Streamlining Matrimonial Causes Act With Divorce Mediation
Streamlining Matrimonial Causes Act With Divorce Mediation
By Olatunji Atoyebi
Streamlining Matrimonial Causes Act With Divorce Mediation
For Ms. Iyabo Adebayo, her matrimonial journey to Mr. Babatunde had come to an end. In 2017, she told a Court sitting in Ibadan “My lord, I no longer have any feeling for Babatunde again; he is lazy in bed and he can no longer satisfy me sexually. For so long, I had been coping with his inability to withstand my sexual urge, but I can’t cope with this any longer.”

Iyabo is not alone. Divorce is on the rise in Nigeria and all over the world. In a 21st February 2020 post that immediately went viral, @sandraorokodo tweeted “4,000 divorce applications in Abuja already and the year has just started. Some of these marriages are just a year old.”

Whether you agree or disagree with @sandraorokodo, it is anecdotally true that both marriage and divorce among millennials are on the rise. With divorce at one end of the spectrum, Matrimonial Causes provides a series of problem-solving options to anyone who wants seeking judicial intervention to resolve their disputes.

Under S114 of the Matrimonial Causes Act, the phrase ‘Matrimonial Cause’ is defined as actions such as dissolution/nullification of marriage; judicial separation; restitution of conjugal rights; and Jactitation. It should be noted that this definition applies only to Statutory Marriages and not Customary or Islamic marriages. Put more broadly, ‘Matrimonial causes’ refers to the range of judicial remedies which a Party can institute against their significant other when things go sour.

Many have argued that the noted increase in Mariticide and Uxoricide (those are real words which refer to the killing of a spouse by another spouse), divorce pales in comparison as a means of resolving irreconcilable disputes.

Burdened by an ancient law and a slow judiciary, the process for seeking and obtaining matrimonial relief in Nigeria can be hostile time-consuming and bitter. A survey carried out by CNN revealed that “Divorce causes more than bitterness and broken hearts, the trauma of a split can leave long-lasting effects on mental and physical health that remarriage might not repair”.

Separation and divorce are emotionally difficult events. According to the American Psychology Association, “the end of a marriage typically unleashes a flood of emotions including anger, grief, anxiety and fear”.

Submitting to Divorce Mediation helps speed up the proceedings and make the breakup cordial and agreeable. Divorce mediation is a process of resolving conflicts that arise within a family with the help of a third party known as the mediator. The Mediator, an independent, professionally-trained person helps to work out arrangements for the family on issues such as custody of a child, property division, finances and dissolution of marriage.

In Nigeria, the Matrimonial Causes Act recognizes and encourages the use of alternative dispute resolution processes in matrimonial causes. Divorce Mediation can take place during the pendency of the suit, either by the decision of the parties as per S. 11 (1) (a) MCA; by the Court as in S. 11 (1) (b) MCA or by a Marriage Conciliator appointed by the Court S. 11 (1) (c), S. 114 MCA.

Quite unfortunately, many Divorce Lawyers treat the mandatory Certificate of Reconciliation as a mere formality without actually drawing the attention of the Petitioner to the provisions relating to reconciliation. Ignoring a process that will save your Client a considerable amount of time, money, emotional and mental wellbeing should be considered to be professional misconduct.

Benefits of Divorce Mediation:
Its saves time
Its process is less expensive
There is Confidentiality between the mediator and both parties in dispute
The process is less stressful and faster
A neutral third party assists the parties in reaching a voluntary, mutually beneficial resolution.
Mediation improves communication between both parties bringing out the real issues.
In mediation both parties win
In the final analysis, contentious and prolonged divorce cases do more harm than good. By streamlining proceedings through mediation and conciliation, the parties save time, money while retaining some level of camaraderie between the parties.

Written  By Olatunji Atoyebi.

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