This is not legal advice.
This piece only seeks to educate and promote a healthy conversation.

In Nigeria, there is only
one ground for divorce. This is when a marriage has broken down
. Instances that lead to this include cruelty, adultery, and
desertion for at least one year.

Newly weds(and old
couples) have a legal duty to live together in the same household, though not
necessarily under the same roof. That is, they can live in different places or
countries as long as they have so agreed.

Desertion can be described
as a matrimonial misconduct, and it occurs when there is an intention to part
with the other spouse, coupled with the intent to bring the cohabitation(living
together) to an end. In a reported decision, the husband forced his wife out of
the matrimonial home, and abandoned her for three years without any
maintenance; it was held to amount to desertion.
Another example would be
instances where the husband deliberately moves out of the matrimonial home
without the consent of his wife, or where he lives a completely isolated life
from his wife, regardless of the fact that they live together, e.g. where he
cooks his own food, sleeps in a separate room, denies his wife sex and fails to
communicate with her.

In the same vein, when a
husband travels out of the country, in search of greener pastures, and never
comes back to his wife(family) or gets married to (or cohabitates permanently)
another woman, all these may amount to desertion. This is the present reality
of lots of married people in Nigeria.

However, four elements
must be established to prove desertion:
Actual separation of the spouses,
The intention to end cohabitation
The lack of consent from the deserted
Absence of just or reasonable cause for the

Where the elements above
have been proved, the innocent party (i.e. the deserted partner) may sue for
judicial separation, restitution of conjugal rights, or even dissolution of

The law affords the
innocent party the above mentioned options. Marriage – it is believed – is
contracted for different reasons. The law recognises that when companionship,
support, and all other benefits cease to exist, there is adequate reason to
dissolve such unions or seek other remedies.

In sum, if a spouse has
been deserted, there is a fitting prescription under the Nigerian law.

By – Hightower Lawyers
This article was first
posted here.