The new amendment to the Women's Charter now allows married couples to apply for divorce by sharing “joint responsibility” for their marriage’s breakdown.
Parliament amended the Women’s Charter last Monday (Jan 10), passing a bill to allow married couples to divorce by mutual agreement.
While the past grounds required for divorce included desertion, separation, adultery or unreasonable behaviour; the new bill now allows couples to share “joint responsibility” for the irrevocable breakdown of their marriage.
Although it is meant as a more amicable option for couples to split up legally without having to point fingers at the other, some Members of Parliament (MPs) voiced their concerns on how the new bill may backfire and instead encourage divorces by making it easier for married couples to split.
We spoke to a few youths to see where their opinions lay in regards to the matter.
“I think having a mutual divorce agreement might encourage people to get married in the first place, because they know there’s an easier alternative if marriage breaks down.
“Having prolonged divorce proceedings especially where children are used as evidence would definitely harm the children. Mutual divorce creates an easier environment for children to accept and adapt to the process.
“More can be done to protect the third parties of a divorce proceeding. In cases where divorce is not mutually agreed upon, children should not be used as evidence or reason, but rather the case should solely consider the marriage.” – Putra Syafiq, 26, Student
“It may be unfair for either party, but when there are kids involved, it would be good if the parents can have a mutual agreement, else it would affect the kids mental and emotional well-being.
“At least, when the children see their parents are on good terms, they won’t have to feel torn apart choosing between parents.
“Going through a divorce is already hard enough. It doesn’t have to add in the tensions and always wanting to find faults with each other. Mutual agreement solves it all.” – Firda Fatasya, 28, Patient Service Associate
“Even though the intentions of reducing the trauma of children and helping the family to heal and move on are noble motivations, I feel that in making the divorce process less painful and arduous may elicit an increase in divorces.
“I think divorce often starts off as a notion, or an intrusive thought when things go sour in a marriage, but when people think of the acrimony and lengthy time frame, they may think it too severe a route to go down and will stop floating around the idea.
“By making the divorce process faster and less painful, divorce suddenly becomes a viable exit strategy whenever marriage goes south, and more people may resort to it.
“Children suffer greatly when parents go through divorce, so if the intention of the changes is to lessen the suffering of children, making divorce easier and risking it becoming more frequent may not be the way to go.” – Sean, 20, NSF
“In the context of extreme cases when children suffer from the process of divorce, I do agree the new bill is needed to reduce animosity since stability is needed for children to feel safe in their own family unit.
“But, one thing that is difficult to determine is what is ‘irretrievable’ marriage and how much the marriage has lived up to the vows that couples said during the marriage ceremony. Because everybody’s love language is different and they have different ways of taking care of their loved ones. How would the court justify whether they have really stuck to the vows?
“I do think divorce by mutual agreement is a sufficient condition because marriage is based on mutual agreement. But I think it’s different when it is legitimised in the eye of the law because how couples behave in the marriage becomes associated with societal expectations of what is acceptable.
“Maybe it would be better if there is a psychologist or a therapist to evaluate the state of a ‘relationship breakdown’ so that it doesn’t tarnish the sacredness of the marriage when the new bill is applied.” – Vanessa Xie, 26, Student
“I understand how one might say the new bill could encourage more divorces since it — in a sense — makes it an ‘easier’ process, so people would be more likely to consider it an option.
“But if a couple falls out of love, wouldn’t it be better for this amendment to be put in place so there can be an amicable breakup instead of having to deal with or find faults in one another to have grounds for divorce?
“One issue I hope will have more attention after a divorce is housing. What happens to the couple’s house now, since they can’t possibly live together anymore? If one party keeps the matrimonial flat after a divorce, what will happen to the other party? Are they expected to just move back in with their parents after they are divorced?
“It’ll probably be very inconvenient and infeasible to expect an adult to move back in with their parents, especially if the divorce is between couples who have been living together for many years or have family issues that prevent them from moving back. The whole process also seems rather complicated, especially if both parties can’t come to an agreement.” – Kaitlin Chia, 19, Student
“I don’t think the new bill changes much, it just makes divorce less divisive and easier on the children and sounds nicer. The conditions for divorce to be allowed by court seems to remain somewhat the same.
“I am for reducing the three year separation or something to a shorter time period but I feel that changing the conditions for divorce to pass in court should never allow for more ‘convenient’ divorce.
“Marriage is the backbone of family and society, and making it easier to tear it apart in the name of allowing it to be more ‘amicable’ should never be the solution.” – Timothy, 20, NSF
Written by Shannon Kuan, Caleb Lau, Nicki Chan, and Nur Sabrina
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