KUALA LUMPUR, June 16 — A total of 306,454 cases or 73 per cent of cases in Shariah courts throughout Malaysia from 2015 to 2019 were for the dissolution of marriages, with 90 per cent of such cases filed by the wife as the plaintiff, the Department of Shariah Judiciary Malaysia (JKSM) has said.
In an article published by the local daily Utusan Malaysia, JKSM's corporate communications chief Roziana Mat Amin also shared her findings after studying 669 marriage dissolution case files in Selangor, on the top 10 factors — including 21 subfactors — leading to the collapse of family institutions in these Selangor cases.
Roziana said the five “dominant” factors are due to finances (with subfactors of not giving “nafkah zahir” or maintenance funds, a lifestyle of having debts, finances which are not yet firm, spending beyond means); being abandoned by the other spouse; interpersonal skills or character (spouse's bad attitude, lack of responsibility, lack of communication and ineffective communication); abuse; and sexual (not fulfilling “nafkah batin” or marital obligations for more than four months, not achieving satisfaction, sexual intercourse against the order of nature and frequent sexual intercourse).
Roziana listed the five other factors as being external (relationship with other women or men, interference from mother-in-law and lack of support from parents/relatives); polygamy; religious factors (not fulfilling religious obligations and lack of religious knowledge); health (spouse with disability, illness, weak/old spouse and no offspring); and due to underage marriage.
Roziana noted that the delay of Shariah court cases have often been linked to failure to serve court documents, absence of the defendant, absence of family representative to attend the meeting with the hakam (marital conciliator) or the reconciliation committee, lawyers requesting for postponement or because the judge is on leave.
While she did not state who the defendants are, defendants in marriage dissolution cases in Shariah courts would typically be the husband, since the wife files 90 per cent of such cases as the plaintiff.
However, Roziana said the reasons why cases seeking the dissolution of marriages in Shariah courts drag on are often synonymous or overlap with the reasons for the marriage dissolution itself.
Citing former JKSM director-general and former chief Sharie judge Datuk Mohd Na'im Mokhtar — who is now the minister in the Prime Minister's Department in charge of religious affairs — Roziana said he had given the benchmark of 365 days for Shariah court cases to be resolved, with those taking more than a year to resolve being considered as backlog cases
Citing her own analysis using various statistic models to explore how marriage dissolution factors are related to delays in Shariah cases being resolved, Roziana said she found that the four "most significant factors" for the delays in the Shariah court include external factors (with the relationship with other women or men being the most dominant sub-factor) and interpersonal or character factors (with the spouse's bad attitude being the most dominant subfactor).
Using the statistical test of simple logistic regression, Roziana found that relations with other women or other men give the highest risk ratio or 2.17 times for the delay in such Shariah cases being resolved, followed by external factors (1.90) and bad attitude of spouse (1.83).
Using the odd ratio statistical test, she found that the four factors of marriage dissolution that gives the most impact towards late resolution of such cases are the spouse's bad attitude, lack of support from parents and relatives, the spouse's sexual intercourse against the order of nature and relations with other women or other men.
Roziana said there were also 11 significant factors contributing to the delay in the resolution of Shariah cases seeking for marriages to be dissolved, namely lack of responsibility, not giving “nafkah zahir” or funds for maintenance, an indebted lifestyle, spending beyond means, not achieving sexual satisfaction, lack of communication, ineffective communication, abuse or hitting of wife or husband or children, emotional disorders, interference by mother-in-law and not fulfilling religious obligations.
“Interestingly, the findings of this test also shows the dissolution factors due to being abandoned by the spouse, frequency of sexual relations, health and underage marriage are not the causes for delays in resolution of cases in court,” she said in her article.
Beyond the above reasons for marriages breaking down, Roziana said there are three other factors with the most significant impact on the late resolution of such Shariah cases, including the wife's appointment of lawyers, frequency of the court proceedings, and delay in issuance of court orders.
In the same article, she urged lawyers and the Shariah courts dealing with the defendant for marriage dissolution cases to be more thorough and firm in conducting the cases, to avoid the manipulation of procedures which would contribute to the backlog of cases.