Inibehe Effiong: No Place in Law for Spouses to Just “sign divorce papers”

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Human Rights activist and lawyer, Inibehe Effiong has corrected the misconception that “divorce papers” exist. He stated this in a Facebook post he shared on Thursday. He said that such a notion is a legal fiction popularized by Nollywood, saying there is no place in law for spouses to just “sign divorce papers” and end their marriage, and walk away.

According to the legal counsel,

“There is no place in law for spouses to just “sign divorce papers” and end their marriage, and walk away. It is a legal fiction popularized by Nollywood.

“Every divorce case MUST go through a trial process. Oral evidence must be given before marriage is dissolved.

“Divorce cannot be granted by consent of parties. This is based on public policy and the need to uphold the sanctity of marriage. However, ancillary reliefs like custody of children and settlement of properties can be settled out of court and resolved by the consent of parties.

He said a client in one of the divorce cases in our firm had pleaded with him earlier that day to make the other party to the petition “sign the divorce papers” in order not to waste time.

He blamed Nollywood largely for selling the idea of a husband and wife signing divorce papers to end a marriage.

Reacting further, he said;

“Although there are procedural and substantive steps that a counsel in a divorce case can take to accelerate the hearing and determination of a divorce petition, “signing of divorce papers” is not one of them. The timeline for determining divorce cases is based on several factors.

“For example, if the petition is contested by the respondent, it will elongate the proceedings. The grounds of the petition is also determinative of the speed of the proceedings. Petitions founded on Adultery will likely take a longer time than one predicated on Living Apart. I should stress that in every petition, the law requires the petitioner to specifically state that the petitioner and the respondent have not colluded or connived to bring the petition. An affidavit must accompany the petition to verify that the content of the petition is true.

“No judge in Nigeria will make an Order Nisi dissolving a statutory marriage without listening to oral testimony. There have been cases where both spouses wanted divorce but the court refused to dissolve the marriage because there was no sufficient evidence to support the petition.

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