PETALING JAYA: Any divorce of a marriage solemnised in a civil registry must be resolved in the civil court even if one of the spouses has converted to Islam, according to the latest amendment to the law.
Family law practitioner Goh Siu Lin said the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) (Amendment) Act, which came into force on Dec 15, made it clear that any marriage contracted under civil law must be dissolved in the civil court.
She said the civil court would have exclusive jurisdiction when marriage was contracted under the civil law.
“Matters ancillary to the divorce must also be resolved there,” she said.
Other important reforms include that clarity is provided for under Section 51A, in relation to the distribution of assets of a spouse who has converted prior to the dissolution of a non-Muslim marriage.
Section 51 (A1) states that when a person who has converted to Islam dies before the non-Muslim marriage has been dissolved, that person’s matrimonial assets shall be distributed by the court among interested parties in accordance with the provisions under the section upon application by any interested party.
“Interested party or parties are defined as the surviving spouse and children of the marriage if any, and the parents of the deceased converted spouse,” she said.
Goh also noted that extending the legal obligation to maintain a child beyond 18 years old until the completion of his or her further or higher education was a long overdue reform.
She said the reform also underlined that statutory recognition in Section 76, of the non-financial contribution of a spouse in looking after the home or caring for the family as well as the duration of the marriage, was a factor that would be considered in determining a fair and equitable division of matrimony assets.
Senior family law practitioner Honey Tan said children and wives were the biggest beneficiaries of the amendments which were passed last year.
She said for the longest time, many wives who had custody of their children after the divorce had a tough time maintaining and providing education for their children after they turned 18.
“It ensures parents, especially fathers, will have to maintain their children until they complete their further or higher education or training.
“As the amendments are retrospective, it is important for parties of on-going divorces to know that these amendments apply to their cases.
“It’s a wonderful way to close 2018. Children of divorced families will have their education matters taken care of and wives’ non-monetary contribution in looking after the family and home is no longer of a lesser value,” she said.
Unilateral conversion of minors has hogged the headlines in recent years and among the high-profile case is kindergarten teacher M. Indira Gandhi, who challenged the conversion of her three children to Islam by her ex-husband Muhammad Riduan Abdullah.
The apex court on Jan 29 nullified the conversion of her three children Tevi Darsiny, Karan Dinesh and Prasana Diksa (now 20, 19 and 10).