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

  1. Chioma Says:

    Hi mz_agams,

    Natalie Says:
    March 28, 2014 at 6:27 pm | Reply
    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.

    mz_agams Says:
    March 29, 2014 at 5:41 pm | Reply
    You are filing in the US? The only thing you are required to do is ensure that he is served the petition of divorce

    Please re-confirm again to me what you said here on your blog on March 29, 2014.
    THAT If living in the U. S and you are filling for a divorce in the U. S from a spouse living in Nigeria all that is required of you is to

    (full stop)

    Coincidentally this is what I was told to do in the Courthouse
    Self Help Center that I used in the U. S. Although they acknowledged that they do not know the applicable Nigerian Law with respect to serving a divorce summons because Nigeria is not a party to both the Hague Convention and the Inter American Conventions on Letters ROGATORY.

    So when I sent the summons home to be served to my estranged husband of 23years (separated and been living apart for 13yrs, he is in Nigeria). A lawyer that my sister consulted to use in serving the summons because she wanted a Bailiff to do it; said that since Nigeria in not part of any convention with America and is not in the Hague convention in the absence of that the :


    This demands the court in the U. S WRITE A REQUEST? to Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice after service, the process server shall file an affidavit of service etc.


    A much more complicated process than I expected. And the man has not been served up till now.

    1. A Bailiff is not required according to the form attached from U. S and anyone off the street can be used to do the serving. But my sister wanted to ensure that everything is done properly, so that there will be no chance of the divorce being null and void. That is why she consulted the lawyer there in Nigeria in the 1st place.

    The copies of the filled server form and a receipt of a 2nd copy of the summons mailed to defendant’s address, through DHL or FEDEX is mailed back to me in the U. S. This is what I will then take to courthouse here in the U. S to continue with the process.

    So right now I am confused. Is it not the same Nigerian law you both are quoting?


    (I am not sure what the other lawyer’s specialty is because he mentioned he researched).

    Seriously Concerned

    • mz_agams Says:

      Dear Seriously Concerned,

      Service can be formal or informal, in this case the High Court Rules for Lagos State set out a clear criteria for formal service, although after reading them I am not sure how they apply in matrimonial causes. If your sister is in Lagos I can introduce you to a lawyer that can offer a second opinion. If your husband is not in Lagos state the rules will not apply.

      Unfortunately I cannot provide more detailed counsel.

  2. collins Says:

    i have a statutory marriage in the marriage registry in 2007 and the woman left my house after 2month of the marriage, can i marry now in 2014? what is your advise after the woman infidelity which made her run away for 6years?

    • mz_agams Says:

      You still have to go to court to get a divorce certificate but having lived apart for almost 7 years it should be easy to show the marriage is irretrievably broken down

  3. Yetunde Says:

    Sorry I posted this in one of your other blog and saw this one. Pls see below;

    Dear ma,

    I married my ex husband in a traditional wedding in jul 2011 and we parted ways in June 2012. We had no children. I came to the USA that Dec and met my new husband. I had only the introduction ceremony with my former husband. Now my new husband wants to file for my green card and I am required to get my divorce papers from my previous marriage, which I do not have one.

    Please where can I go to get a divorce paper to show that we( my ex husband and I) are legally not together or do I just explain that I was not married but that would contradict my visa status as I stated married when I went for my visa in Jan of 2012. Please what do you advice I do ma? There is no documentation to show I was previously marriage as it is just an introduction done. What docs can I show the immigration office on this?

    Thanks ma.


  4. edd Says:

    divorce has become a norm in 2day’s Naija.. young lads no longer value the sanctity or matrimony… Hmmm what a pity

  5. edd Says:

    i like to know the penalty for remarrying without annulling the previous statutory marriage??

  6. helen ezihe-ndu Says:

    hello ma, i had a court marriage done in 2007 and a church wedding(catholic) in 2011. in 2012, my husband abandoned my kids n i 2 squat somewhere. he has not been contributing financially 2 the upkeep of the family. i live off my family,as i recently lost my job. i have hint of him involved in other relationships. i want to end it all and on with my life. what i need to do?

  7. Charity Says:

    Can a divorce be granted to a person who married for the period of five years without a child?

  8. Ifeoma Says:

    How do I get out from an abusive marriage?

  9. Akinola Osborne Says:

    hello ma, I was married under statutory marriage but my wife left with my 4months pregnancy in her. it’s 2years now she left me but she had my babe now and the baby is a year old. I have not been able to properly take care of the child because I can’t even reach the her. meaning, she doesn’t pick my calls and don’t know her whereabouts and also, as her parents will not help matters. I’d tried my possible best to bring back the home and also to at least see my child so that I will be responsible for his upbringing as a father even at his mother custody but all failed.
    ma, I know my right to file a divorce now on the grounds that we had separated over 2years but my question here is ” how and when can I have legal right over the child as a father? ”

  10. B@b¥f@c£ Says:

    Please house i need your candid advice.My younger sister got married under church blessing of customary marriage,she already had 3 children after the 3 children the husband started maltreating her and got her pregnant for the 4th child.After 6 months,the husband abandoned her and left home.No food,no money and no care for her and the children and she is pregnant for 2 months 2 weeks to the extent of delivering d baby alone @ home around 3am mid-night.Two days ago,he got a divorce letter from the husband…..Please what step can i take to revenge…Cos he has suffered my sister…

  11. bii Says:

    please can i get your contact i need to as a few questions. you can send me a mail

  12. W Says:

    i have a question, My was just a statutory type of married because we went to a local government registry and after some few hours, a certificate was issued. now my so called wife was thinking a have a girl friend and with the type of job I do, I must have been sleeping around, in return, she took our life saving, spent it all and never informed me, this lead to mistruth in the home, i then travelled to Ghana and when i came back, i notice she would go outside to receive a call, so i kept wondering who the caller was, i never new, my so called wife has a boy friend, any way , in a nut shell, she woke me up one Saturday morning about 0420hrs that she needs a divorce and that he is no longer in LOVE with me, can you believe she is still in my house, now if you’re my shoes, what would you do?

  13. Cynthia a Says:

    I got married in good faith this year.
    To a nigerian at regustry. Im from USA
    I love him very much. His complaint
    Is i ask too many question and make it appear as if im suspious. Im not. I just dont understand whats going on. He has become so busy he hadnt time for me. He sent me back to usa. So all we have is text-phone and yahoo video. I dont know what to do. I dont want a divorce. But do i need to come back for a divorce court? Please help me please

  14. Tonia Says:

    Hi, i got married when i was on a visit in Ghana, at the Marriage Registry and now need to apply for a divorce in Nigeria as my husband has completely left me alone. Can i apply for the divorce in Nigeria as some lawyers have told me that i should apply in Ghana or register my certificate first in Nigeria before commencing the divorce process.

    Please i need your help

  15. Abiodun Says:

    I have been seperated from husband in the past 3years and which to revert back to my maiden name. Please advise on what I need to do to have my maiden name. Thank you ma.

  16. adeloly Says:

    hello house i have a divorce suit in court for over 3 years now,please can i remarried now as i have gotten my own woman

  17. marriage authorities Realistically Says:

    Can yοս tel us mօre about this? I’ɗ love to find out somne additional information.

  18. Oluwatoyin Vincent Adepoju Says:

    How can I contact you to discuss working on a legal issue?

  19. Mezie Says:

    Dear Mz,
    I got married a couple of months ago, it wasn’t long before i discovered i was the lady i married only wanted to marry me because she needed to get out of her parents house…or maybe for the change in status as a pride to her peers.
    Her mum also confirmed this through a phone conversation with me, that she was not in goof terms with her husband, and the only thing keeping her with him was because she wanted her last daughter to get married. i also realized that her elder sister had a divorce too. not long, her mom had to tell me “that now that i am now a member of the family, they think its ripe to let me into some of their family secrets”and that’s how i found out all these and that her elder sister had a divorce too.

    All the scenarios was well played out to make sure i was in the net. I only dated the lady i married for about 6 months, only to engage her when i traveled abroad and she insisted on following even on her own bill.
    The pressure from her family was massive immediately, her mom even told me she would have dealt with me if i had come back without engaging her daughter.

    I could not think straight because of the pressure even though i was not ready at that time due to other plans. well…i succumbed and we got married. i realized i was crowed by her friends who would not let me think or look out, cos every fault i found was countered with “don’t worry no one is perfect”

    Its a number of months down the line and its so different now…i felt i had made a mistake. She seems more interested in everything about protecting the marriage documents than the relationship. I have complained about this to her several times that she hardly ask about my health or work except her marriage documents(court and trad) and things about her family.

    I feel really caged, she just is not my type, cant sleep because she snores, we quarrel everyday because she’s very untidy. I get scared whenever she goes to work cos she works on the field and sometimes we can communicate, because the thoughts of her past of sleeping with a guy on duty before we met still haunts me.

    I have tried to blank all this, but looks like i am doomed to deal with it. i’m not sure that this is what marriage should, endure rather than enjoy it.

    I am glad we have no kids now and its a little easier for us, i guess. I desperately need out and don’t know whats the best way to get away quietly so i can get back to my life instead of suffering because I’m scared of what people would say. its hell living with someone you are not connected to.

    Please respond, i need you advice.

    Thank you.


  20. Mezie Says:

    Thank you Mz,

    I don’t know any lawyer though, but i will try talking to a few people who may know a good lawyer.

  21. Mezie Says:

    i will,
    thank you.

  22. OMA Says:

    Hello,i got married in july 2010,evrything seem well until i lost my job. i have two girl, i am now a stay at home mum, thou currently working on and off at my parents business but not with a steady income. my husband has change,distant,abusive,judgemental. basically issues surrounding money and financies. Recently, he has become physically abusive and claims to regret whenever it happens. i have come to the point where i feel i am tired of being humiliated and disrespected. i was a high earner and d crime i commited was to no longer have a well paid job. i want out.. i dont know were to start, i want full custody of my children. im only 31 and i feel drained of life already. wot are my chances of getting full custody of my kids? im the primary care giver.. i have no maid or relative that lives with me. my kids are my life!!! i just want a way out of this.. my husband is a hands on, never letting go agreessive die hard person..he is already ready for war n trouble. i need help. i just want to breath and be happy.. and move on with my life and my girls 4 n 2 years old. he is a banker.. loud proud and never backing down. i tot i was loved but now im d maid who get abuse and disgraced in front of family members. he is now interested in porn and flirting with evrything in skirt. i want out! Get me out of here!

  23. elizabeth Says:

    hello madam, i just came across your sight this morning. Madam, please help me, i am troubled. I have been married for over 15yrs now. i have three kids. we under statutory marriage law in Nigeria. the marriage has been characterized by abuse, intimidation, rejection, oppression, shame and disgrace. Now he is telling my family that he wants to part ways with me. i don’t have a problem with that. my problem is my children, what our separation will do to them and if we eventually divorce what is the guaranty that i will get custody of my children. furthermore, whats the guaranty that i will not regret getting the divorce. what is the guaranty that i will not be worse off with the divorce.

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