How To Legally End A Marriage Without Divorce

“What God has joined together let no man put asunder”, so the Bible says and so I agree. But I also know that not every marriage has God as its creator and I feel no guilt, if marriages which offend both God’s and man’s laws are terminated. The legal procedure needed to terminate a marriage that is no marriage both before God and man is called ANNULMENT, no DIVORCE, please note! So, what is annulment? And what is divorce?

Annulment is a legal action initiated to terminate the life of a marriage that ought not to have taken place in the place or that is celebrated in contravention of the law. Before I define divorce, let me give two examples of a marriage fit (in legal parlance, such marriage is called a null, void, or voidable marriage) for annulment –

Example #1

Mr Ade started a relationship with Miss Debby (now Mrs Ade, not their real names, please), while he was legally married to another woman with children, though he deliberately hid the information from Mrs Ade. Mrs Ade did not know this until both of them have been formally joined as husband and wife at a marriage registry.

It is clear that God couldn’t have been the originator of this marriage, at least going by the predominant Christian view. Also, under the Nigeria’s Marriage Act, a man or woman who is previously married to another person cannot legally marry another person, while the first marriage is not dissolved or the other spouse is still alive. The Marriage Act forbids polygamy. If a person is married under the Marriage Act, such person cannot marry another person under any other type of marriage, either customary or Islamic. Similarly, if a person first marries under customary or Islamic system, such person can never be allowed to marry another person under the Act. In essence, any person who wants polygamy should go for either customary or Islamic marriage without mixing it with the one under the Marriage Act. Where an infringement occurs, the second marriage is no marriage and also constitutes an offence. To terminate the life of such marriage, what is needed is annulment, not divorce.

If a marriage is entered into on deceit, such marriage also qualifies for annulment. For instance, if a person claims to be what he or she is not and the other partner enters into a marriage on the basis of those claims, such marriage is fit for annulment and not divorce.

Example #2

If a man and woman deliberately celebrate their marriage in defiance of the provisions of the Marriage Act, such marriage is null and void and is only for annulment, not divorce. For instance, if they knowingly allow a person who is neither a religious priest nor a marriage registrar to join them, such marriage is null and void.

Again, celebrating a marriage in a place apart from a place of worship, marriage registry, or under the special licence of the Minister renders such marriage null and void.

Divorce, on the other hand, is a legal way of terminating a marriage that is valid and regarded as lawful in the first place. However, to dissolve a marriage through the process of divorce, there are conditions that must exist.

For those conditions, click here to read my post on that topic.

By now, it should be clear to everybody that divorce is NOT the only legal means to terminate an undesirable marriage. If the Bible forbids divorce, it doesn’t forbid annulment of marriage especially where a marriage takes place between one married person and another person whether the other person is single or not.

Some other differences between divorce and annulment are –

1. if a marriage is null and void, that is, a marriage fit for annulment, parties to it may simply walk away without resorting to a court action because their relationship is not seen as a marriage in the first place. However, it is more desirable to approach a court for its annulment so as to have official record. In the case of marriages that are fit for divorce, parties can never achieve dissolution of their marriage by simply walking away.

2. after a marriage is annulled, parties to it will be treated as if no marriage has ever taken place between them. They are regarded as singles, while in the case of divorce, parties are regarded as divorcees.

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