INTRODUCTION TO HOW TO GET A DIVORCE IN CAMEROON
The procedure for divorce in Cameroon is complex, strict and legal. Marriage is an Institution ordained by God as the Holy Scriptures says “A man shall leave his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh”. Divorce in Cameroon remains the only recognized legal way of bringing a lawfully contracted marriage to an end and determining custody of children.
The question of how to get a divorce in Cameroon will be addressed in this article. It is important to know that in Cameroon, the sole ground for divorce in Cameroon is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. The relevant divorce laws in Cameroon are; Matrimonial Causes Act, 1973 read alongside Section 18 of Law No. 2006/015 of 29 December 2006 as amended and supplemented by Law No. 2011/027 of 14 December 2011 on Judicial Organization and the Family Procedure Rules, 2010.
RECOGNIZED GROUNDS FOR A DIVORCE IN CAMEROON
The circumstances under which a court may make a decree of dissolution of marriage are spelt out under S. 1 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. Under S. 1(1), the court may make a decree of dissolution of marriage on the ground that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. As to what amounts to an irretrievable breakdown of a marriage, S. 1(2). provides that the court may hold that a marriage has broken down irretrievably if, but only if, the petitioner satisfies the court of one or more of the following facts contained in S. 1(2) a-e of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.
- One of the spouses has committed adultery and the other finds that act intolerable to continue in the marriage thus a divorce in Cameroon is the only option. Adultery is voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than the person’s spouse. The proof of adultery is very difficult as the act that constitutes adultery is done in the most secret of places. It is in fact, the most discreet of human activities. Except in very rare cases, the parties are hardly caught in the act. The court entertaining a divorce in Cameroon would hold that adultery has been committed on circumstantial evidence.
- Since the marriage, one of the spouses has behaved in such a way that the other spouse cannot reasonably be expected to continue in the marriage and as such a divorce in Cameroon is the only option
- Desertion of one of the spouses for a continuous period of two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition
- That the spouses have lived apart for a continuous period of two years immediately before the petition and the other spouse consented to a divorce in Cameroon.
- That the parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least five years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition.
The basis of Cameroonian courts assuming jurisdiction is either domicile which is determined by the matrimonial home of the spouse or residence of one of the spouses and finally the High Court in the place of celebration of marriage. Another interesting development in the procedure for divorce in Cameroon is that the court’s papers can be filed, entertained and judgement dissolving the marriage even if one or both of the parties aren’t in Cameroon.
“Should I get a divorce” is the most widely asked question by a spouse who is in doubt about whether to institute a divorce case. Some decisive criteria include refusal to have sexual intercourse with your spouse without reasonable justification, continuous beating of your spouse, refusal to eat spouse food, unjustifiable late nights, and marriage on deceit or misrepresentation.
PROCEDURE FOR DIVORCE IN CAMEROON
The procedure for divorce in Cameroon is strict and must be applied by an experienced Family Attorney so as to obtain the required result. The Family Attorney is encouraged to engage in an interview with the supposed client so as to elicit the necessary information needed in preparing the divorce petition. The expert should request a copy of the marriage certificate and a birth certificate in case there is a child in the marriage.
Custody of children must be ascertained before the court can divorce the marriage in Cameroon. In a case where the supposed party seeking a divorce is not in Cameroon, a certificate of residence should be established so as to invoke jurisdiction for the court to proceed. Here are the required documents to be prepared and filed in court to kick-start the procedure for divorce in Cameroon.
- Copy of the divorce petition which shall contain the reasons and relief sought in the divorce in Cameroon.
- Verifying affidavit is a statement on oath confirming the facts contained in the petition
- certificate of reconciliation which must state that attempts to reconcile the parties has failed.
These documents must be served on the respondent personally by a bailiff so as to give him/her an opportunity to deny or admit the divorce before the court can make an ORDER NISI, ORDER ABSOLUTE and thereafter issue a CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE with a detailed Judgement. In a case where the whereabouts of one spouse is not known to the other, the divorce proceeding can still proceed as service can be affected via substituted means in line with the elementary civil procedure and the judgement arrived in line with the special matrimonial procedure rule will be valid.
Further, In a case where the divorce petition is served on the other spouse and he is in agreement, it is my recommendation that the consent approach procedure is adopted. In Cameroon, no spouse has the right to deny the other a divorce if there is sufficient evidence that the marriage has broken down irretrievable. The right to grant or refuse the grant of divorce lies exclusively with the judge.
CUSTODY OF CHILDREN IN DIVORCE PROCEEDINGS
In considering the custody of children in a broken marriage, efforts must be made to ensure that such children are not denied the love, care and affection of either parent. If one of the parents deliberately places obstacles towards the attainment of such parental love and affection, he will be violating the right of the child under the Child Rights Act.
The welfare of children of a marriage that has broken down irretrievably is not only of paramount consideration but a condition precedent for the award of custody. This invariably means that custody of children is never awarded as a reward for good conduct nor is it denied as punishment for the guilty party’s matrimonial offences. In a situation where the children are of tender age, there is no assurance that custody of the children will be granted to the mother.
To conclude, divorce in Cameroon remains the only recognized legal way of bringing a lawfully contracted marriage to an end.
Article By: Barr. Mafany Victor Ngando.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.