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.


546 thoughts on “How to Get a Divorce in Nigeria

  1. I need a sound lawyer on divorce matters. I was married in a Catholic church in 1997. I live in Lagos. My estranged husband has been living in the US since 2010. Any referrals, please?

      1. We were issued a certificate by the Church. I have only a photocopy as he travelled with the original document.

  2. I have a friend that I have known for 8 years. He married a us citizen and has lived in the US for a few years. The problem is his visa expired and so he is stuck in lagos Nigeria. His wife withdrew support of his marriage and now he doesn’t know what to do they have been separated for 8+ years now. His wife tells him he has to pay her 500.00 for her to sign the divorce papers. Can he file in Nigeria for a divorce? And it be valid in U.S?

  3. hi ma’am. I have been married for 5 years now and the marriage hasn’t been good for me. I have two kids as I have been tolerating my husband for long thinking that he will change but to no avail. the love I use to have for him id=s long gone and I ant to leave him as well. Although he did not pay my dowry, we just went to the court to wed ourselves. please help me.

  4. I have a sister who made a mistake of getting married to a man she’s not sure of, then travel only to come back for proper wedding two years later after trying all her best to make sure the come over to US. But prove abortive.. Now the guy his no interested anymore…. He got married to another woman now… And he has refuse to divorce her for over 5yrs now…. What is your advice please

    1. Did they get married in the registry? She should file and make sure she serves him, She can also threaten him with a bigamy case if he is married to someone else in the US

  5. Hi mam,please I have this question,, I am a Nigerian citizen married to UK citizen in Cyprus .but our marriage is broken down,, she live in the UK and I live in turkey, we both agree for a divorce,we don’t have any child or property together,, can I file for the divorce in Nigeria? And will it be recognized for me to use it remarry
    in turkey? Thank you mam in advance..

  6. Hi. I get married to man I did not really known in 2011. I need a lawyer for divorce we been living separately since two years he never bother about the two kids I have for him.

  7. i have being married for 5 year but this are not just working as wanted after 2 kid.Am thinking of divorce. please can i have a sample of the form to know what information is needed.

  8. hello ma, i had been married 8yrs (statutory) before moving out of my home with my 3 kids after a domestic violence episode that could have cost me my life. I didnt keep any evidence because at the beginning i felt shame so now my ex is denying everything. Its been 6months now and he has not for one day bothered about the welfare of the kids but has repeatedly called to threaten me because im taking care of them on my own. i have cared for my children alone because his family hasnt been of any help. now hes pressuring me to file for a divorce becaue he claims only the court can mandate him to support the welfare of the children since moving out was my choice (i discovered hes actually in a relationship). I have no plans to return to the marriage but he keeps threatening me and i am always afraid for my life (he has once tried to use thugs to beat me up). he goes to the childrens school to make trouble or trails me to locations where he knows im attending functions. i already reported him to the school so he isnt allowed to see them. what steps can i take as i fear for my life daily and he has no plans of being responsible but chooses to pester me

  9. Very cool post! I visit your blog fairly often and I always feel more intelligent afterwards.
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  10. It’s truly a nice and helpful piece of info. I’m glad that you shared this useful info with us.
    Please stay us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

  11. what is the position of the law for spouse that married under customary law and both of them obtain a loan and they later divorced will is responsible to pay the loan, remember is traditional marriage, with decided cases and statutes. plz

  12. Hello ma,my hubby and l are married(traditionally and court) for 1yr plus and we figured out we are incompactable,l have a baby she is 7months plus nw.pls hw do l go about the divorce case and who is to take custody of the child because l cant leave my baby in the hands of anyother woman ,so who is suppose to be with the child

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