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Wife gets divorce 24 years after husband’s conversion to Islam
Published on: Wednesday, May 15, 2024
By: FMT, V Anbalagan
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Wife gets divorce 24 years after husband’s conversion to Islam
The Kuala Lumpur High Court has granted a couple, both now aged 74, a divorce on grounds of the husband’s conversion to Islam 24 years ago.
Kuala Lumpur: A High Court here granted a woman a divorce from her husband of 50 years, almost 24 years after he converted to Islam and married an Indonesian Muslim woman.

The husband and wife, anonymised as HAL and HAS, both now 74, married in January 1974.

In July 2000, the husband converted to Islam. He married the Indonesian woman, identified only as TEB, one month later.

In May 2021, the husband filed for divorce, citing his conversion to Islam. The wife countered with her own cross-petition three months later alleging adultery.

In a written judgment issued on Monday, Justice Evrol Mariette Peters said the birth of TEB’s child was proof of the husband’s adultery.

The judge said the daughter’s birthdate led to “the inescapable conclusion that the Petitioner and TEB had engaged in sexual relations prior to their marriage.”

Despite this, Peters rejected the wife’s claim that she was entitled to a divorce on grounds of adultery. The judge held that the wife, although aware of her husband’s infidelity, had tolerated it.

“The (wife) admitted her awareness of the adultery, although she maintained that she only learned about the subsequent marriage between the (husband) and TEB, along with the birth of their daughter, a few years later.

“In any event, despite this knowledge, she chose not to pursue a divorce … and even continued to accept maintenance from (her husband), although sporadically, at least until 2012,” the judge said.

Peters said the wife’s “deliberate choice to maintain the marital bond”, despite the “significant developments”, undermined the credibility of her claim that the adultery was intolerable and led to the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

The judge said that prior to Dec 15, 2018, when one spouse converts to Islam, the non-converted spouse can petition for divorce under Section 51 of the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976.

On that basis, Peters said the wife could have petitioned for the dissolution of her marriage when the husband converted to Islam in 2000, or soon after, either on grounds of conversion or adultery, but failed to do so.

The judge also noted that the husband had in 2012 gone to the shariah court to have the marriage dissolved, but the wife refused to participate in the proceedings.

Peters said that following an amendment to the law which came into force on Dec 15, 2018, a converted spouse can also petition for divorce. Despite this, the husband also delayed in seeking a divorce from the High Court, she said.

“This delay demonstrated a lack of urgency on the part of the (husband) in finalising his divorce from the (wife) in the civil court.”

Despite the delay on both sides, Peters said the husband’s conversion entitled the couple to a divorce, and ordered that the decree nisi be made absolute immediately.

As regards the division of matrimonial assets, Peters ordered that the husband transfer his share of the couple’s matrimonial home in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur to the wife for several reasons.

“Firstly, the (husband) had vacated the matrimonial home over two decades ago, offering only sporadic maintenance payments until 2012, while the (wife) and the children navigated life’s challenges independently.”

Peters also cited the “ostentatious and insensitive displays of affluence” by the husband and TEB on social media, which had inflicted additional distress on the wife, who remained legally bound to him and relied on their children for financial stability.

The judge also said it was a fair decision given the length of the couple’s marriage.

Although she rejected the wife’s application for arrears in maintenance, Peters ordered that the husband transfer to the wife his half share in another property, known as the Bunga Raya property, which he co-owns with their daughter in satisfaction of her claim for spousal maintenance.

“Firstly, it was not disputed that the (wife’s) financial needs were being met through the rental income from the Bunga Raya property. Therefore, maintaining this arrangement would alleviate the necessity for monthly maintenance payments,” the judge said.

Peters also found that the husband had tacitly accepted an arrangement which allowed the wife to keep the rental income derived from the property over the years. The judge also took into account the wife’s advanced age and the fact that the divorce proceedings, initiated by the husband, attached no fault to her.

The husband is appealing the decision to the Court of Appeal.

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