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Top Reasons For Divorce In Kenya

This is what the law says

BY Mercy Kipchilat

Jan 23, 2023, 09:39 AM

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Nobody gets married expecting to divorce, but unfortunately, life doesn’t always work out according to our plans, and divorce is inevitable in some situations.

For many decades, divorce rates in Kenya were low, and divorce was even considered a foreign concept. However, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) has been recording a steady rise in divorce rates over the last five years; and in 2020, it reported that 17% of marriages had ended in divorce. 

Divorce is a difficult decision that can be extremely painful for everyone involved. It can have long-term consequences for all parties involved, especially the children. Therefore, before deciding whether or not to pursue a divorce, it is critical to carefully consider the reasons for divorce and try to resolve them, if possible. 

Kenya, unlike many Western countries, has a fault-based divorce system. This means that the law allows for divorce only if the person seeking the divorce can demonstrate that their partner/spouse committed a matrimonial offence.

Here are some of the reasons for divorce in Kenya as provided by the Marriage Act Number 4 of 2014.

1. Infidelity

One of the leading reasons for divorces in Kenya that is provided for by the law is infidelity or adultery in marriage. 

Adultery has irreversible consequences for marriage. It causes heartbreak, feelings of betrayal, resentment, and anger, especially in the spouse who has been cheated on. In the long run, this results in a toxic relationship.

A person can file for divorce in Kenya under the grounds of one or more acts of adultery committed by their spouse under the Christian, Civil, Customary, Islamic, and Hindu marriages.

2. Cruelty

Acts of physical and mental cruelty inflicted by one spouse on his/her partner or children are another valid reason for divorce in Kenya.

Simple squabbles and irritations that occur in everyday married life should not amount to cruelty, and if they do, it provides a valid ground for divorce.

However, the cruelty must be grave and weighty, causing injury to the petitioner's health or a reasonable fear of such injury, to the point where it is unsafe or improper for the parties to live together as man and wife.

3. Abandonment

If one spouse deserts the other, physically leaving their matrimonial home for at least three years without justification and absconding from his/her marital responsibilities, then the other spouse has a valid reason for divorce.

To prove abandonment, the spouse making the petition must prove that the couple has separated, the petitioner did not consent to the separation, and that there was no just reason that justified the desertion.

4. Life Imprisonment

Another legal reason for divorce in Kenya is when a spouse is sentenced to life in prison or more than seven years in prison.

When one of the spouses is sentenced to more than seven years in prison, the couple is forced to separate, and this long-term separation is a valid ground for divorce in Kenya.

5. Severe Mental Illness

If one of the spouses in a marriage suffers from a severe mental illness that cannot be treated using current medical knowledge, the other spouse has a valid reason to file for divorce.

The mental illness has to be certified by two doctors, and one of them must be a psychiatrist.