Divorce: Sole Ground For Dissolution of Marriage
“Man proposes, God disposes!” was her exact thought. Tara had always wanted to study Economics at the University of Ibadan. She had heard so much about the Premier University right from her days at Brighter Rose College.
The connections of Prof. Wole Soyinka, her favourite author with the prestigious institution also increased her interest in the University. Hardly would a day pass without Tara searching for “University of Ibadan” on google.
Tara George is a imp-thin and wasp-waisted young lady with an amazonian figure. Her Creator blessed her with a glossy skin, sea-nymph ears, a dainty nose, halo-white teeth and a flowing, moon shadow-black hair which ran down her shoulders.
Tara’s rapture-blue eyes, shielded by a tommy-hilfiger pair of spectacles which sits comfortably on her pointed nose, just a little below her languid eyelashes of velvet-black conveys a message to anyone she encountered. Simply, her brilliance and not only her intelligence was very evident and uncontested.
Being the Senior Prefect Girl, everyone in Brighter Rose College curiously awaited Tara’s SSCE result. This was coupled with the fact that the State Governor had awarded her a Tertiary Education Scholarship, as the Grand Winner of the Annual Professor Oyewola Quiz Competition.
August 13, 2005 was a very gloomy day for Tara. The West African Examination Council released the result of the May/June 2004/2005 examination and the result of Mukhtar Sanusi, the Health Prefect Boy of Brighter Rose College was announced as the best in the State. Mukhtar had distinctions in all his papers.
Tara was under serious pressure and tension soon began to set in. Almost all her Secondary School teachers called her but she refused to pick their calls due to the fear of the unknown. She couldn’t bear the restlessness any longer when Mr. Dimeji Babayemi, her mathematics teacher sent her a text, “Tara my Bright Student, what’s up with your WAEC result? I hope to hear from you soon”.
Tara was engulfed with timidity and couldn’t help but rush to the Cyber Cafe to check her result. To her utmost surprise, her result was withheld. “What could have happened? I didn’t budget for this? Devil is a lair!”, she cried out and inadvertently drew the attention of everyone at the Cyber Cafe.
“Young lady you’re not the only one here. You can excuse yourself to perform your drama. When they were writing exams for you and passing you answers in the exam hall, you didn’t cry”, were the only comforting words the Cyber Cafe Attendant could utter. Tara on hearing this hurriedly left the scene while an ocean of tears ran down her cheeks.
It was the 8th day of September, 2005. 4pm on this day was marked as the deadline for the registration of students for the Post-UTME Screening of the University of Ibadan. Tara, who had earlier scored 317 in her Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination(UTME), anxiously anticipated the release of her SSCE result which had been withheld.
Being full of hope, Tara dauntingly ran to the Cyber Cafe to try her luck with the full consciousness that there would never be another 8th September, 2005. Unfortunately, after spending greater hours of the day trying to access the WAEC website without any success, the Cyber Cafe experienced a power outage only when the site appeared to be loading.
The Cyber Cafe attendant confidently and patiently awaited the automatic re-powering of the computer systems by the solar inverter. The attendant met the rude shock of his life when after about 20 minutes of power outage, the inverter refused to blink let alone re-power the computer systems.
The customers began to take their leave from the Cyber Cafe one after the other as it appeared to them that there was no alternative source of power supply. Tara’s case was quite different; she was bent on seeing her result that day as her chances of gaining admission ran slimmer.
Her hope was a little brightened when the Electrical Engineer whose services the Cyber Cafe Attendant employed ran towards the batteries of the inverter, reconnected a wire to it and switched on the systems.
Hardly had the light come on than Tara rebooted the computer system she was using. She quickly accessed the website and was lucky this time around. Yes! Yes!! Tara’s heartbeats raced at an unbeatable speed and the sound emanating from thence could be mistaken for that from a medium size generating set.
All in her anxiety, Tara typed in her registration details as well as the pin, and that was it; Tara’s result was displayed on the screen of the monitor. She failed Yoruba Language in which she got an E8 but she got all As in the remaining 8 papers she took.
While experiencing mixed feelings, Tara thought, “how I wish I never took Yoruba in WAEC. It just spoiled my result”. At this time, Tara checked her wristwatch and discovered the time was already 4:11pm; she had missed the admission into University of Ibadan for that session. She wept profusely at the consciousness of the fact that she might have to stay at home for the next one year while her colleagues proceeded to the higher institution.
Tara’s lamentation caught the attention of the young man using the computer system next to hers. This young man, Odira Uzoukwu, a Final Year Law student of the University of Ibadan was sure something was wrong with Tara and he asked, “Sister, is anything the problem?”. Tara, who was sobbing, replied “I couldn’t register for UI Post UTME before it closed by 4pm today due to the delay in accessing my result”. “Ehyaa, sorry about that. But why don’t you get a change of institution form and try University of Lagos since the admission process is yet to begin there”, Odira replied.
Tara eventually changed her institution and was admitted to the Department of Economics at the University of Lagos. The first week of resumption was basically for the registration of freshmen.
On the first day of resumption, Tara was carrying her file firmly and walking very fast under the scorching just in front of the school gate when a Blue Toyota Camry Car parked by her side.
“Hello Young lady, I’m Jide. Please, do you know any Cyber Cafe in this area,” the driver greeted and asked. “There is one directly opposite that mosque. I’m on my way there actually”, Tara answered (pointing).
Jide gladly welcomed Tara into his car and that was how it all started. “I am Jide Iseyemi. I’m an Audit Manager at KPMG and I reside at Victoria Island, just some distance from the Nigerian Law School”, Jide introduced himself. Tara suddenly found herself unable to control her smile.
“I am Tara George. I’m a student of the Department of Economics in the University of Lagos and I’m apparently a fresher”, Tara replied. Hardly had Tara completed her statement than Jide cut in, “I forgot to tell you this: I’m also having my Masters Program at the Department of Economics”.
One important thing Jide failed to disclose was that he was married and Tara on her part was unsuspecting. Tara and Jide have since been in constant communication, and Jide has been dreaming of proposing to Tara.
Jide sought my legal advice on how he can divorce his wife, and his only reason is that his spirit is no longer in agreement with that of his wife. “It’s not that we are having any major issue or quarrel but can two work together except they agree?”, Jide claimed.
Points to Note:
1. Although the vows couples take bear the banner “till death do us part”, It is a worrisome truth that married couples do fall out of love and usually want to go their separate ways before death’s inevitable separation.
2. The law is a respecter of sanctity of marriage and it tries to ensure the safeguard of the marriage institution. However, those safeguards are usually not sufficient enough to preserve a marriage for a lifetime.
3. Therefore, a marriage could be brought to an end by dissolving it. This is popularly known as “Divorce”.
4. The first requirement of the law is that the marriage sought to be dissolved must be a statutory marriage. This must be proven by providing a marriage certificate, or a certified true copy of the marriage certificate.
5. Note that, generally, a marriage which is under two years cannot be dissolved. However, there are some exceptions. For example, where the court is satisfied that refusal would cause exceptional hardship on the petitioner. Cases like that include:
(i) Where the Respondent wilfully and persistently refuses to consummate the marriage.
(ii) Where since the marriage the respondent has committed adultery and the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the respondent.
(iii) Where since the marriage the respondent has committed rape, sodomy or bestiality.
6. The parties to divorce proceedings are usually required to have explored the possibility of reconciliation and sometimes the court would refer the parties to mediation with the purpose of trying to reconcile them.
7. The court would only go ahead to dissolve a marriage when every attempt at reconciliation has failed.
8. The law is that before a Nigerian court can dissolve a marriage, it must be proven that the marriage has “broken down irretrievably”. This means such marriage sought to be dissolved cannot be saved by any means whatsoever.
9. To establish that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, a petitioner for the dissolution of a marriage is required to prove any of the following eight grounds to the satisfaction of the court. They are:
(i) That the respondent has wilfully and persistently refused to consummate the marriage. This simply means refusal to have sexual intercourse.
(ii) That the respondent has committed adultery since the marriage and the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the respondent.
(iii) That since the marriage the respondent has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent. Examples of such behaviors are rape, sodomy, bestiality, habitual drunkenness or intoxication, criminal activities, domestic violence etc
(iv) That the respondent has deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of at least one year immediately before the petitioner approached the court for an order for the dissolution of the marriage. “Desertion” means to leave or abandon the matrimonial home and spouse without any justification.
NB: There can also be desertion if they are both in the same home but don’t relate as husband and wife. This is referred to as “Constructive Desertion”.
(v) That the parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years immediately before the petitioner approached the court for the dissolution of the marriage and that the respondent does not object to the marriage being dissolved.
(vi) 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 for the dissolution of the marriage.
(vii) 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. A decree of restitution of conjugal rights is an order of court directing a party in default (that is a party that has deserted his/her spouse) to resume cohabitation with the other partner and to resume the fulfilment of marital duties owed the other spouse.
(viii) 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. The time is usually a period of seven years.
In the light of the foregoing principles of Law, it is doubtful that the Court would grant the divorce Jide Iseyemi wants to seek considering the fact that he has little or nothing to show that the marriage between himself and his wife has broken down irretrievably. For him to successfully prove that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, he must establish at least one of the eight grounds mentioned above.
THE LEGAL DIARY
Joseph Jagunmolu Ogunmodede