Singapore’s take on Muslim Marriages

Singapore’s take on Muslim Marriages

Mohamed Fazal Bin Abd Hamid

Senior Associate, Advocate & Solicitor, Supreme Court of Singapore

I.R.B Law LLP

It is interesting how England earned its reputation as the divorce capital of the world. It may perhaps be contributed by stories in the media shedding light when a Russian oligarch entered into the largest ever payout with his second wife or when a Nigerian wife increased her settlement from her husband to almost ten times than what the Nigerian Court awarded her.

What about the state of affairs in Singapore, particularly for Muslim marriages and divorce? Does it favour one party over the other?

Firstly, section 35(2) of the Administration of Muslim Law Act (Cap. 3) (“AMLA”) states that the Syariah Court will exercise jurisdiction as long as “all the parties are Muslim” or “where the parties were married under the provisions of Muslim law.” It is interesting to note that parties need not be Singaporeans to seek relief before the Syariah Court of Singapore – although the Courts increasingly have started to enquire if these parties have any connecting factors in Singapore before exercising jurisdiction over the parties.

 

After the issue of jurisdiction has been addressed, the second issue to be considered is whether talak has been pronounced by the husband to his wife. Very simply, talak comes from the Arabic word meaning to “release” or more appropriately, “to divorce”.

 

A common misconception amongst the Muslim Malay community is that a wife cannot initiate divorce proceedings because of her husband’s unfettered right to pronounce talak. This is nothing further from the truth as the Muslim wife can initiate divorce proceedings as espoused in sections 47(4) (khuluk), 48 (cerai taklik), 49 (fasakh) and/or 50 (appointment of hakam) even though the Muslim husband has yet to pronounce talak.

 

Thirdly, the Court will consider the ancillary matters vis-a-vis the divorce. Section 52(3) of AMLA provides as follows:

 

a.        The payment of emas kahwin and marriage expenses (hantaran belanja) to the wife;
b.        The payment of consolatory gift or mutaah to the wife;
c.        The custody, maintenance and education of the minor children to the parties; and
d.        The disposition or division of property on divorce or nullification of marriage.

 

In Singapore, the Syariah Court exercises its powers in deciding the issues stated above in a fair and equitable manner for both parties. Regarding iddah and mutaah, the Court considers the “provision of necessary clothing and suitable lodging” for the wife. Obviously, this will be on a case by case basis taking into account the wife’s needs and the husband’s ability to pay.

 

Concerning the matrimonial property, the Syariah Court exercises its powers having regard to all the circumstances of the case, including the provisions of section 52(8) of AMLA as follows:

 

a.    The extent of the contributions made by each party in money, property or work towards acquiring, improving or maintaining the property;
b.    Any debt owing or obligation incurred or undertaken by either party for their joint benefit or for the benefit of any child of the marriage;
c.    The needs of the children, if any, of the marriage;
d.    The extent of the contributions made by each party to the welfare of the family, including looking after the home or caring for the family or any aged or infirm relative or dependant of either party;
e.    Any agreement between the parties concerning the ownership and division of the property made in contemplation of divorce;
f.    Any period of rent-free occupation or other benefit enjoyed by one party in the matrimonial home to the exclusion of the other party;
g.    The giving of assistance or support by one party to the other party (whether or not of a material kind), including the giving of assistance or support which aids the other party in the carrying on of his or her occupation or business;
h.    The income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources which each of the parties has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;
i.    The financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each of the parties has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;
j.    The standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage;
k.    The age of each party and the duration of the marriage;
l.    Any physical or mental disability of either of the parties; and
m.    The value to either of the parties of any benefit (such as a pension) which, because of the dissolution or annulment of the marriage, that party will lose the chance of acquiring.

 

In ordering the amount to be paid by the husband to his wife for iddah and mutaah, and in dividing the matrimonial property as well as any harta sepencarian (if applicable), the Court orders the same in a fair and equitable manner depending on the facts of the case.

 

As one can appreciate, this depends on a heavy emphasis on fact-finding and one must be well versed in law and in fact so as to ensure presenting the right and correct information before the Court to assist it in coming to its decision.

 

At I.R.B. Law, we have experienced Muslim lawyers who are well versed in civil and Syariah divorce proceedings which will be able to guide you through and explain to you throughout each and every stage of your divorce. We understand that going through such an event in your life is difficult fraught with emotional pangs.

 

So contact us to receive advice on how your divorce proceedings can best be tackled in order you can focus on getting back up on your feet. Our first consultation is usually free as we wish to focus on you and not on your wallet. Don’t hesitate and reach us at hello@irblaw.com.sg or call us at 6291 4091.
Tags from the story
, ,