Under the amended civil marriages law, divorced fathers are now required to pay for the maintenance of their children until they have completed their university studies.
This came after the amendment to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 2017 was gazetted last week.
Section 95 of the act states that:
(a) by inserting after the words “physical or mental disabilities,” the words “or is pursuing further or higher education or training”, and
(b) by inserting after the words “ceasing of such disability,” the words “or completion of such further or such higher education or training.”
Family law practitioner Honey Tan told Malaysiakini that the amendment would solve the problems faced by divorced mothers.
“It was a big problem for many mothers who got custody of their children. The fathers refused to pay maintenance after their children turned 18 years old,” she said, adding that the amendment was retrospective.
“It is important to emphasise that all existing cases will be covered by the new Section 95. What a wonderful Christmas present, and a great way to end an otherwise dismal 2018 for child rights.”
Tan said Section 76 of the amended act on matrimonial assets distribution recognises the contribution of mothers in looking after the welfare of the family.
“An additional criteria for the courts to consider when distributing matrimonial assets is the duration of the marriage,” she added.
Either party can file divorce
Tan further pointed out that Section 51 of the amended act states either or both parties may file for divorce when one party converts to Islam.
“The new Section 51 makes it clear that when converted spouses die before their civil marriages are dissolved, their existing non-Muslim spouses, children and parents may inherit the deceased’s matrimonial assets,” she said.
Tan said while she does not have the statistics on the number of divorced mothers affected by non-payment of child maintenance, she hopes the authorities would have such data along with reasons for not paying, and identify the most and least effective means to enforce the orders to pay maintenance.
Looking ahead, Tan expressed her wish that the act would be further amended so that minors would not be converted to Islam unless both parents and the children agree.
Past court cases had seen that only one parent’s consent is needed until the Federal Court ruling in the M Indira Gandhi case earlier this year.
This was seen in a recent case at the High Court involving a mother who had converted her two children to Islam, where the judge ruled that it was bound by the Indira case. – Malaysiakini