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Divorce: When things go wrong in marriage



By Naomi Sharang

Legal practitioners say divorce or dissolution of marriage is a formal and  legal ending of a marriage by a court of law.

They say for a marriage to undergo divorce proceedings, the petitioner must prove that marriage is statutory, legally conducted and evidenced by valid marriage certificate.

“Under the Matrimonial Causes Act , the sole ground for the dissolution of marriage is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.”

They further say that for divorce to be established, the petitioner must prove that the respondent has wilfully 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 the parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition and the respondent does not object to a decree being granted.”

An Abuja-based legal practitioner and human rights activist, Mr Maxwell Okpara, explained that divorce is an act of terminating a lawful marriage.

He highlighted the causes to include poverty, interference from external forces; a third party which could be a family member from either side, comparing one’s wife with others.

“When a woman tells the man he is poor, I made a mistake to have married you, this could also lead to divorce.”

He stressed that when a man and women co-habit, and have children, the relationship is not marriage.

“Lawful marriage can be Islamic or under native laws and custom; it can be under the Act that is what is called court marriage.

“When marriage is conducted under the native laws and customs, that marriage can be terminated in the customary court or by native laws and customs. That is to say taking the bride price back to the husband’s people.

“If a marriage was conducted under the Act, the divorce can be determined by a High Court. It is only the high court that has the jurisdiction to dissolve, while for Islamic marriage, you go to Sharia Court for dissolution,” Okpara said.

He further explained that for a marriage to qualify for divorce, it must be irretrievable, that is when there is nothing one could do to save the relationship.

“The principle of marriage is, you cannot impose an unwilling wife on an unwilling husband. This gives rise to dissolving the marriage.”

On the implications of divorce, the legal practitioner said that the children often times face the brunt.

“It will make those children have psychological trauma and stigmatisation as children of divorcees.

“The children will not have parental care because ordinarily if those children are minors, 18 years and below, the court will grant the custody to the wife.”

Okpara, however, urged couples to make their marriages work by settling disputes that could arise due to disagreements.

Mr Unekwu Enegbani an Abuja-based lawyer said “the problem of divorce is a very big problem. It is a societal problem.”

He said that when a man and woman come together, their perception of marriage is very important.

“People think that marriage is just a joyous thing, it is not like that.

“It behooves on the church to teach what marriage really entails in Nigeria.

“When parties say they are ready to go and they have fulfilled all the requirements of the law, the judge has nothing to say. He can only advise,” he said.

On his part, Imam Yahya Al-Yolawi of Area 10 Jumma’at Mosque, Abuja, said divorce could be initiated when a husband is not discharging his duties and responsibilities shouldered upon him by Allah.

“He is always thinking that he is the head and he would do and undo anything he likes. That cannot be,” Al-Yolawi said.

According to him, when the continuation of a marriage
becomes dangerous and it leads to violence, let the couple separate.

For Pastor Dan Anorue of Summit Bible Church, Kubwa Abuja, the definition of marriage can determine whether it will be good or it will be bad at the end of the day.

“People marry for different reasons. May be the woman is tall or she is educated.   As Christians, we should be led by the spirit of God, with this we are sure God is in it.

“Here we are today, so many people have married for several reasons and these things are not based on the principles of God. For us, the principle is love.”

Anorue said that every marriage founded on God’s love, would always stand the test of time.

“It doesn’t matter what comes your way because as you go ahead in marriage, love is able to deal with.

“When people do not follow God’s basic law of love, you find out that little things that will naturally not make meaning becomes an issue.”

In all of these, Anorue said that the church frowns at divorce, but however, if a believer beats up a wife, the partner is creating an opportunity for the other to die and a Christian man or woman cannot stay and be killed in the name of marriage.

“As much as the church does not encourage divorce from the beginning, it wasn’t God’s intention.”

This, he said is found in Matthew 19 verse 8: “Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.”

Bishop Sunday Onuoha of Methodist Church and President Vision Africa described the rate of divorce “as unfortunate.”

Onuoha said that with the changing times, men need to respect the place of women in the home who “have also become breadwinners.

“Men need to tolerate more. The roles of women during those times have changed. You can no longer see women as only those who cook and give birth to children.

“They are now breadwinners; men are not only the breadwinners. “Therefore, we must come back to the table and tell ourselves that times have changed.

“As times have changed, we must also change our attitude toward the way we treat women.”

The cleric further said that the solution to divorce was to be tolerant of each other.

For Mr James Roberts, a civil servant, divorce is brought about due to lack of tolerance and understanding and in some cases, improper communication between spouses.

“So many couples don’t understand the concept of marriage. One must first of all understand what it entails. No doubt many marriages are accidental.

“This is why a lot of religious institutions engage couples to be on marriage counseling to educate them.”

Mrs Chioma Ugorji, Startimes Kubwa Branch Manager who raised concerns on the rate of divorce in the country, said it was so alarming.

She noted that factors that put people at higher risk for divorce included marrying young, limited education and income, living together before a commitment to marriage and premarital pregnancy.

“There are several other crucial grounds for divorce, and they are based on unacceptable behaviour from a spouse and bad habits which can have negative consequences.

“Some other factors include infidelity, anti-social behavior, drunkenness and criminal convictions. A lot of spouses also get into trouble by comparing their partner with other people.”

She said that divorce should be discouraged stating that partners should always know that they could work out their differences.

“God hates divorce. No matter what view one takes on the issue of divorce, it is important to remember Malachi 2:16: ‘I hate divorce, says the Lord God of Israel.’

“The way forward is realising what works for you in your marriage,” she said.

Notwithstanding the causes of divorce, experts believe that it is possible to reduce the high rate of divorce.(NAN)

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