This month, divorce attorney and author of Saving Your Marriage Dato’ Dr Arunan Selvaraj shares no-nonsense advice on what you need to know about divorce and other marriage sabbaticals
Dear Dr Arunan,
I am a 28-year-old woman, married to a 43-year-old man. Ours was a whirlwind romance but due to age differences, we have decided to part ways. We want different things in life, and we would like to part amicably. I have a two-year-old child. What should I know before I decide to go into a divorce? Should I consider taking a marriage sabbatical?
Some of the important things to consider are to firstly ensure that that would be the route that you will be taking, and that you have considered all other alternatives, and that there is no hope of reconciliation anymore. Once you’re set that divorce is the only way to go, it is important to sit down and discuss the custody arrangements with your partner if possible. Sorting out what sort of custody to go for, who gets the physical custody of the children on a much early stage of divorce makes things so much easier later. It also makes divorce a lot less emotionally draining for all parties if negotiation could be done from earlier on, whilst taking into consideration the best interests of the child.
It is also important to consider the financial arrangements, looking into if there are any sales or purchases to be done as usually after a divorce proceeding takes place, the judge would issue an order at the beginning of your divorce case which would prohibit you or your spouse from selling, buying, or restricting any marital property. So if there were any pending plans to sell or upgrade your car, or sell a rental property, it would be best to sort those out first before applying for divorce.
Making a financial plan, with a budget to note down if there are any financial commitments or debts to pay, who is responsible for it, as well as preparing the necessary financial documentations for example, proof of income, documentation of ownership of home, bank account statements and so on. These are some important documents to prepare to ensure that divorce dealings can take place much easier later.
Another important area to figure out is the housing and living arrangements. Deciding who should stay where, if you want to stay in the same house as the spouse, if you want to move out or ask your spouse to move out. Deciding all this is important, so it would best to seek for your lawyer’s advice to see what would be the best option for you and your child’s interest in a divorce.
TAKING A BREAK
In my personal opinion, I don’t think marriage sabbaticals work. I think it would only lead to more polarisations, between the husband and the wife. Being too far apart, can sometimes make both parties comfortable with the distance instead of improving the relationship. In some instance, people do say ‘distance makes a heart grow fonder’, but for a marriage, it is important for people to stay in close proximities together and to communicate to each other any ongoing issues that might be affecting the marriage. Only in a situation where for example, the arguments are unbearable or the fighting between the two, is affecting everybody else in the household, children in particular, then taking a break from one another might actually be a good thing.
LIFESTYLE ALTERNATIVES TO CONSIDER
Judicial separation would be one of the alternatives to look into, if divorce wasn’t an option. The process of judicial separation is similar to divorce and the courts have got the power to make similar division arrangements of assets, living arrangements, spousal and child support. Husband and wives no longer have to stay together after a decree of judicial separation is granted by the courts.
Rusmah Arunan & Associates is a winner of the Matrimonial & Family Law Firm of the Year 2018 award at the Asian Legal Business (ALB) Malaysia Law Awards.
Dr Arunan’s book Saving Your Marriage is available at major bookstores for RM39.90