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How to Divorce in Nigeria: Step by Step Guides, Documents and Requirements

Marriage is an institution. it is sacred and it is a lifelong commitment commanded by God, not a death sentence like some think it is. Islam and Christianity emphasizes on the sanctity of marriage, be it monogamy or polygamy. ”Thus it is for this cause that a man shall leave his mother and clings to his wife and together they become one” (Gen 2:24).

They stand before friends and loved ones and declare their love for each other taking vows stating to stay together in sickness and in health and through all other unforeseen situations until death do them part.(this implies they know it is not going to be all rosy to the end). Together they start a family and make their home.

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Looking at the world today and marriages all around one can’t help but noticed the alarming rate at which couples get divorced, even newlyweds.

In the Western world one can call it a trend and not be wrong and we are beginning to pick up on it here in Africa. The major reasons for failed marriages are loss of faith in the institution and western influence.

Getting a divorce didn’t use to be an option back in the day as it is now, the fact being that Nigeria is a very traditional and religious country and some churches even practiced the no “Divorce policy”.

While this policy was good, it was also harmful. It made people  stay in abusive and sometimes violent marriages and at the risk of their own lives and that of that their children and suffer in silence. Some endured in it for the sake of their children.

That trend is no more in today’s world, not with all the information made available to us now. All these notwithstanding, whatever your reason for seeking a divorce may be, be it infidelity, spousal abuse, finance or third party influence.

My advice for you is to take a moment to think it through and be sure you have exhausted all possible means of dialogue and reconciliation before you take that step and give up on your marriage. Believe me when I say this, divorce can get ugly and  in the end your children are the ones who bear the brunt and suffer the most.

Read Also: Where to find Ladies Who are Looking for Husbands in Nigeria


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How to Commence Divorce Proceedings in Nigeria

In Nigeria there are two types of marriage, they are Satutory marriage and Customary marriage you have to determine which marriage yours falls under as there is no such thing as religious marriage regonized under the Nigerian law.

A statutory marriage is contracted in a customary court. Some church mariages are considered stautory e.g. The Catholic Church.

Please note,  if the church that joined you and your spouse together is not as one of the churches recognized by the matrimonial causes case law, it  is considered a marriage blessing of a customary marriage. To make certain, speak to a lawyer or your church head.

A customary marriage is contracted under traditional laws and customs of the brides paternal family not the groom. Marriage under sharia law is considered a customary marriage.

Your type of marriage invariably determines the appropriate court to file your divorce petition and the type of lawyer to hire.

There are (8) eight grounds to check before a divorce or marriage dissolution can take place. “The Matrimonial Causes Act chapter 220, section 15/16 laws of the Federation of Nigeria of 1990 governs this Acts”.

However, they do not apply to couples still within 2 years of marriage who are seeking to get a divorce. This is in accordance with the law in section 30(1) of the matrimonial causes Act which states that “no proceeding of the dissolution of marriage may be instituted within two years of marriage” . The (8) grounds for divorce are as follows;

  1. No sex. I.e. no consummation of the marriage.
  2. Adultery (extra marital affair, sex outside wedlock)
  3. Unreasonable conduct(rape, bestiality, sodomy, habitual  drunk, in prison, attempted murder of spouse and intent to or actual bodily harm that causes serious injury)
  4. Abandonment (should be at least a year prior to the filing of the divorce petition)
  5. Separation( living apart for a continued period of 2 years prior to the filing of the divorce petition and no objection from the absentee spouse)
  6. Separation(living apart for a continued period of three years prior to the filing of the divorce petition)
  7. Failure to comply with a court order regarding marriage or sexual rights, privilege of a marriage.
  8. Death /reason to believe spouse is dead.

How to File a Divorce Petition

A divorce petition is to be filed by the party in the marriage seeking for its dissolution. The court upon receiving this petition, will ascertain if the marriage meets the necessary requirements for divorce by using  the above mentioned grounds for divorce as a yard stick to verify the situation and determine that the  party can no longer stand or tolerate the behaviour of the respondent (the other spouse), that the respondent  has committed one or more of any of the above mentioned acts .

Once the court has determined this,  the petitioner is then granted the right to divorce the respondent. Other things such as settlement and child custody will then be sorted out.

The presiding judge in the divorce case petition usually ensures that both parties exhaust all forms of dialogue and reconciliation to save the marriage especially in cases where a child or children are involved.

The appropriate court for a customary marriage is initiated in a customary court or area court. In the case of a statuory marriage be sure to choose your lawyer wisely and ensure he or she is well experienced at the high court.

Having read through this piece , my advice still remains, take a moment and think it through. mind you, this does not mean that I am in support of a marriage where one spouse is in constant abuse and is at risk of losing their life.

I guess what I am trying to say is this, divorces can be avoided if you choose your life partner carefully and be sure to marry for all the right reasons.

Think before getting married, because marriage is lifelong commitment and it is meant to foster love and togetherness not hate and torture.

Divorces are ugly and  can drag  on for a long period of time. Sapping you of energy and valuable time that you cannot get back. Also, it exposes your children to all the uglyness and  emotional truama.

Read The: The harmful effects of divorce on children

Divorce has been known to lead to suicidal tendencies and depression. I wish you all the best, while praying you figure it out.

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Nnenna Kalu

Nnenna Kalu is a Business Analyst and Content Developer at InfoGuideNigeria.com. InfoGuide Nigeria is a team of Resource Persons and Consultants led by Ifiokobong Ibanga. Page maintained by Ifiokobong Ibanga. If you need a personal assistance on this topic, kindly contact us.

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  1. I never thought i’ll be saying this but I think i’ve had enough. Got married under the Act 1yr and 6months ago, but already had a child of 11years with my spouse before the marriage was contracted. We have our ups and downs like most homes but it’s the violence that I can’t take anymore. Currently have stiches on my face as a result of my spouse uncontrollable nature. I want out before my corpse would be next!

  2. Am married for two years now but I don’t love my wife we have a child,but I love my girlfriend so much she also have a child now for me…my parents forced me to marry my wife cause of tribe ,I want to divorce her now I can’t leave in pretence anymore

  3. My sis husband asked her to leave even used military men to chase her out becos of familiy problem (his family is against her)But before dis, he took d children away so they wount see what he will do to their mum. Now she is in our fathers house. While he ws chaiseing her out he gave her a paper saying they are divorce papers that she should sign but she didn’t. As we speak, he doesn’t allow her to see d childern, and lied to them that their grandpa came and carried their mum. Ok, d matter is in court but he doesn’t show up in court about two tyms now. What can sud she do?

    1. If he refused to show up in court, the best thing to do is to slap him with criminal indictment that will caused him to be arrested. By doing tis, he will be forced to appear in court for proper ruling. Hope this helps

  4. Hi nenny,m in a confused state right now… I dunno how I got involved in loving a married man of 7years,who has two kids but he and his wife ve been separated for a year now…we both love each other and ‘m well accepted by his siblings and parent also vice versa. we’ve decided to get married but I just what to know how fast a divorce can happen btw him and his wife.cos i’m not ready to be a second wife and he also doesnt want that so also my parents…thank you

    1. You should not be the one to advocate the divorce proceeding between your surrogate and his former wife. All you need to do is to agree to marry him or quit the relationship based on your judgment.

  5. Hello Ifiok. Pls In God’s name, take ur time to read this tru PLS. I am a married man with two lovely girls, but along d line, a had a reunion with my ex becos i saw her in my dream telling me to help her and when i searched and found her, told me how she was admitted in d hospital when I left her then…right now, I’m already committing adultery with her and we re so much in love that d love I had for my wife has dropped …truth been said, if I have issues with my wife, it can takes a whole day to resolve, but with her, we just move on and forgot we ever had a quarrel. I’m so much in love with my ex and I also love my wife becos of how we started and d kids but d feelings is gone. Pls counsel me on what to do cos my wife don’t want a mate, and neither is my ex wanting to be a 2nd wife. but I’m more happier when I’m with my ex and I just want her as my wife, but she wants to know I’m no longer in my marriage anymore before she takes that leap. more also, guys coming her way only want her for sex and it hurts me to see no one’s coming for marriage and i feel guilty for that Bcos she said i left her d very point she had already falling in love with me and that if i didn’t leave her, we would ve dated to a point and get pregnant for me due to the love she has for me. that’s d same way i did with my wife though. she told me she would ve been my wife now becos it was when i left her, i dated my wife for few years before I married her. each time we re together, all we do is to cry and cry becos what we feel for ourselves is more than words can describe and I hate it that this is actually happening to me now. she said she has been praying that God should bring d man she will settle down with and a week before I found her, she had a dream and a voice telling her to stop praying and not to worry again. and I believe it was few days later I had my own dream about her. Pls someone should give me some answers pls.

    1. This is not that complicated as you may think.
      Here are the premises…
      (1) You are legally married and you cannot divorce your wife without her consent
      (2) From your discussion, I can observe that you are very comfortable being a polygamy

      Now the question is… Will your current wife be ready to agree for divorce?

      Because, apart from your own feelings, you have to respect the legal binding of the marriage (This is what preserves many marriages when there are no more feelings of love. Maybe you should talk to your current wife first (be careful: she may file a marriage fraud case against you and she might demand a very huge damages from you which can even land you in jail).

      Now, if your current wife agrees for you to marry another wife, you can then present the case to your ex. Your ex must come in-terms with the reality because she can’t just push-out another woman who was legally married just like that.

      Please be careful in handling this situation. It takes a lot for you to become a responsible man (taking hard decision is part of it.


    2. You have no discipline. Am sure after marrying your ex another woman will still come and you say the same story. If it sex she is good at that makes you wants to die with her then discuss it with the one at how and teach her. It’s easy going into polygamy but the end result is always devastating. You won’t like it if you hilt the woman at home to marry your ex. Think of the consequences.

  6. Hello, pls I want to filing divorce have been married for tree years now children my wife now have (extra marital affair, sex outside wedlock) Adultery, she now pregnant for her secret lover,have sent are parking, I want to be free

    1. Hello Sir, before that, I urge you to do proper investigation about the alleged adulterous acts and proof all reasonable doubt that you are not the owner of the pregnancy. After this, you can choose to forgive or divorce her. Thanks

  7. My husband and i were married for four years,he got into an affair and traveled out with the girlfriend,i got to know of his adulterous lifestyle with proofs,he abandoned our children and i with little or no money,when i realized he moved from our matrimonial home,i had to leave,one year later he is taking me to court for divorce,that i abandoned my home…….with aour rent expiring in 4weeks,was i supposed to stay?

    1. Tell him to forgive you and forget what happened in the past while you pray for peaceful reunion. Success!

      1. Hi Maggie,

        If you husband has already commenced a proceedings against you on the grounds that you have abandoned your matrimonial home, you can file a cross petition against him and let the court know that you abandoned the home because of his adulterous nature. You can speak to your lawyers on how to go about this Regards.

  8. hi,
    am very happy about your write up,presently am thinking about how to file a divorce with my husband . we are married for 15years and blessed with 4children but to my surprise my husband made a chocking confection on his sick bed that he did not use any of our as his next of kin and he begged me to forgive him. he was down after 3years and he made another confession that he has not do it and i just silent about t but since that time my mind just changed and i beginning to have a rethink on the union coupled with his not responsible attitude of not providing for the family. am sad i do not know what to do. please, which way forward

    1. Hi Dayomi, from your case, divorce may not be the best option. The best thing you should do is dialogue with him while you pray that God should change his mind to feel a sense of responsibility as a father and husband. He will change. Hope this helps

  9. I commend your highly educational write up.unfortunately,I have a colleague who is going through a very bitter divorce. Its been 5yrs now since he first instituted the divorce processes. Its like the judge is biased because its a man who wants divorce. He has changed legal counsel twice and yet,there seems to b no deprive in sight.funny thing is despite all the malicious, frivolous petitions and publications of outright falsehood against my colleague, the campaign of calumny and falsehood. The estranged wife says she does not want the divorce. He is emotionally drained and can’t imagine what to do to get his much desired freedom.for how long will he continue to go through this back and forth adjournments before he is finally awarded his divorce?

    1. yet to get your reply on this case.maybe my question was not relevant .thanks all the same.the wheels of justice grind slowly but surely .

  10. Thanks so much for enlightenment because I have been all out trying to know what divorcing a spouse entails. We’ve been married for 6years, though we have seperated 4times and the longest lasted about 2years. Currently we live together and have 2kids, a 5year old and a 1month old, I have never been happy as a married woman, always one issue or the other, from 3rd party interference to excessive drinking and smoking, to infidelity, lack of respect for inlaws,;to lack of affection to me as a wife and irresponsibility even to the children (though he has improved on the latter after the last reconciliation)and many more.I keep coming back because of the children because I know its effect, I feel I have tried all options I know but you said one should think thoroughly and exhaust all options, pls can you get me informed on all these possible options so I can know if I have left anything out. I thought I had made up my mind on these but reading your articles made me realize it takes more than I thought.

    1. Hello Tope, You have a sad story there. I can only advice you stay on since according to you, he had improved after the latest reconciliation. You need to also pray for him and your family, hopefully, he’ll get back to the husband you knew before. More Grace!

  11. Nenny,u have realy thrown light into the whole thing,i am blessed by this intellectual work and insight,i love you page.I have just known the legal way and reasons of going about divorce rather than traditional way.meanwhile no one ever wished his/her marriage to hit rock,but to avoid problematic marriage,it’s better to stay in isolation. i tell you,i have been a victim and we’ve separate since 9yrs and i have re-married and i am enjoying peace..but this is not my advise to anyone okay!

    1. Thanks very much Prince for your observation. Absolutely, divorce is not always recommended but it could be the best option if its a threat to life. Thanks for reading our blog. We really appreciate!

  12. Nice.
    I have to admit, i dint know this much about divorce. Its really not something anyone should wish for. I’ve heard ppl say stuffs like “any rubbish i’ll just divorce him/her”. I just feel sorry when i hear such things from ppl, cos they r obviously oblivious of what they r saying.
    Well, u hit the punch line advising to think before getting married, cos sadly, marriage today is based on so-called “first impression”, thats the biggest gamble any human can make.
    Thanks for the info.

  13. In as much as I still believe in the sanctity of matrimony, this is a masterpiece for those whose marriages have failed and are looking for a way out…but like the author said,make sure all avenue for reconciliation has been exhausted…..good1 author

  14. I don’t support divorce in Nigeria but if need be . Thanks for d information…..cos some marriages dnt work and d more u push it d more problems. Divorce is not right cos d children gets hurts and maybe voilent

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