Legal Drama

How to Get a Divorce in Nigeria, the 8 Grounds for Divorce: Tokunbo Melaye v. Dino Melaye

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Men can be funny, really. I realize the majority of my audience on AML are men but fellas, you all can be quite funny at times, and not necessarily in a good way. I discussed this explosive family law case with you all at the close of December 2013 and also shared some documents and statements from the husband and wife. While the case remains hotly contested and makes its way to court on the divorce proceedings et al., this year, January 2nd, 2014, Dino Melaye takes to social media to share his new woman. *Smh* Tokunbo also subsequently took to twitter to share her sentiments.

This had me really curious to really search for the grounds for divorce in Nigeria’s family court. I know the rates of divorce have increased but if you want a divorce, how do you get one? Here is what I found:

In a nutshell, if you want a divorce, you file your petition with the court seeking a divorce. The divorce must be based on the ground that the marriage has been broken down irretrievably. What does irretrievably mean?  The court will consider eight different grounds under the act highlighted below.

1.  No sex i.e. no consummation of the marriage.
2. Adultery.
3. Conduct that is unreasonable (rape, bestiality, habitual drunkard, sodomy, murderer, incarcerated (in prison),   attempted murder of a spouse, intent to or actual commission of serious bodily injury, inability to take care of spouse).
4. Abandonment  ( must be at least one year prior to the filing of the divorce petition).
5. Separation (living apart for a continued period of two years prior to the filing of the divorce petition) and no objection by the person you want to divorce from. So, you file for a divorce, the court says how long have you been apart, you say two years. The court asks your spouse whether he/she will object to the divorce and he/she says, “no.”
6.  Separation (living apart for a continued period of three years prior to the filing of the divorce petition).
7. Failure to comply with a court order regarding marriage or the sexual rights or privilege of a marriage.
8. Death/Reason to Believe Spouse is Dead.

What Law Governs?

Matrimonial Causes Act
Chapter 220, section 15 & 16
Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990

Dissolution of marriage
15. (1) A petition under this Act by a party to a marriage for a decree of dissolution of the marriage may be presented to the court by either party to the marriage upon the ground that the marriage has broken down irretrievablyy.

(2) The court hearing a petition for a decree of dissolution of a marriage shall hold the marriage to have broken down irretrievably if, but only if, the petitioner satisfies the court of one or more of the following facts- (Folks note you must satisfy one or more of the factors below):

(a) that the respondent has wilfully and persistently refused to consummate the marriage; (this means he or she is not giving you sex).

(b) that since the marriage the Respondent has committed adultery and the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the respondent;

(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;

(d) that the respondent has deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of at least one year immediately preceding the presentation of the petition; (Abandonment – many Nigerian relationships qualify for this, especially the foreign ones where the couple marry and he or she heads to Nigeria and remain there with no communication, companionship etc. whatsoever) 

(e) 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;

(f) that the parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least three years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition;

(g) that the other party to the marriage has, for a period of not less than one year failed to comply with a decree or restitution of conjugal rights made under this Act;

(h) that the other party to the marriage has been absent from the petitioner for such time and in such circumstances as to provide reasonable grounds for presuming that he or she is dead.

(3) For the purpose of subsection (2) (e) and (f) of this section the parties to a marriage shall be treated as living apart unless they are living with each other in the same household.

SECTION 16 Shows how you Meet the Burdens in Section 15

16. (1) Without prejudice to the generality of section 15(2)(c) of this Act, the court hearing a petition for a decree to of dissolution of marriage shall hold that the petitioner has satisfied the court of the fact mentioned in the said section 15(2)(c) of this Act if the petitioner satisfies the court that-

(a) since the marriage, the respondent has committed rape, sodomy, or bestiality; or

(b) since the marriage, the respondent has, for a period of not less than two years-

(i) been a habitual drunkard, or

(ii) habitually been intoxicated by reason of taking or using to excess any sedative, narcotic or stimulating drug or preparation, or has, for a part or parts of such a period, been a habitual drunkard and has, for the other part or parts of the period, habitually been so intoxicated; or

(c) since the marriage, the respondent has within a period not exceeding five years-

(i) suffered frequent convictions for crime in respect of which the respondent has been sentenced in the aggregate to imprisonment for not less than three years, and

(ii) habitually left the petitioner without reason- able means of support; or

(d) since the marriage, the respondent has been in prison for a period of not less than three years after conviction for an offence punishable by death or imprisonment for life or for a period of five years or more, and is still in prison at the date of the petition; or

(e) since the marriage and within a period of one year immediately preceding the date of the petition, the respondent has been convicted of-

(i) having attempted to murder or unlawfully to kill the petitioner, or

(ii) having committed an offence involving the intentional infliction of grievous harm or grievous hurt on the petitioner or the intent to inflict grievous harm or grievous hurt on the petitioner;

(f) or the respondent has habitually and wilfully failed, throughout the period of two years immediately preceding the date of the petition, to pay maintenance for the petitioner-

(i) ordered to be paid under an order of, or an order registered in, a court in the Federation, or

(ii) agreed to be paid under an agreement between the parties to the marriage providing for their separation; or

(g) the respondent-

(i) is, at the date of the petition, of unsound mind and unlikely to recover, and

(ii) since the marriage and within the period of six ears immediately preceding the date of the petition, as been confined for a period of, or for periods aggregating, not less than five years in an institution where persons may be confined for unsoundness of mind in accordance with law, or in more than one such institution.

(2) Where a petition is based on the fact mentioned in section 15(2)(h) of this Act-

(a) proof that, for a period of seven years immediately preceding the date of the petition, the other party to the marriage was continually absent from the petitioner and that the petitioner has no reason to believe that the other party was alive at any time within that period is sufficient to establish the fact in question, unless it is shown that the other party to the marriage was alive at a time within that period; and

(b) a decree made pursuant to the petition shall be in the form of a decree of dissolution of marriage by reason of presumption of death.”

~Ms. Uduak

UPDATE (5/1/2017):

Please do your due diligence before you engage the services of any lawyer. In addition, make sure there is a fit in terms of chemistry with your lawyer, and that your lawyer actually listens and responds to your legal needs.


1.Domestic Violence and Abuse Resource Center (Nigeria)

2. The National Domestic Violence Hotline (USA)

1. Tajudeen Oluwaseye Lawal
L & A Legal Consultants
3rd Floor, 62 Awolowo Road, South West Ikoyi, Lago
Tel/Fax: +234-1 – 4612213/4, 7902879
Email: (

2. Ayomide Falade
Lawfields Solicitors and Advocates
Phone: 08095266789
Email: (

3. Mrs. Dorcas Odunnaike
DA Odunnaike Chambers
Phone: 08028446155

Attorney Unwam Oduok
Phone: 916-361-6506
Email: (

Attorney Yvonne Kafor
Phone: 214-576-2221

New York & New Jersey 
Attorney Frances Nicotra
Phone: 201-963-9423


Tokunbo Melaye v Dino Melaye 5

Tokunbo Melaye v Dino Melaye 4

Tokunbo Melaye v Dino Melaye 3

Tokunbo Melaye v Dino Melaye 2

Tokunbo Melaye v Dino Melaye


Interview with Bond Stanley Ebigbo (Full Interview via Podcast)

Listen to the Latest AML Podcast Episodes

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Africa Music Law™

AFRICA MUSIC LAW™ (AML) is a pioneering music business and entertainment law blog and podcast show by Fashion and Entertainment Lawyer Ms. Uduak Oduok empowering the African artist and Africa's rapidly evolving entertainment industry through brilliant music business and entertainment law commentary and analysis, industry news, and exclusive interviews.

Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Ms. Uduak is also a Partner and Co-Founder of Ebitu Law Group, P.C. where she handles her law firm’s intellectual property law, media, business, fashion, and entertainment law practice areas. She has litigated a wide variety of cases in California courts and handled a variety of entertainment deals for clients in the USA, Africa, and Asia.

Her work and contributions to the creative industry have been recognized by numerous organizations including the National Bar Association, The American University School of Law and featured in prestigious legal publications in the USA including ABA Journal and The California Lawyer Magazine. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the prestigious Academy of Arts University in San Francisco.
For legal representation inquiries, please email ( For blog related inquiries i.e. advertising, licensing, or guest interview requests, please email ( Thank you for visiting Africa Music Law™.

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  1. David Anselm says:

    What is the process and legality of processing and obtaining a divorce certificate in Nigeria,for a marriage contracted outside of Nigeria?

    1. David, you need to speak with a local family law attorney in Nigeria to assist you. Contact me at ( and I am happy to make a referral.

  2. Quwanda says:

    I want to file for divorce but i live in the USA??

  3. Ashly says:

    Yes. I also need info on how to file for a divorce from Abuja Nigeria. I also live in the USA. He was supposed to start the process but hasn’t I need this done or started by the end of this year.

  4. hello,i will like to know if I can file a divorce and also take custody of my daughter (2years old) ?my husband doesn’t stay home because he travels a lot, like 6 month or a year but
    wenever he is home,we seem to quarell a lot and sometimes
    hits me..and before that gets worse.please I would like to know my fate. thank you.

  5. What determines a venue to file for divorce in Nigeria is the domicile of the party (i.e. the petitioner) filing for divorce (see, Omotunde vs. Omotunde (2001) 9 NWLR Pt. 718, P. 252). Domicile has to do with where that person regards as his permanent home. It’s the domicile of a husband that determines the domicile of the wife. So, a Nigerian who resides outside Nigeria can still return to Nigeria to file for divorce as long as that person has not acquired the citizenship of that other country. If a person acquires the citizenship of another country, his Nigerian citizenship is put in abeyance – (Ugo vs. Ugo (2008) 5 NWLR Pt. 1079, P. 1).

  6. Escape says:

    Hello i wud i like to divorce my husband. Reason is emotional and verbal abuse, and threats of physical abuse. How do i go about it?

  7. Patricia olubunmi says:

    I want to know how to go about divorce proceedings .I have 2 kids .I have been physically and emotionally abused. He asked me to move out of the house that if I refuse he was going to burn me to aches .those threat made me move out with my kids .am alone taking care of my children

  8. Olumba Glory says:

    I need a divorce and I want my three children to be in my custody. He doesn’t take care of me nor the children. He uses the mother and siblings to abuse and assult me. The mother will always tell me that am no longer needed in the family. Recently the siblings beat me up inside my room and he supported them. They are doing everything humanly possible to turn my children against me. So i really need to live with my children. Pls i need urgent attention.

  9. Olasoji Ambrose says:

    I leave in Bauchi state, had a wedding for 4 years now need a divorce. I realized that my wife and I are not compatible, perhaps I do not deserve her because she’s is a lady of good conduct but with a law IQ. What should I do.

  10. Obed says:

    Good morning everyone, I got married last year December, I notice my marriage is being control by my wife mother and my wife disrespect me making the marriage a living a hell for me. I want to make annulling of the marriage. All my wife think of he’s money and expensive life. I can’t give her that kind of life she want to live. I give her 50-100 k a month and she still complain of me not taking care of her. Please I need advice on how to go about it. My wife sweet talk me into getting into court married with her without paying her bride price. She keep insisting to see every property I have. I see the marriage as a Freud. I’m currently in Malaysia and my wife is in Nigeria, I’m from edo state.

  11. Aminat says:

    I need a divorce my husband abuse me emotionally and spiritually and even threatening me if I divorce him

  12. Yinka says:

    @Mr Olasoji: You would need other strong reasons before you can get the court to dissolve your marriage. Low IQ if that’s what you mean seems not enough. Have you tried ways of upgrading her to the level you desire, considering other good qualities she has?

  13. Yinka says:

    @ Ms Aminat. It is safer to report the matter of threat to the authorities around you while the divorce matter is pending. I believe you will discuss details of the emotional abuse with your lawyer to know if it can ground a divorce.

    Good job by the owners of this site.

  14. David Dem says:

    I’ve been married for five years now with two kids, but things haven’t really turned out as desired. There’s been a high level of sexless ness, no respect and Honour from my wife, add to the fact that we just don’t get along well on just about everything. I honestly want out of the marriage and really need help achieving this.

  15. anonymous says:

    Your Comment *pls can we divorce at any registry bcos Dat was not d registry we did the court wedding.

  16. Ashly says:

    How long does a divorce take to go through in Africa usually take? I have been in the divorce process as of April. is that a usual time line?

  17. Seun says:

    It just occurred to me how many people want out of their marriages due to dissatisfaction and matters that could be a threat to leaving a good life
    In my case I have seriously been contemplating this same matter because I fear I might just go crazy or loose my sanity. It’s a 10years old marriage with 3 lovely kids, I’ve held on for this long because of the kids but I don’t know for how long am going continue in this, mind you am not saying am a saint in all these, I just want out.
    I have gone through the process and procedures for dissolution of marriage
    Mine is borne out of
    Disrespect, nagging, hard heartedness and quarrelsome… we’ve practically been living like house mates….that’s not the king of marriage I prayed for, it’s better to stay alone with my kids than to stay with a house mates
    Please I really need advice as my mind is about made up on this move.

  18. Elizabeth Funke says:

    Actually all of the grounds mentioned JESUS took away as they are filing for any reason.
    Moses was the one that allowed divorce and remarriage Jesus said it was not God’s will from the beginning and so made marriage a wedlock, there isNO GROUNDS for divorce. Anyone that divorces their spouse and remarrys is committing adultery and they that marry the divorcee is also committing adultery. Luke 16:18 , Mark 10 for God hates divorce Malachi 2:14-16
    Luke 16:18New King James Version (NKJV)

    18 “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.
    New King James Version (NKJV)

    The only thing that is allowed is a GET or an annullment if the iyawo or oko was unfaithful in betrothal. Mathew 5:32-33.
    Like our marriages the jewish marriage consists of 2 stages introduction/engagament called KIDDUSHIN in Judaism and the second stage called “NISU;IN” . As in the jewish one we know that at the engagement /betrothal the couples are called in yoruba say oko and iyawo ( husband and wife ) although they are not fully married even after the engagment ( as long as its not engage and go) . Any transgression at this stage biblically is called FORNICATION and not ADULTERY and at this stage the groom can annul it and stop the second stage. This makes the couples free to hook up with someone else and the man freed from the KETUBAH covenant which he would have maybe made at the engagment. KETUBAH is jewish name for the covenant of “gifts ” – food stuff, clothes, monies, bible etc which the oko brings at the engagment .. he is covenanting to be giving the wife this in the marriage…should the second stage be fulfilled. Once they second stage is fulfilled and marital oath said they live as husband and wife then it becomes what GOD HAS JOINED LET NO MAN PUT ASUNDER.

    Jesus referred to what his own earthly father Joseph wanted to do to Mary when he found her pregnant but he had not known her initimately and he didnt know that the baby was a HOLY CHILD of the HOLY SPIRIT .

    The bible allows women to move out of the marital home if they are abused or the children abused or even the husbands cheating is too much , it doesn allow her to DIVORCE AND REMARRY tho.

    ALL MARRIAGES BASED ON DIVORCE is ADUlTERY according to Jesus . True

    1. Yemisi says:

      MS Elizabeth Funke,
      Please where exactly in the Bible did it say that a woman can move out if she is being abuse or if the husband’s cheating is too much but that she can’t divorce him?

  19. Hammed Opasola says:

    Irrespective of the place of marriage within the country, dissolution of marriage can take place in any state High Court in Nigeria. For instance, Marriage conducted in Enugu registry can be dissolved in Ibadan.

  20. Don't confuse me says:

    I know your type- you must stay there until you are killed. Who told you everyone believes in your Jesus

  21. Royal says:

    Pls i hv been married for 8yrs now,looking for a legal way to divorced my husband,cos if i don’t,he might end up killing me secretly,he always make several attempts to staved me with a knife,and also almost killed me on my delivery day of my second child,i was in labour dat very day he was fighting with me all becos of a concubine he keep outside,even dray me outside and was beating me while i was in labour,it was God dat used a man to save me dat faithful day,just within 2mins after he was pleaded to let go off me,i went to urinate and my baby is almost out,aside dat he has treating dat he will kill me,and my family will not hold him,just becos i am frm a poor home,pls help me,i want to divorced him

  22. temitope says:

    Your Comment *how can I go about the divorce my husband got wedded to another with and has a child without my consent but I got to know through one of his family and the picture of the lady on Facebook and the lady do call me for me to know what is on ground pls and my marriage is just 2 years now and my own baby is just 1 year and 6 months and the lady own is just 3 months pls need advice

  23. Thank you Elizabeth Funke, a mo ru yin. It is only when you want to do jibiti, you quote Old Testament, when you want to do Ojoro, you quote New Testament. When Moses approved divorce because of hardening of heart, I want to ask you, is the hardening of heart still not there?

    Remember, Jesus did not marry and also Paul advise you that it is better to remember like him, and that as a woman you should keep quite in church, why are you still disobeying all these biblical rules.

    You can wait and stay in a troubled marriage and when somebody killed you, at least you will still make heaven.

    Have you forgotten that Jesus said in heaven there is no marriage, everything is only in this world o. Wait there and let them kill you in an abusive marriage. Na you sabi.

    Thank you for all the bible passages you have quoted, thank you for your Hebrew, and your Greek interpretation, but remember, it is not your fathers language so you can’t know it more than the original owners.

    This is Nigeria, the women are different from Jewish or Hebrew or America women. We are not holy marry and marriage is meant to be enjoyed and not to be endured.

  24. **** says:

    What are the grounds for divorce apart from domestic abuse?What if a spouse is dishonest about the way money is been used in the home? Using money for others not his own family or his relations but friends.

  25. What are the grounds for divorce where extreme diabolism by the man and his family, emotional abuse and negligence, routine adultery ruined the marriage ? The woman is one with a lot of potential, but the husband and his family suppress the lady with witchcraft and diabolism and preventing her growth and success as they do not want the progress of any woman within their family ? The woman is tired of constantly fighting off demonic forces and wants to live a normal, fulfilling life with her children far away from the murkiness of their diabolism. What’s the best way to proceed with this divorce ?

  26. james says:

    Been married four years now. Dated her for about 2 years. Got married. All this while during our relationship she told me she had a 2.2 in accountancy, After we got married, she told me she had a pass 3 days after she put to bed. I do not know what other lies she has told. Told her to learn a trade and she refuses. Wants to do business, but finds it hard to grasp simple things. The relation is getting quite toxic and i want out before i start doing things that are harmful.

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