The consequence or effect of divorce in Nigeria is that it brings an end to a valid statutory marriage contracted between a man and a woman. A marriage is a legal union between a husband and wife, this union gives rise to legal duties and responsibilities that parties to the marriage are to bear to each other. However, where the marriage breaks down, a party or both parties to the marriage can institute a divorce petition to dissolve the marriage contracted. This action when determined by the Court ends the right of the couple to live together as husband and wife, grants them the legal right to re-marry, and also changes the status of the couple from husband and wife to a Divorcee.
The Matrimonial Causes Act 1970 and the Matrimonial Causes Rules 1983 is the primary law that governs the dissolution of marriages in Nigeria. It provides for the grounds upon which a statutory marriage can be dissolved by the Court.
Before a petition for divorce can be instituted in court, the sole ground of proof by the Petitioner is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. This means is that the reason for wanting to dissolve the marriage is so severe that the marriage can no longer be repaired.
Section 15 (2) (a-h) and Section 16 of the Act states the particulars of fact that must be satisfied by the Petitioner to the Court before the marriage can be held to have broken down irretrievably. These facts are hereby highlighted below;
- That the respondent has willingly and persistently refused to consummate the marriage.
- That since the marriage the Respondent has committed adultery and the Petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the Respondent.
- That since the marriage the Respondent has behaved in such a way that the Petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent. In this case, the Petitioner must prove the facts stated below as provided by Section 16 of the Act.
- That since the marriage the respondent has committed rape, sodomy or bestiality
- That since the marriage for a period not less than 2 years, the respondent has been a habitual drunkard, habitually intoxicated by sedatives, narcotics, drugs.
- That since the marriage the respondent for a period not exceeded 5 years suffered frequent convictions for crime in respect of which the respondent was sentenced.
- The respondent has habitually left the petitioner without reasonable means of support.
- Since the marriage, the respondent has been convicted of attempted murder or unlawfully to kill the petitioner
- Having committed an offence involving the intentional infliction of grievous harm or grievous hurt on the petitioner or the intent to inflict grievous hurt on the petitioner.
- That the Respondent has deserted the Petitioner for a continuous period of at least one year immediately preceding the presentation of the petition.
- That the parties to the marriage has lived apart for a continuous period of at least 2 years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition does not object to the decree of dissolution being granted.
- That the parties to the marriage has live apart for a continuous period of at least three years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition
- That the other party to the marriage has for a period not less than one year failed to comply with a decree of restitution of conjugal right made under the Marriage Causes Act.
- That the other party to the marriage has been absent from the petitioner for such time and in such circumstances has to provide reasonable grounds for presuming that he/ she is dead.
The Court upon being satisfied that these grounds exist in respect of which the relief is sought will make the appropriate Decree of dissolution of marriage in the first instance to be a Decree Nisi which will be made a Decree Absolute upon the expiration of three (3) months from the making of the decree.
In a divorce proceeding, the Court has duty to give consideration from time to time on the possibility of parties to the marriage to reconcile when a petition for divorce is instituted before the Court to protect the family values and children of the marriage (if any). This is because marriage is a union that is difficult to break. The court can initiate reconciliation of parties by adjourning proceedings to afford parties the opportunity to reconcile or nominate a person with experience on marriage with the consent of parties to reconcile the parties to the marriage. But where reconciliation fails, the Court shall proceed with the hearing of the petition for divorce.
The consequence and effect of determining the petition for divorce, is that the Court after hearing determining the petition will grant an order for the dissolution of marriage which becomes a decree absolute upon 3 months after the decree nisi, therefore the parties to the marriage may marry again as if the marriage was dissolved by death. This is also provided in Section 33 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1970.
It is important to state that where a decree nisi has been made in a divorce proceedings, the Court may at any time before the order is made absolute, upon the application of either party to the marriage rescind the decree on the grounds that the parties have reconciled their marriage, hence, the parties still have opportunity to redeem the marriage before it is decreed dissolved.
In conclusion, divorce in Nigeria is not usually an easy topic to discuss because of its sentimental nature, however parties are expected to know that the consequence or effect of divorce is that it terminates the marital union between a couple and cancels the legal duties and responsibilities of the marriage. The termination of a marriage can affect either the couple or their children if any, as it tears the family relationship apart except the couples agree to co-parent the children is a civil manner.