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How to file for a Divorce in Nigeria


Marriage can be seen as a legal agreement between a man and a woman to become husband and wife. Marriage is an institution that is supported by social and religious groups in Nigeria. It is meant to foster a long-lasting relationship between a man and a woman who intends to become married.

However, if for one reason or the other, things are not working according to plan and there is a change of heart from either the man or the woman, he/she may file for a divorce. 

Before the issue of divorce sets in, the man and the woman should use all available means to try to come to a common understanding as divorce should be considered as a last resort.

Legal Meaning of Divorce 

Divorce can be defined as the termination of a marital union, the organizing and/or canceling of the legal duties and responsibility of marriage, thus dissolving the bonds of matrimony between a man and a woman who are married under the rule of law of a particular state.

Filling for divorce in Nigeria can be stressful: affecting living arrangements, finances, resources, schedules, and household jobs. However, it is better to know more about how to get a divorce in Nigeria before you file for it. 

It is also important you get to know different disputes resolutions in Nigeria that can intervene on matrimonial matters, to see if the marriage can still work and divorce should only be the last resort.

However, if you must consider the option of a divorce, there are things you need to know before you begin the process.

Grounds for Divorce

There is only one ground subject to the provisions of the Acts on which a court is entitled to dissolve a marriage. That the marriage has broken down irretrievably. However, subject to the provision of section 15(2) (a)-(h) of the Act, there are 8 various classes of breakdown which can lead to the termination of a marriage, they are:

a. When a party has willfully and persistently refused to have sexual intercourse with the other party despite a number of requests.

b. When the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the respondent after the respondent has reportedly committed adultery.

c. That since the marriage, the respondent has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent due to cases like domestic violence, drunkenness, sodomy, etc.

d. Since the respondent has left or abandoned the petitioner for a continuous period of at least one year immediately preceding the presentation of the petition.

e. That both parties have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition.

f. That both parties have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 3 years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition.

g. That both parties have, for a period of not less than 1 year failed to comply with restitution of conjugal rights made under the Act of the law.

h. That the other party has been absent from the petitioner for a long period of time and in a circumstance that provides reasonable grounds for presuming that the other party is dead 

Steps to file for a divorce in Nigeria

Step 1

The first step for filing for divorce in Nigeria is to get a good lawyer with experience in Family law and counsel. There are many law firms where you can get competent lawyers. You need to get one to represent you in court.

Step 2

You must understand that the divorce process depends on the type of marriage you have. If your marriage was formalized by registration, that is to mean you have a marriage license from a marriage registry. This type of marriage can be easily dissolved by the court because it was joined by the court.

Step 3

The next step is for you to consider under which ground you wish to file the divorce. There are certain grounds as discussed above which can be used to dissolve a marriage. When you are certain that the reason for your divorce fits into one or more of the grounds above and you have sufficient proves, you can then proceed to the next step.

Step 4

Before you file for a petition, you should try to consider some things that the outcome of the divorce might affect. These include;

Who will have custody of the children should be one of the things you should consider. You need to decide if you want to take full custody of the children or if it will be shared.

Will your partner pay for the upkeep of the children?

How will the properties be shared?

However, with a good lawyer, the above can be sorted out easily because the lawyer should be able to provide good counsel and possible solutions on these matters. You can then proceed to file for the divorce once all the issues have been settled.

Step 5

At this stage, the divorce process commences officially as your lawyer files what is known as a petition of divorce in the high court. The lawyer files and drafts all necessary documents such that your petition must be filed in a professional and logical manner.

Step 6

Your petition will be given a file number in the family court division once your petition has been filled successfully. Your partner will be given a certain number of days to respond to the petition. He/she is given the right to either agree or disagree to dissolve the marriage.

Step 7

The court will then hear the case in an open court once your partner responds to the petition. At this point, witnesses (if there are) will be called to validate any evidence presented in the court.

Step 8

The judge will grant a divorce if he/she is satisfied that a divorce should be granted. The court then grants what is known as ‘decree nisi’ which means the marriage should be dissolved. Then the decree nisi will become ‘decree absolute’ after 3 months. This means you are now single again.

Note that the judge has the right to grant settlement however he dims it fit. He also has the right to share the properties among the partners or grant child custody to any of them. It all depends on how the petition is filed. 


Now that you are aware of the legal way to file for a divorce, it is important you follow the procedure mentioned in this article so that you do not take laws into your own hands,

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