by Choo Dee Wei
Published January 4, 2019
Act A1546 (“Act A1546”) - the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Amendment Act 2017 - came into effect on 15.12.2018. This amends the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 (“Act 164”).
See the amendment act here.
The amendments widen and provide clarity on the applicability of Act 164 in situations where a spouse converts to Islam as well as the Court’s powers which include dissolution of marriage, payment of maintenance and protection of children. See Section 3(3) of Act 164, as to the circumstances:-
the spouse converts to Islam after the petition for divorce by a single party due to breakdown of marriage is filed or after the pronouncement of a decree; or
the petition for divorce (dissolution on ground of conversion to Islam, mutual consent or by a single party due to breakdown of marriage) where one spouse has converted to Islam.
Any decree or orders made by the Court would be valid against the spouse who converted to Islam.
Act A1546 amends and adds the parties who are able to give consent to marry in the event a person is less than 21 years of age. Reference: Section 12(1) of Act 164.
Act 164 is amended to widen the restrictive nature of dissolution on ground of conversion to Islam under Section 51 of Act 164. Some notable points:-
Where one spouse converts to Islam, the petition for divorce can be presented in the 3 scenarios envisaged in Act 164 being dissolution of marriage:-
Previously, a petition for dissolution of marriage on ground of conversion to Islam can only be presented after 3 months from date of conversion. Now, there is no such restriction.
Where one spouse has converted to Islam and he/she can petition for divorce at any time and need not wait for at least 2 years from the date of the marriage. See references: Section 51(1), Section 51(2) and Section 51(3) of Act 164, and Section 50.
Act A1546 inserts a new section into Act A164. The new section (“Section 51A”) envisages a scenario where a spouse who converted to Islam dies but the marriage has yet to be dissolved. In such a scenario, the court is empowered to distribute the deceased’s matrimonial assets upon application by any interested party. See Section 51A, which spells out matters to which the court shall consider.
When it comes to the division of matrimonial assets, Act 164 is amended to be less restrictive. Some notable points:-
Previously, the court is empowered to deal with the division of assets acquired by the parties during the marriage by their joint efforts only. Now, the court is empowered to deal with the division of assets acquired by the parties during the marriage regardless of whose efforts.
In deciding how to divide such assets, the court shall now have regard to inter alia contributions of the party (who did not acquire the asset) to the welfare of the family by looking after the home or caring for the family as well as the duration of the marriage.
Subject to the considerations spelt out in Section 76(2) of Act 164, the court shall incline towards equality of division of assets regardless of whose effort it was to acquire such assets. Reference: Section 76(1) and 76(2) of Act 164.
Previously the Court was only empowered to order for custody or maintenance of a child until the child reaches 18 years of age or until the child ceases to be under physical or mental disability. Now, the Court is also empowered to order for custody or maintenance of a child until the child completes his/her further or higher education or training. Reference: Section 95 of Act 164.
Any action or proceedings commenced or pending before 15.12.2018 shall be continued under the amended Act 164 post 15.12.2018.