Yes, I know that awareness about divorce has been heightened in the last ten years more than ever, majorly because of the increasing occurrence of domestic violence.

I will, notwithstanding tell you, using my experience in the legal practice of course, what you need to know about divorce, judicial separation and separation before you make your decision about your marriage.

Divorce is what happens when the court makes an order dissolving a marriage upon an application for such dissolution by any party to the marriage, where such marriage is one conducted either in a registered church or a registry.

Judicial separation happens when the court makes an order separating a married couple. This separation only affects their living together under the same roof. It does not amount to dissolution. They can later re-approach the court for dissolution of their marriage or setting aside of the order separating them if they make up. They can also consummate the marriage, and if one of the parties dies, whether testate or intestate, judicial separation does not affect the other party’s right to their partner’s properties in law.

Separation on the other part is informal. This involves one of the parties to the marriage leaving the marriage or the matrimonial home, whether temporarily or permanently for one reason or the other without recourse to the court.

While most cases of domestic violence, whether in form of physical or emotional abuse, are better resolved with a divorce because of fear of loss of life or body parts, I recently met with a case which made me look for alternatives to divorce.

Mr. A got married to Mrs. B sometime in 2012, but because of Mrs. B’s job, she and her husband lived separately until sometime towards the end of 2015 when she quit her job because of their only son whom they had in 2014 January.

While they stayed apart, her husband abused her verbally whenever they had any altercations. But, what baffled her was that he would not even remember anything he said to her, sometimes, he would have even forgotten most of the facts that led to their quarrel in the first place!

When they started living together, the abuse graduated from verbal to physical, he would beat her blue-black and after about five or ten minutes, he would start begging her calling himself names and saying how he couldn’t imagine that he would do all that to the love of his life.

Mrs. B tried to do everything right, just to avoid beatings, but she soon found out that her husband would beat her for any and everything including if he had a bad day or if he was running low on cash.

When she couldn’t bear it anymore, she informed both families that she wanted out, but she was met with the most shocking revelation of her life. Mr. A has inherited a psychological problem from his dad’s family. His own father never had it, but someone in his family did. That ‘someone’ died in his mid fifties, and his death was attributed to this problem. Apparently, Mr. A never knew of the problem that ran in his family.

Upon hearing all this, I had to investigate whether she still loved him as no one could stop Mr. A from wailing and begging Mrs. B not to leave him because of his love for her. He also said he was ready to do anything to make it up to his wife. Mrs. B confessed she still loves him so I firstly had to advise her against divorce.

My advice to Mrs. B was to leave the matrimonial home (informal separation), while Mr. A seeks medical attention and she would only come back into the house after she has received a certificate declaring him safe to be lived with, otherwise, she must file for divorce as she cannot be expected to put her life on hold in perpetuity and she cannot also be expected to kill herself out of pity on her husband by living with him in his current psychological state.

The peculiarity of this case was that Mr. A had a disease, which altered his mental state without him necessarily having anything to do with it. Almost all (if not all) his actions were not deliberate and he was ready to do anything to become sound in his mind.

This is very different from a situation where one of the parties has no known or traceable psychological or mental problems and still exhibits bestial behaviors. We must be able to spot the difference, regardless of confessions of love. In my experience, both parties in most abusive marriages still profess undying love to each other even when one of the parties is dying.

My advice to anyone in an abusive marriage is to talk to their lawyer, they will most likely be unbiased, they will see the situation for what it is and will be able to advice you accordingly, as you may be blinded either by love or hate.


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