This piece is not expected to serve as legal opinion or counsel. It is just a semi-educational and enlightenment material and should be regarded as such.

 Let’s talk about divorce since many people would be choosing the option after COVID-19.

First things first:

Divorce is not cheap and Nollywood is not a Legal Adviser.

Nothing like prenups.

I will start with the Nollywood part. Nigeria laws have no room for “prenups.” You can’t draw up an agreement that would govern divorce, separation and other legal matters yourself before the marriage in our country. So a prenuptial contract or agreement on how the property would be shared in the case of a divorce are not provided for in our laws and have also not been tested in our courts. In Nigeria, you don’t write the terms of your marriage contract, the Marriage Act and other laws have already come up with the terms. Your job is simply to agree or not agree.

So if you see any Naija movie or know any couple that has prenups, uncle, idleness and ignorance “is what’s doing them.” This is why you should always seek legal advice (especially from a lawyer practising in litigation) to make some legal decisions.

Maintenance is available.

Dear women, our laws have no provisions for alimony. However, we have an alternative to it which is “Maintenance” and this can be paid to a man or to a woman. Payment of maintenance is not gender-sensitive which means it could be paid to a man or to a woman. Also, note that maintenance can be paid to the children of the marriage who are less than 18 as at the time of the divorce, and can be paid till when they are 21years old (depending on what the judge orders). Maintenance for spouses may in some cases be for life especially in situations where the couples were already old as at the time of the divorce. However, once a divorced person remarries, maintenance ceases and can no longer be demanded.

No man has any duty to fund your welfare and pay your bills after a divorce unless the court orders so. And the factors to consider are so many that you better do not expect to make a fortune from divorce in Nigeria. Properties not jointly owned by the couple may also not be jointly shared after a divorce.

No “secret divorce.”

Divorce is usually (with some few exceptions) messy, dirty and vexatious as the hearing is in public where the general members of the public are allowed in. Reporters, bloggers and even your enemies have the right to take a seat in the court’s gallery. Very few divorce hearings happen in the chambers of the Judge, and the decision to have the hearing in the Chambers of the judge is at the judge’s discretion. Outside such hearings, every other thing is in Public. Every document in court is a public document. Therefore, members of the public are allowed to apply for the Certified True Copies of the court’s records of your divorce proceedings as long as they pay the specified fees and show sufficient cause.

The good thing about the public hearing part is that for statutory marriages, such divorce proceedings could be instituted in any State High Court or Federal High Court in Nigeria. So, if you want some privacy, pay your lawyer to go and file the divorce in a remote village where no house-fly knows you. However, remember that your spouse can challenge this on the basis that the location of the court is not convenient for him or her to effectively participate in the court’s proceedings and do his/her case judiciously.

Divorce Proceeding is not a speed train.

Divorce takes time especially if there are paternity, custody and adultery issues involved. It is not a sharp-sharp thing which you can fully get in 6 months. Yes, depending on the workload of the court, the nature of the divorce and all the parties involved, some divorce matters could actually last as long as 3 years. You read me correctly; three years (if not even more)! Let’s be encouraged, our judicial system is being revamped for the speedy dispensation of justice to litigants.

Folks who expect their lawyers to give them a divorce certificate in 3 months literally want him to forge and be involved in other crimes as it is almost not possible for that to happen. Folks living abroad should also take note that divorce cannot ORDINARILY be done in your absence especially if you are the petitioner or you choose to cross-petition. Our rules of Court require that you, the petitioner/cross-petitioner, appears in-person to give physical oral evidence in court. The other option to this your evidence in writing and notarized in your country of residence. Such notarized statement (on oath) can serve as your own testimony in the case here. However, not every court accepts this option. Many judges insist you appear and show up in person.

Fight for the kids.

Custody is another ball game entirely. That you are a woman doesn’t automatically mean you would get the kids. That you are the man who pays all the bills doesn’t also automatically mean you would get the kids. Divorce is a battle. Na civil war! However, a bad parent before the divorce petition would most likely lose custody of the kids in court.

Paternity is another thing entirely; DNA is the lifesaver! Generally, every child born in the course of a marriage ordinarily belongs to the man in that marriage. Therefore, you must prove scientifically and otherwise that the child doesn’t belong to the man in the marriage. The law says that he who asserts must prove!

Forgive the society if you can.

Our laws, courts and society are pro-marriage. So, to divorce, you must really show almost beyond all reasonable doubt that the two of you cannot reasonably continue living together as husband and wife before a divorce would be granted.

Fees, fees, fees.

Let’s talk about your lawyers’ fees.

Remember I said that divorce isn’t cheap!

Lawyers charge high fees for divorce cases because of how mentally and emotionally challenging and exhausting it is to handle one. Some lawyers no longer do divorce cases because of how such cases have messed up with their minds towards marriage and their emotional health generally. Some single lawyers are afraid to marry because of the cases they have handled and seen. Also, some married lawyers are scared of committing 100% to their marriages because of the experiences they have had in court. Remember that save for some very few cases, divorce is usually messy, dirty and vexatious!

Lawyers generally charge 3 fees:

  1. Filing fees
  2. Appearance fees
  3. Professional fees

A filing fee is money the lawyer pays to the court for every time he files a paper/process. Appearance fees are the money the lawyer collects for every day he goes to the court whether the court sits or not. Professional fees are the fee the lawyer collects for his mental, emotional and intellectual industry employed in handling the case. Then we also have what is generally called a mobilization fee. This is the money paid to the court’s bailiff (messenger) to serve papers and also to the court’s clerk and the like to fasten some things. Nigerians should understand me. This fee ehn, e even dey vex lawyers sef. A court bailiff could ask for 5k to serve process in a place that would not take him up to 1k to go to-and-fro.

No mercy.

Let me clear one misconception: Many people think it is the person that files a divorce petition that spends more. Nah!

Whether you are the petitioner or respondent, your fees do not change. So, if you are waiting for your spouse to go to court because you don’t want to spend money and want him/her to do the spending, you are just acting very ignorantly. Many respondents even spend far more than the petitioner because of “cross-petition”.

May I also mention that asking your lawyers questions even by WhatsApp attract fees because it is legal consultation. You are consulting the lawyer for legal advice and legal opinion. That in itself is a big legal service which ought to be paid for. So, if you enter your lawyers DM and he charges you for his data and his time, he would be legally correct before God and man to do so.

Nothing is really cheap in this country: not even the goods you sell or the services you render.

If you need further clarity on the issue discussed here, you may contact your lawyer for more enlightenment. Personally, I wouldn’t mind sharing these thoughts, take questions and give answers in your WhatsApp group. Terms and Conditions apply sha. You may just Whatsapp me +2348125086798 or send me an email to earlalright@gmai.com for more discussion on this. However, I would suggest you subscribe to this blog as I would share some more truths on this issue here.

Now, you can see that those Naija movies where people are required to give, agree to and sign divorce papers are false representations of our legal system. Obviously, the scriptwriters and directors are not aware of what obtains in the country where they live. What a shame!

Finally, my brethren, divorce ain’t cheap and Nollywood isn’t a legal adviser.

God bless Nigeria (good people, great nation)

My name is Earl, and I am Alright.

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You rock!