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Women's Rights in Divorce Proceedings

It is never an easy decision to end marriages; the emotional investment involved and the repercussions that follow that decision can be difficult and emotionally draining to anyone, especially women. However, despite of such difficulty, when a woman makes a decision to end her marriage, it is essential for her to be informed about her rights which are lawfully accorded to her.

When filling a divorce petition, the wife may claim for the following remedy/reliefs:-

1. Spousal Maintenance

Under Section 77 of the Law Reform (Marriage & Divorce) Act 1976 (“the Act”), a woman is entitled to claim for spousal maintenance from her husband. The rationale behind this rule bears from the traditional family setting where the husband is perceived as the breadwinner of the family and the wife being dependent on her husband for the well-being of the family and herself. Hence, when the marriage ends, the wife is deemed to have lost her support system which puts her in a disadvantage. Hence this legally accorded right will allow her to receive support, especially financial support in order to sustain her living.

2. Share in matrimonial house and other properties

One of the common misconception when it comes to matrimonial home is that if that home is not under a joint name of the couple, then the wife is not entitled to any share in the house. However, the Courts often look into the contribution made by the wife to the matrimonial home, in every aspect such as payment of bills, renovation of the house etc. to exercise their discretion and order accordingly; provided sufficient evidence are adduced in Court to support the claim. This is provided under S.76 of the Act.

3. Children custody, access and care

In law, the mother is entitled to absolutely to the care and custody of the child if the child is of the age below 7 years old. In cases where the child is a female, the Court will be moved to park the custody of that child under her mother. The law recognizes that a mother’s care is fundamental to the growth of the children and will always use their discretion, wherever possible to ensure that child is not deprived of it. Furthermore, the mother may also claim for child maintenance from the father of the child to support the children’s expenses and for future savings as well.

4. Damages in adultery cases

Where there issues of adultery are raised in the petition, the wife may name the co-adulterer as the co-respondent and claim damages for the irreparable damage causing the breakdown of the marriage.

It is of the utmost importance to be aware of one’s legal rights when it comes to divorce. This is to ensure that the person who wishes to end the marriage to have their interests and securities protected legally especially so where there are children involved in the dispute. Hence, it is advisable to consult a lawyer before filling a petition in Court.

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