I was like why u comparing your time then to this modern age with computer all around..I kept quiet to cut the story short for two years now I haven’t seen my child cus I was afraid the stage I’m going to meet her and might cause me pain …I stayed away and hoping I should be successful and have a competent lawyer to get back my child for me …next week is her birthday so I texted her dad to please release her for me that I should spend some quality time with her he refused …and go back to the past that after all I want to terminate the baby then so I’m not gonna see her till she’s old enough to choose whom she wants to stay with…pls I’m so down and depressed …what can I do she’s turning 5 next week 7 and I’m just 23

        • mz_agams Says:

          focus on your livelihood for a year. Court will cost you money. Or you can report to t he social welfare office or the human rights commission. you will need money

  8. evans Says:

    Hi Admin, am in my late 20’s I had a girlfriend she is a muslim yoruba she got pregnant for me and had a son through operation but her father never support us to get married, becos am a christian ibo guy. Despite am taking care of my son and also the mother he never like me, so I need an advice on what to do cos I want my son when he is old enough to be with me

  9. Chidinma Says:

    Sir,am a Mum of 3years old twin girls,am 9months pregnant, my marriage is 4years old done under traditional marriage.
    My husband verbally abuses me and yesterday night he beat me in my condition over a matter wherein he asked me to call his tenant for cash but he forgot that he used all my recharge card and he is with my ATM card, he browses with my sim card.
    He threatened to take my twins from me to his eldest sis ,cause he is jobless . He is from Ikwerre in River State while am from IMO state.He insult my family even my Mum as my dad is late.
    Sir! Am scared of losing my twins to this family cause he goes out and comes back real late, his oldest sister is a 2wife to a man.
    My kids are doing marvellous academically as I coach them.
    Sir please I need ur advice. as he says the kids are his according to Law.

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