Divorce lawyers were into brisk business for the best part of 2006 as divorce cases reached record high in Accra, with dire consequences for children. Statistics available at the Accra Metropolitan Assembly on customary marriage indicate that a total of 633 marriages were dissolved last year, (2006), out of the 1,714 marriages registered, while others are pending.
Preliminary information this newspaper gathered at the High court indicate an alarming trend of divorce cases, but the actual figures were not forthcoming at the time of going to press due to bureaucracy at the Judicial Service. A breakdown shows that in 2005 the number of registered marriages was 2, 199, while divorce cases stood at 484.
In January 2006, 55 out of the 119 registered marriages were dissolved. The month of February saw 66 dissolutions out of 152 registered marriages. The Registrar of Marriages at the AMA, Mr. Emmanuel A. Tettey, blamed the rate of dissolution on interference of in-laws and other family members. “Parents think that once they have children, they continue to remain so under their protection. Therefore, in the least quarrel they intrude and drag the issue to an unexpected end”, Mr. Tettey apparently explaining why many marriages were crumbling.
This he explains happens often when the couple and the in-laws live together in the same house, saying people must try as much as possible to avoid that. Mr. Tettey emphasized the need for partners wishing to come together in marriage to get to know each other well. “People must learn to walk into marriage and not jump into it. In the past, people used to conduct comprehensive investigations about their supposed spouses or partners before they come together. The youth of today must follow such example”, he advised. He said when couples file for dissolution, they are granted some amount of room to think through their intended action. “Even when people file for dissolution at the court it takes two years before the court grants a hearing to the issue.” The registrar continued, “The idea is to give people time to think it over.” He cautioned that there is no need for individuals to hesitate in marriage. Rather, he said what is needed is sustainability.
“We must come to the realization that no human being is perfect. Both must learn to say sorry for their offences in order not to prolong issues.” Public Agenda also hit the streets to talk to Ghanaians about the issue. Madam Amerley Annan, a trader said some women have ended up at the Psychiatric hospital because of marriages and problems with in-laws.
“If you live with them and a little problem develops between you and your husband, his sisters, mother, father and even brothers all join him to fight you as if you are their enemy,” Madam Annan said.
“I lost my husband not to another woman but to his mother, it was obvious she wanted to marry his son, so I left,” said Cindy Quarm a street hawker who sells Plantain chips.
In its Friday January 12, 2007 edition Public Agenda carried a research finding on divorce which indicated that if marriages last more than ten years they are likely to survive. The report said the most common time to separate was soon after seven years.
The research carried out by Tickbox.net in the UK also looked at the impact of divorce on 350 children. It found that almost 30 per cent wanted their parents to get back together and only 13 per cent objected to them taking a new partner.
Children of divorced parents were also more likely to have doubts when they themselves married.