Syariah Divorce in Singapore – some quick lessons

I divorced a Malay woman here in the Syariah about 7 years ago. There were a few things I learnt along the way that I wish I had known earlier.

Firstly the Syariah court comes under the MFLA – and specifically section 56A gives it complete authority (except by appeal to the president). This wasn’t always the case but after the 9/11 arrests here the government ‘may’ have given this up as a way of swinging the vote back (purely my personal belief – I’m happy to be corrected on this). I mention this because some people still mistakenly believe that the High Court can over ride a bad Syariah court judgement – it cannot and you know the chances of an appeal to the president!

Secondly – if you’re divorcing a Muslim woman she should have lived her life by the law of Islam. This means that she should not have left the house without her husbands permission and even suspicion of an affair is important. IF you have any of this going on – MAKE A POLICE REPORT. The cops won’t do anything but it is very useful evidence in the Syariah court, particularly when you are trying to paint your child’s mother as the harpy she actually is.

Thirdly – if you decide to divorce you really need a Malay or Muslim lawyer to help you through it. IF the first question your lawyer asks if ‘Did you beat your wife’ – then, you, like I – truly understand how bad the Marriage and Divorce rates are in the Malay community.

Financially – if you have a suspicion that in your marriage you will separate try to keep as much possible in single names – property, accounts, credit cards. The Syariah court simply returns all property to the named owned and splits the mutually owned assets 50/50. Hence the more that’s in your name – the more you leave with.

Timing – a Syariah court divorce is MUCH quicker than a civil court one. Mine took about 6 months. It’s a horrible experience of course.

There is some compensation paid to the woman – it really isn’t much.

Child Access and ‘custody’ (called control, care and custody in Singapore). Bottom line; unless you can show that your child’s mother is a drug using whore; your shit out of luck to get custody if you’re a man – particularly if the child is young and you are a non Malay. HOWEVER you should and must get some access. Even murderers get child access in Singapore. FIGHT for it. As male children get older they are expected to spend more time with their fathers. As female children get other it goes the other way somewhat.

APOSTASY and respect for Islam – critically important. You married a Muslim. Bottom line is no one in the other court system cares about the workings of the Syariah court. At all times you need the Syariah court on your side. Committing apostasy or showing disrespect to Islam or the old men on the bench will not help you. In some countries it would be a death sentence.

Enforcement. Unfortunately in Singapore the family court enforces Syriah court orders and they would probably rather not. Bottom line is you’ll spend a lot of time, tears and sweat getting access orders enforced. PRO-TIP – you’ll find a range of judges in the FC system – keep fighting till you get in front of some of the more modern younger Chinese judges (who may not be Muslim). There is also a huge disparity between the effectiveness of the FC in enforcing access orders (almost none – they never jail mothers) and financial orders (expat daddy will go to jail if he doesn’t pay child support!).

There you have it. Bottom line – don’t marry outside your religion and race and it will be much easier!

Daniel

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