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Step-by-step explainer on how to file for divorce in Kenya

Divorce cases in Kenya often take a long time to be resolved due to court workload, lack of cooperation among parties and their advocates

A couple fighting

Divorce is an emotionally challenging and legally complex process that marks the dissolution of a marriage.

In Kenya, the legal proceedings for obtaining a divorce are guided by the Marriage Act and the Matrimonial Causes Act.

Understanding how to navigate these legal waters is crucial for anyone considering this significant life decision.

This article outlines the steps involved in filing for a divorce in Kenya, the grounds for divorce, and other essential details.

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Under Kenyan law, a marriage can be dissolved if it is proven that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The specific grounds for divorce include:

  1. Adultery: Proof that one spouse has had voluntary sexual intercourse with a person other than their spouse.
  2. Cruelty: Physical or mental suffering inflicted by one spouse on the other.
  3. Desertion: One spouse has been absent without reasonable cause for at least three years.
  4. Imprisonment: When a spouse is sentenced to a life term or to a term of seven years or longer.
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5. Insanity: One spouse has been suffering from a mental disorder sufficient to warrant continued confinement.

6. Presumption of death: If one spouse has been missing for seven years or more, and there is a presumption of their death, the other spouse can seek a divorce.

7. Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage: This could include evidence of such breakdown through one of the first four grounds or through other evidence demonstrating that the marriage cannot be salvaged.

One has to prove beyond reasonable doubt that their spouse committed either of the mentioned grounds.

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It's advisable to consult with a lawyer who specializes in family law. A lawyer can offer guidance tailored to your specific circumstances, including drafting necessary documents and representing you in court.

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The divorce process officially begins when one spouse (the petitioner) files a petition for divorce in the High Court. The petition should include:

  • Full names and addresses of both parties.
  • Details of the marriage (date and place of marriage).
  • The grounds for divorce.
  • Information regarding children and custody preferences, if applicable.
  • Details of any property and how it should be divided.
  • Confirmation that the marriage is beyond repair.

Once the petition is filed, it must be formally served on the other spouse (the respondent).

This ensures that the respondent is aware of the divorce proceedings and has an opportunity to respond.

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The respondent has 30 days to respond to the petition. They can either agree to the divorce and its terms, contest the divorce, or file a counter-petition.

If there are disputes regarding the divorce terms, particularly concerning children or property, mediation might be recommended to attempt a settlement.

If mediation fails, the case will go to a hearing where both parties can present their arguments.

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If the court is satisfied that the grounds for divorce have been met and all issues have been justly resolved, it will issue a decree nisi, which is a preliminary divorce decree. After six months, if there have been no successful appeals or reasons presented against the divorce, the decree becomes absolute, finalizing the divorce.

Why divorce cases take long

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Divorce cases are supposed to take a maximum of two months to be resolved based on the information provided herein.

However, these cases take so long to be resolved due to court workload. Courts often have inadequate time to solve divorce cases because the matters to be handled are usually too many.

Furthermore, the cases are often dragged on due to a lack of cooperation among some witnesses and improper coordination of the parties and their advocates. As such, a divorce case can take up to two years to be resolved.

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