Majority of married couples in Ethiopia have a common misconception that they can automatically dissolve their marriage if due to a disagreement the spouses live separately for a significantly long period of time. Usually, this occurs when partners in a marriage separate, through mutual agreement or one of the spouses abandons the other for one or another reason, and start leading their life separately. Though not legally divorced, these people are “divorced” in fact and most of the time remarry, produce heirs and own property separately. Such spouses do not approach the court for divorce unless other compelling factors arise. By the time they do so the Defacto Divorce presents itself as a tricky situation that could work to the disadvantage of one of such spouses. However according to the Ethiopian Family Code legally acceptable divorce takes much more than having a defacto divorce or living separately for significantly long period of time.
The following case is a typical case that has arisen due to living separately for significantly long period of time, without a pertinent Ethiopian court’s pronouncement of divorce decision.
The matter was between the applicant W/ro Minya G/Silase and W/rit Meseret Alemayehu. The case started when the respondent claimed the decision rendered by the Federal Instance Court regarding the verification of the marriage between the respondent and the applicant’s father.