Evaluation of the rights of the child to participation in divorce/custody matters in Nigeria
This paper focuses on children involved in divorce/custody proceedings and their right to participation. It evaluates how and to what extent right to child participation are observed and protected in divorce and custody proceedings. This study is spurred by the increase in family instability, and the children affected; the concern that they turn out victims of divorce and subjects of custody, and their rights to participate in the proceedings. It adopts analytical approach and doctrinal methodology by relying on existing literature, relevant laws on the subject and judicial interpretations. The findings include issues such as: the minimal or insignificant level of child participation in divorce and custody matters as the child is the hidden party in a divorce proceeding and is usually not included as parties to the proceedings; the Family Courts which has less technicalities, trained welfare specialists and right based procedures for the child are not functional in many States, no independent legal representation for the child in divorce/custody matters at the high courts; the extent to which child participation right would be observed in custody proceedings is at the discretion of the court; award of custody in most cases are based on the testimony of the parents alone which may not be verified actually. In view of these findings, guidelines and measures to protect the best interest of the child and the legal right to child participation in custody matters are advocated.
Keywords: Child, Custody, Divorce, Child Participation, Court, Child Welfare, Proceedings