Matrimonial cause proceedings encompass various aspects of marital disputes, including dissolution of marriage, nullity, judicial separation, restitution of conjugal rights, and the jactitation of marriage. In Nigeria, the Matrimonial Causes Act defines the standard of proof for these matters.
Section 82 (1) and (2) of the Matrimonial Causes Act delineate the standard of proof as follows: (1) A matter of fact shall be deemed proven if it is established to the reasonable satisfaction of the Court. (2) When this Act requires the Court to be satisfied with any ground, fact, or matter, it suffices if the Court is reasonably satisfied with such existence.
While criminal trials demand proof beyond a reasonable doubt, civil cases require a plaintiff to establish their case by a preponderance of evidence. In matrimonial causes, the standard of proof is to the court’s satisfaction.
The Burden of Proof in Matrimonial Causes under Nigerian Law
The legal principle on the burden of proof is consistent with the Matrimonial Causes Act. As per Sections 131 and 132 of the Evidence Act, the responsibility rests on the party who would suffer if no evidence were presented. The person asserting a state of affairs bears the onus to prove it, as captured by the Latin maxim, “ei quis affirmat non ei, qui negat incumbit probation.”
In line with the Matrimonial Causes Act, Section 82 sets the standard of proof as establishing a matter of fact to the reasonable satisfaction of the CourtCourt petitioner’s case hinges on this legal doctrine, and the burden to prove the existence of the asserted fact lies squarely on the petitioner.
The concept of “reasonable satisfaction of the Court” was addressed in the case of Omotunde v. Omotunde  9 NWLR (Pt. 718) 263. The court certified no one-size-fits-all definition of “reasonable satisfaction of the Court.” Instead, it depends on the judicial discretion of the individual judge. To secure the dissolution of marriage, a petitioner must present sufficient and credible evidence to persuade the court to exercise its discretion in their favour.
In matrimonial cases, the burden of proof rests with the petitioner to substantiate the facts they claim in their pursuit of marriage dissolution.
Author: Adedayo Samuel Adesheila, Esq., ACArb.
- Amah v. Amah  LPELR-41087 (CA)
- Bibilari v. Bibilari  LPELR-4443 (CA)
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