Forum: Spouses should be allowed an effective way out of toxic unions

Singapore Management University law professor Chan Wing Cheong brought up a sensible proposal recommended by the Government in 1979 - divorce by mutual agreement (Consider allowing no-fault divorce to remove blame game when couples split, July 9).

The Select Committee set up to consider the legislation did not agree, so the proposal was dropped, to the detriment of couples having to endure a painful adversarial legal process before concluding their divorce.

Ms Kang Zhi Ni argues that divorce laws should make it arduous for couples to terminate their marriage, to encourage them to first make an effort to overcome their differences ('No-fault' divorce threatens fabric of families, exposes children to vulnerabilities, July 15). This rationale deserves further scrutiny.

In the case of adultery, family violence, compulsive gambling, excessive drinking or imprudent neglect of financial maintenance, granting the suffering spouse an effective way out is humanitarian and imperative to the safety and well-being of the children involved.

Those versed in family violence know that abusers conceal their traits in the early days and victims risk jeopardising their safety by speaking up. Mandating the need to indicate faults puts such individuals at risk and increases acrimony between couples while diminishing their ability to co-parent.

Divorcing parents ensnared in a protracted legal process, by way of a system endorsing incessant assertions and counter-assertions, are forced to direct resources that would better serve the children towards exorbitant attorney and court fees.

While it is uncertain that no-fault legislation will translate to higher divorce rates, compelling fault to be established leads to more contested divorces. Permitting no-fault divorce alongside mediation, however, enhances efficiency for consensual petitions.

It is puerile to imply divorcees have spurned the sanctity of marriages. Individuals should be allowed to reorganise rather than endure unviable and toxic relationships.

Alleviating legal restrictions can ease transitions out of volatile marriages into stable ones, and successful remarriages and blended families prove such rearrangements should not be discredited as endangering the family fabric.

Divorced people are stigmatised partly because our laws have lagged. It is illusory to think we are solving the divorce problem by making it a Herculean task.

Divorce laws affect the lives of many and should not be dictated by parochial lens. A broader consultation is needed to ensure that the voices of those who are most affected are heard.

Lily Ong

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