There have been many discussions about the rapid increase in cost for wedding these days. Yet, not many people talk about, or are even aware of, how much a divorce would cost them.
Of course, one does not get married thinking about a divorce, but did you know that, as of 2014, it was reported that one divorce takes place every 10 minutes in Malaysia and the number of divorces have more than doubled in just eight years from 2004? As the divorce rate in Malaysia is increasing year on year, it is important to equip yourself with important details to protect yourself financially, should it ever happen to you.
Ironically, the number 1 cause of divorce in Malaysia is financial problems, the second most common reason cited as being infidelity while the third reason fighting over key differences of raising children.
How much will the divorce proceedings cost?
When it comes to the cost of divorce, there are two main factors to take into account, which are the court fees and the legal fees. The court fees are fixed, but the legal fees largely depends on the complexity of the case and the lawyer’s fee.
Therefore, it is not easy to determine the cost of divorce, but understanding the difference between professional legal fees and court awarded costs (court fees) is important. Do take note that there are different procedures for Muslim and non-Muslim couples, as Muslim divorce proceedings will take place at the Syariah court.
The court cost
You will have to file your divorce application or petition in court first before the divorce process can proceed. This comes with a court fee, which is separate from the legal fees and includes:
- RM160.00 Filing of a Divorce Petition (General Form of Petition or Joint Petition)
- RM16.00 Filing of Statement as to Arrangement for Children (General Form of Petition or Joint Petition)
- RM16.00 Filing of an Affidavit in Support of Petition (General Form of Petition or Joint Petition)
- RM 6.00 Each exhibit referred to an affidavit, statement or petition and required to be marked
Note: court fees may vary, check with the court staff for exact filing fees.
An estimate of legal fees
The more complicated a divorce case is, such as, if both parties cannot agree on the division of assets, if financial support is required, or children custody is involved, the more expensive the legal fees will tend to be. A lawyer’s fee can also depend on their seniority and level of experience.
- Contested divorces: takes a minimum of one year, and may cost a minimum of RM5,000 and can even go up to RM50,000 or more.
- Mutual Consent Divorces (joint petition): takes three to six months, and may cost between RM3,000 to RM6,000.
Though you may not need to appoint a lawyer when filing for a divorce, this may be the advisable course of action when a Contested Divorce requires a court hearing. Though this will then incur more cost, at least you have a lawyer to guide you through the tricky process. But bear in mind, each time your lawyer attends a court hearing, you will be charged and this will increase the legal fees.
If the cost of engaging a lawyer worries you, you have the option of legal aid. In Malaysia, there are two main organisations offering legal aid. The first is The Bar Council Legal Aid Center, which was set up by the Malaysian Bar and the second is The Legal Aid Department which is under the Prime Minister Department. But, you will need to undergo a verification process before you qualify to receive the legal aid.
A Mutual Consent Divorce (joint petition), on the other hand will cost less. This means when a couple mutually agrees to divorce therefore it will be less complex, and as such the legal fees will be lower. In fact, if you can come to an agreement about financials, matrimonial assets and the arrangements for children, you may not have to attend a court hearing at all, potentially saving you thousands of ringgit.
What are you entitled to from the divorce?
As for the division of matrimonial assets, that will be decided in court. However, there may be other entitlements like alimony and child maintenance.
Alimony is usually awarded to the wife, and given by the husband and this applies to both Muslims and non-Muslims, as well as child custody if the wife has been granted custody.
As for Muslims, under the Islamic law women are entitled to:
- mutaah, a consolatory gift granted by the husband for his ex-wife after their divorce
- custody of the child
- maintenance of the child
- maintenance period of iddah (the period a woman must observe after the death of her spouse or after a divorce)
- harta sepencarian (property jointly acquired by husband and wife during the subsistence of the marriage in accordance with the conditions stipulated by Hukum Syarak.)
Divorce cases may open a can of worms as both sides battle it out during the court proceedings, and it can also stretch on for years. As a result, the consequences of divorce is beyond the battles of assets but can also affect one’s psychology and morale, as well as the children involved. During or after the divorce procedure, some individuals may seek counselling and therapy which can cost between RM300 – RM400 per session (or more) at private psychologists.
Also consider the fact that you no longer have shared income, which means you will be shouldering your expenses separately from now on. Do review your monthly budget and spending to help you ease into adjusting to single income.
The cost for divorce could be the same amount you spend on the wedding, sometimes even more. Therefore, both spouse needs to be educated on their rights and what they are entitled to if the unfortunate event such as divorce were to happen to ensure they will not be taken for a ride.