Family Law in Nigeria: All You Need to Know

Family law is a collective term used in describing those laws that deal with any matter that has a significant impact on family relationships, like abuse, custody, divorce and adoption. In this write-up, you will get to learn one or two things about family law in Nigeria. Yes, you are not a lawyer; be that as it may, you still need to get adequately informed about these things.

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Family law is very broad. As a result, only the marriage and divorce aspects will be covered in this write-up.

Marriage

According to section 49 of the Marriage Act, there is limited recognition of foreign marriage between parties, one of whom must be a citizen of Nigeria. When a Nigerian decides to get married to a foreigner, such a marriage must be contracted before a Nigerian official or a Nigerian court official with a minimum rank of a Secretary. If not, such a marriage will not be counted as valid by the Nigerian family law.

Section 3(1)(c) of the Matrimonial Causes Act provides that “A marriage will be declared as void if such marriage is not a valid marriage under the law of the particular place or location or country where the marriage had taken place, especially by reason of failure of the husband and wife to comply with all the requirements of the law in that particular country.  With respect to the form of solemnization of marriages”

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Divorces & annulment

The Nigerian family law gives recognition to marriage dissolution decree or nullity if it is made in accordance to the law of a foreign country with respect to that under section 81 (2-9) of the Matrimonial Causes Act.

If a marriage had been dissolved in a foreign country, it is recognized as dissolved in Nigeria too, provided the dissolution was done in line with the guidelines of the foreign country.

Grounds for divorce

The only ground for divorce under the Nigerian law is if the marriage has completely broken down and it is not retrievable.  The petitioner must make case to satisfy the court of law that there is lack of consummation in the marriage, and that there is case of adultery and the fact that the petitioner finds it very intolerable to live together with the respondent.

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Other grounds for divorce are highlighted below

  • The other party to the marriage has been away from the petitioner for a given period of time and therefore provides reasonable ground for the presumption that he or she is dead.
  • The other party to the said marriage, for the minimum period of 1 year, has failed to comply with a decree of conjugal right and restitution.
  • The parties involved in the marriage have been living separately for a continuous period lasting for at least three years before the petitioner filed the petition.
  • The parties to the marriage have lived apart for at least two years continuously after the petition has been filed and there is no objection to the divorce on the part of the respondent.

Once marriage breaks down, the court has the power to settle property or allocate financial resources at the instance and also for the benefit of the parties and the children produced in the marriage.

 

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