More Muslim marriages ending before five years

PEOPLE married for five to nine years made up the largest group of divorcing couples in Singapore in the past two decades.

But Muslim couples are bucking this trend and splitting up earlier. In the 2003 marriage cohort, for example, 14 per cent of Muslim marriages dissolved before the fifth anniversary, compared with 10.5 per cent who did so between the fifth and ninth year. This trend can be seen from the 1999 cohort onwards.

For non-Muslim marriages in 2003, 9.2 per cent of couples broke up between the fifth and ninth year, while 5.1 per cent did so before the fifth anniversary.

Those who work with divorcing Muslim couples say the trend could reflect how a greater proportion of Muslims marry young or remarry than non-Muslims.

In 2013, 1.2 per cent of Muslim grooms and 5.2 per cent of brides were below 21 years old. For non- Muslims, these were 0.4 per cent and 1.6 per cent respectively.

It is similar for remarriages. While remarriage is on the rise among Singaporeans in general, it is particularly common among Muslims. About a third of the community's weddings in 2013, or 30.3 per cent, involved at least one partner who was not tying the knot for the first time.

This compares with a quarter of such marriages, or 23.7 per cent, among civil marriages, according to the Women's Charter.

Family lawyer Abdul Rahman said most of the Muslim couples in divorce cases he handled got married by 23 years old.

"Their marriages face greater risk of breaking down earlier because they are ill-prepared financially and emotionally."

An earlier government report also showed that break-ups are more common in remarriages.

Said Madam Azita Abdul Aziz, director of social services at welfare group PPIS: "Such couplings tend to be more vulnerable because couples bring baggage from previous marriages and there may be comparisons with their former spouse and disagreements over parenting of stepchildren."

JANICE TAI