Petition for Divorce in Tanzania; Laws and Procedure


What is a divorce?

Divorce is a dissolution of a marriage by the Court on the ground that the marriage has broken down irreparably. Basically, is the legal action that ends the marriage before the death of either spouse.

What are the grounds/reason for divorce?

In order the petition for divorce to be granted the spouses has to prove that their marriage has been broken down irreparably.

In order for a Court of Law to prove that the marriage is irreparably break down so that it can Grant Divorce Decree the Court shall have regard on some grounds/reasons. The Law of Marriage Act, provides for these reasons and they include:

  • Adultery committed by the Respondent;
  • Cruelty, whether mental or physical, inflicted by the Respondent on the Petitioner or the children, if any in the marriage;
  • Desertion of the Petitioner by the Respondent;
  • Sexual perversion on the part of the Respondent;
  • Willful neglect on the part of the Respondent.

Either spouse may apply for divorce on grounds of irreparable breakdown of marriage, but no decree of divorce can be granted unless court is convinced of irreparable breakdown.


Proceedings shall commence with the filing a petition for divorce in the Court of law after obtaining a Certificate from the Marriage Conciliation Board.

  • No person shall, without the prior leave of the court, petition for divorce before the expiry of two years from the date of the marriage which it is sought to dissolve except where it is shown that exceptional hardship is being suffered by the person applying for such leave. An application may be made to the court either before or after reference to a Board.
  • No person shall petition for divorce unless he or she has first referred the matrimonial dispute or matter to a Reconciliation Board and the Board has certified that it has failed to reconcile the parties[3];  this requirement shall not apply in any case:
    • where the petitioner alleges that he or she has been deserted by, and does not know the whereabouts of, his or her spouse;
    • where the respondent is residing outside Tanzania and it is unlikely that he or she will enter the jurisdiction within the six months next ensuing after the date of the petition;
    •  where the respondent has been required to appear before the Board and has willfully failed to attend;
    • where the respondent is imprisoned for life or for a term of at least five years or is detained under the Preventive Detention Act and has been so detained for a period exceeding six months;
    •  where the petitioner alleges that the respondent is suffering from an incurable mental illness;
    • where the court is satisfied that there are extraordinary circumstances which make reference to the Board impracticable.


Referring the matter to Marriage Conciliatory Board.

  • First the spouse applies to Marriage Conciliatory Board located in the Ward they live or resides which must certify failure to reconcile parties before divorce suit can be initiated;
    • The law prohibits any person to file a divorce where the marriage has lasted for less than two years except where it is shown that exceptional hardship is being suffered by the person applying for such leave
    • Tanzania Law of Marriage Act require the applicant first referred the matrimonial dispute or matter to a Marriage Conciliation Board and the Board has certified that it has failed to reconcile the parties.

In referring the dispute to the Board, the petitioner is required to first secure an introduction letter from the Local Government Authority at his/her area resides and submit it to the Ward Offices for setting a date for the Marriage Conciliation Board to hear the matrimonial matter.

When the matter is referred to the Board no Advocate/Attorney shall appear or act for any party in any proceeding before the Board and not any party shall be represented by any person other than a member of his or her family, without first obtaining leave of the Board.

Filling Petition for Divorce.

After the Marriage Conciliation Board has certified that it has failed to reconcile the parties, the party can file petition for divorce to the Court, and in order to prove that the marriage has total breakdown irreparably must provide evidence regarding the ground /reason for divorce as mentioned above.

  • A Foreigner who domiciled in Tanzania may petition for divorce in Tanzania. The Law of Marriage Act Cap 29 allows foreigners to petition for divorce in the Courts of Law of Tanzania. However, the Law goes further and gives condition to be meet by foreigner before filling petition for divorce in Tanzanian that a person petitioning for divorce must have been a resident in Tanzania for at least one (1) year immediately preceding the presentation of the petition.
  • If the petitioner for divorce is a foreigner; he/she will be required to submit the following documents: Certified copies of the parties’ Residence Permits, Certified copies of the parties’ valid Passports; and Certified copies of the parties Marriage Certificate.

Where the Petitioner intends to use Desertion as one of the grounds to petition for divorce, he/she will need to have vivid proof the desertion by the Respondent for a period of not less than three (3) years, and the court has to be satisfied that the desertion is willful.

Nevertheless, where a petition for a decree of divorce includes an allegation of adultery on the part of the respondent, the petitioner, may and if so, directed by the court, shall make the person with whom the adultery is alleged to have been committed a co-respondent

The court will only grant a divorce if satisfied with the evidence of a petitioner, and the Court if satisfied that the marriage has broken down irreparable, grant a decree of divorce, together with any ancillary relief.

Registration of Divorce.

After decree of divorce been granted the  parties are required to register the divorce with the Registration Insolvency and Trusteeship Agency (RITA) which will then issue a certificate of divorce.