According to National Registration Department records, 49,965 divorces were reported in Malaysia in 2017, which means at least 5 marriages break down every hour. Between 2013 and May 31st this year, 17,359 troubled marriages were due to financial issues, followed by 6,574 cases of third-party interference, and 4,884 cases of emotional and physical abuse.
No matter the cause, legally separating from one's spouse is always an emotionally draining and stressful time – especially in the absence of a sound financial plan or agreement prior to the divorce. Unfortunately, it's a topic we often avoid, as no one wishes to entertain thoughts about the end of a relationship, especially in the 'honeymoon' period. Talking about the possibility of divorce is also culturally regarded as inauspicious, or perceived as a sign of distrust in one's partner.
In Part 1 of this Special Report, find out from Dato' Fion Wong, a partner of Shang & Co who is actively involved in matrimonial and family law, how a legally-binding family financial plan can help to provide you with peace of mind. And how it, in fact, may help to protect your marriage.
A: If a woman has been out of the workforce for many years, would this be an issue during the divorce when she wishes to have custody of the children?
DF: That doesn’t matter. When the court is determining custody, the court will not look into the capabilities of the parents. It doesn’t affect the outcome.
A: Okay, but wouldn’t it be an issue as to who is going to pay for the children and how?
DF: In a Family Financial Planning Agreement, what will be allocated is of course for the children. When couples are married, it’s straightforward. If they’ve yet to get into a marriage, but they’ve thought of having children, then that aspect can also be planned out. For example, even if the husband doesn’t have sufficient funds to provide for the wife, the couple will have to prioritise paying for education fees and everything else that their children need.
A: Would you say that improper financial planning, or disagreements about finances, contribute to third-party interference and/or emotional and physical abuse?
DF: In Malaysia, there are a few grounds for divorce that can be identified, according to the law. You can file for divorce under unreasonable behaviour (which is the most common), adultery, desertion, or having lived separately from your partner for 2 years. So, there aren’t any specific grounds that state that the divorce is because of financial problems. But, we can conclude that no matter what circumstances you file your divorce on, financial problems contribute to it. Even if the divorce is because of adultery, finances still play a part, because parties who have not planned for a situation like this will now start to argue about who’s going to pay for what.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this Special Report, out next Tuesday. In it, Dato’ Fion debunks myths about nuptials and divorce settlements.