Should getting divorced be easy?

Published: Monday | December 10, 2012 Comments 0
Sherry-Ann McGregor
Sherry-Ann McGregor

Sherry-Ann McGregor, Contributor

Under Jamaican law, it is very difficult to predict how long divorce proceedings will take. This is because the system remains desperately flawed. The changes introduced in 2006 were intended to make it easier by enabling a judge to grant a divorce decree without ever having the parties attend court. But the new rules have not worked.

The problems need to be fixed so that there is predictability (with a reasonable degree of certainty) of the length of time it will take to complete an uncontested divorce. However, this will be the topic of another article.

In this article, we are taking a look at another jurisdiction in which a man can literally get divorced by saying the word, 'Talaq'. Talaq means "I divorce you." Under Islamic law, a man need only say the word to his wife three times to get divorced. At least one of those times it must be said in the presence of a religious official. This certainly gives new meaning to a 'quickie divorce'.

The problem is that, as simple as the process sounds, it is not without its share of complications. The most recent issue arose when a man in Indonesia sent a text message to divorce his wife after four days of marriage. The 40-year-old politician complained, after two days of marriage, that his 17-year-old wife was not a virgin and she did not deny it. He then decided to send her back to her family along with approximately $4,000 for her university fees and the cost of the trip home.

According to the reports I read, the family initially accepted the settlement, but there have since been requests for more money. The (former) wife's family denies that the demands for more money were made. They say that she wants an apology on the grounds that he deceived her into thinking she was his only wife. This has led to protests and may expose the husband to liability for a sexual offence if it is proven that he had deceived her.

There are even deeper issues at the heart of the complaints, and they relate to the illegal sex trade, human trafficking and exploitation of women and children.

It is not the first time that divorce by text has come under the microscope. In 2003, the digital era made Islamic divorce even easier when a Malaysian man sent a text message to his wife saying, "If you do not leave your parents' house, you'll be divorced." The court ruled that the message was effective to annul the marriage because it was clear and unambiguous.

The relative ease with which Islamic men can divorce their wives contrasts with the difficulties faced by women. Women must go through the court and prove some inadequacy on the part of her husband (such as impotence) or extended absence. Otherwise, she will not be able to divorce him.

It is clear that there are problems at both ends of the spectrum - the long, arduous process through the Jamaican court is no more desirable than the quickie text-message divorce under Islamic law. As in many situations, the solution seems to lie somewhere between the two extremes.

One thing is certain, divorce cases usually make very interesting reading.

Sherry-Ann McGregor is a partner and mediator with the firm Nunes, Scholefield Deon and Co. Send feedback and question to lawsofeve@yahoo.com or lifestyle@gleanerjm.com

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