by Choo Dee Wei
Published June 15, 2015
To the sound of romantic music, in a cosy and quiet restaurant and right before desserts are served, he goes down on one knee and takes out a small box. He slowly opens the box to reveal a shining diamond ring inside. She gasps and so many thoughts are racing in her mind. He then utters the words ‘Will you marry me?’ She can’t believe it is happening. After a few seconds, she replies laughing and with tears in her eyes ‘Yes. Yes of course’.
Marriage then ensues. A commitment to spend your remaining lifetime with someone. A promise to love, cherish and honour. A vow that only the ultimate certainty i.e. death can bring an end to this union.
You’d probably know someone who is married or about to get married. The pre- wedding pictures, the wedding ceremony itself and the happy images and declarations of love on Facebook paint the picture of love, happiness and bliss.
However, what happens when this picture cracks? The first whisper of doubt which slowly builds up and goes ‘what am I doing being married?’
The partner then takes the first step. To consult a lawyer. The first sentence uttered is always the hardest “I am thinking about getting a divorce”. This sentence or any sentence with such intent carries multitude of meaning and effect. It signals the end of a fundamental commitment, the acceptance that both parties could not make it successful and the perception that in the eyes of society, this once blissful couple failed to have a happy ever after.
What happens then? A person seeking divorce can either seek on his / her accord to divorce or the couple mutually consent to a divorce by filing a joint divorce petition.
A joint petition would certainly make the divorce process easier and faster especially where children are involved. Sometimes however, a joint petition is not feasible. There may be a myriad of reasons for this; the partner is not agreeable to the terms of the divorce or that the partner committed adultery or had been violent so as to make it impossible for any form of discussion.
Placing focus on the divorce where the couple consent to it, this is provided under Section 52 of the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976.
Section 52 states:-
If husband and wife mutually agree that their marriage should be dissolved they may after the expiration of two years from the date of their marriage present a joint petition accordingly and the court may, if it thinks fit, make a decree of divorce on being satisfied that both parties freely consent, and that proper provision is made for the wife and for the support, care and custody of the children, if any, of the marriage and may attach such conditions to the decree of divorce as it thinks fit.
To cut through the legal language of this provision, it essentially states that if the couple has been married for at least 2 years, they can have a joint petition for a dissolution of the marriage and in that joint petition come to an agreement on how the marriage is to end.
Aside from being married for two years, the couple must have had their marriage registered in Malaysia and they are domiciled in Malaysia.
The joint petition will encompass matters such as payment of maintenance to the wife, division of belongings and child visitation rights. Essentially, the joint petition is akin to a contract where both husband and wife come to agreement as to what happens once the marriage ends.
In most joint petitions, there is no drama. Both husband and wife are resigned to the fact that the marriage can’t be saved.
When couples appear in court for the hearing of the joint petition, they greet each other cordially. When their petition is called to be heard, they stand next to each other in front of the judge who then, after being satisfied to the terms and that both husband and wife agree to the said terms, grants a decree nisi. After 3 months (or any other period the Court may award), this decree nisi becomes absolute and the couple is officially divorced.
It is truly sad. When getting married, the couple would stand side by side before a person with the power to grant recognition and acknowledgment to that union. The couple can hardly stand being away from each other. Now here in court, the couple again stand side by side. But this time, they can hardly stand being with each other.
It’s a depressing cycle really. The couple who started as strangers before dating now find themselves back at the start, strangers.
So how does one avoid being sucked into this cycle? This author is not married and certainly is not in a position to proffer advice on keeping and sustaining a marriage. Only advice that comes to mind would be: Just think very carefully before saying ‘I do’.