By DPA Rambo
I am sure that when you read the above caption for this article you screamed: “God forbid! Not my potion.” Well, I do not pray that you go through a divorce, just as I do not pray that you fall sick. But regardless of our prayers, as a reasonable person, you know that you MAY fall sick. And as a reasonable person you have a plan what to do if you fall sick; you are not waiting until you are actually sick before you gain some useful information about how to get to the doctor’s office. Likewise, do not wait until you get papers from the family court or until your husband’s girlfriend gets pregnant from him before you learn more about divorces.
Divorce is a part of our human experience. Like sickness, the need for it may come despite your prayers against it. So, let’s get used to it. In fact, unlike sickness, divorce may be the treatment you need to cure the ailment called failed, unhappy or unhealthy marriage. Always remember that there have been different ways to end a troubled marriage. Let’s consider the following ways that people have tried to escape from a marriage that did not turn out as they had hoped.
(1) The man ends the marriage by beating his wife to death,
(2) The woman ends the marriage by poisoning her husband to death.
(3) The man escapes from the marriage by abandoning his wife and children and moving in with another woman.
(4) The woman ends the marriage by abandoning her husband and children and moving in with another man.
(5) The man or the woman takes to drinking and fighting all the time as their way of dealing with the troubles in the marriage, or
(6) They speak to their lawyers and agree to go to the family court and get a divorce. And the family court will make the best arrangements for the interest of the children and make sure there is justice and fairness in the process of breaking up.
Which of the above six options is the best way to end a failed or troubled marriage?
Now, let me get to the main point of this post by telling you two important things you need to know about divorces.
First, no court has the power to dissolve (break up) a marriage that can be saved. If a marriage can be saved, if the dispute between husband and wife can be settled without divorce, if the husband and wife can be reconciled; then NO court has the power or the right to grant them divorce. How does the law guarantee this?
Let us look at the legal definition of divorce. It is the process by which the court can dissolve a marriage that had BROKEN DOWN IRRETRIEVABLY. Did you catch it? “Broken down irretrievably” is a jurisdictional condition. As lawyers, we call it the jurisdictional predicate”. It is the trigger event. The verb “retrieve” is to save. To retrieve something is to save that thing. When something cannot be saved, we say that such thing is irretrievable or not salvageable. So, divorce is not what brakes down a marriage. Rather, divorce only comes in AFTER a marriage has broken down so badly that it cannot be saved.
In one of the divorce cases we studied, the Court dismissed the petition and refused to grant divorce because the court found that the marriage had not broken down irretrievably. This was what happened. On one of the days the case came up for hearing, the man was not present in court. When the case was called up, the court asked the man’s lawyer: “Where is your client?”. The lawyer replied: “My Lord, I don’t know for sure. I believe he must be on his way here”. But the woman raised her hand. The Judge said yes. The woman said to the court: “He (meaning the man) will not be coming to court today. He is not feeling well so he has gone to see the doctor”. The judge asked: “How did you know that?”. She relied: “He called me yesterday night and said he was sick”. The Judge asked: “And what did you tell him when he informed you he was sick?”. The woman replied: “I told him to go and see Dr. Martin because it could be an allergy. I know he is allergic to rains and it has been raining badly in Lagos since the past 3 days”. The judge asked again, “Did he follow your advice’? She replied: “Yes. He called me this morning while on his way to Dr. Martin’s office”.
The judge turned to the man’s lawyer and asked: “Counsel, and throughout this while, your client never told you why he would not be in court today?”. The lawyer said: “No, my Lord”. The judge said to the man’s lawyer: “I will stand down this case for 30 minutes while you make a phone call to your client to confirm where he is”.
When the court resumed in 30 minutes, the man’s lawyer confirmed that his client was at Dr. Martin’s clinic. The lawyer also told the judge that he asked his client why he did not bother to inform him that he would not be in court, and that the man said he told the woman to inform him.
Then the judge said: “I have found that the marriage between the Petitioner and the Respondent has not broken down irretrievably. I will urge them to continue to talk to each order and to reconcile their differences. I hereby strike out this petition”. That was the end of it. Do you understand what happened here?
Second point: Before a court can grant divorce, it MUST first try to reconcile the husband and wife. Why is that so? It is so because, the court has to make sure that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. If there is an indication that the parties can come together as husband and wife, then the marriage has not broken down irretrievably (it is only a manageable breakdown); then the court MUST refuse to grant divorce, buy instead reconcile the parties, as in the case I narrated above.
So, all the fears and negative opinions you have about divorce and divorces are just because you never understood the meaning of divorce. And all those who accuse DPA of breaking up marriages don’t really know what they are talking about.
Before I end this post, let me make a couple of points in addition. First, divorce law and proceedings are based on the principles of justice, equity and fairness. Unless you hate justice and fairness, you will not want to end a marriage by any other means apart from divorce. When you abandon your family, you have ended the marriage but without divorce. When you turn your wife into a punching bag, you have ended the marriage in a different way than divorce. When you leave your husband and start sleeping with other men, you have ended your marriage in a different way than divorce. All these other ways of ending a marriage are the wrong ways. The only right way to end a marriage is divorce. So divorce is good, not bad. What is bad is the fact that your marriage broke down irretrievably.
Finally, to reconcile a husband and wife, both of them must act with their free will and without threat or intimidation. You cannot tell a woman that she cannot see her children again if she refuses to reconcile. You cannot tell her that you will not pay the children’s school fee and for feeding unless she comes back to the marriage. That is intimidation, not reconciliation. Your marriage is like the shoe you’re wearing. Only the person wearing it knows how it feels. So, if she doesn’t want to reconcile, that means the marriage is broken down irretrievably.