Witness #21| Puan Nora
I am now 29 years old and was married for eight years. After we had an argument, I left the house in October 2020 and due to the Movement Control Order (MCO), the trial date was postponed and the divorce was legally completed in March this year (2021). Our divorce took place by pronouncing talaq in front of a Syarie Judge because my husband agreed to pronounce divorce. However, his consent was conditional — he made me promise that, if he agreed to divorce me, I could not make any claim for matrimonial property and child support. If I continued with those claims after the divorce, he would claim and contest full custody of the children from me.
In a state of being stuck and desperate at the time, I just said yes, as long as I could get out of the marriage. During the pronouncement of divorce before the Judge, other rights such as matrimonial property or child support were not touched on and decided by the Judge; the Judge only decided on our divorce.
I have three children as a result of that marriage, and now they live with me after our divorce. My children are eight, six, and two years old. Even while we were married, my ex-husband never provided adequate maintenance for me and my children. I only received RM800 per month to buy groceries, including our children’s necessities, and for my maintenance and other household expenses. Each month the RM800 would never be enough for the five of us and the household needs, and my husband would not take responsibility for the insufficient money. I therefore had to work hard to earn extra money to pay the Astro and Cuckoo household bills, and others.
After the divorce, he failed to provide my iddah maintenance and only gave about RM600 to RM700 for the maintenance of our three children, which is not enough. Recently, my ex-husband got married, and I found out that he gave RM13,000 and a gold bracelet to his new wife. I am very upset, as the needs of the children continue to be ignored. Thinking of the children growing up, and their increasing needs, I have to claim child support and matrimonial property — such as our matrimonial house which is currently occupied by my ex-husband, and a car in his possession — to which I contributed a lot in terms of my money and energy during the eight years of our marriage.
Although I have managed to get out of my marriage, I continue to face financial problems and dilemmas in claiming child support and matrimonial property. I was made to understand that in order to claim matrimonial property rights and child support rights, I have to file two separate applications and the legal fees are in the thousands for each claim. I cannot afford to appoint a Syarie lawyer and pay the lawyer’s fee to represent me on my RM1,780/month salary as a factory operator, while supporting three children including monthly expenses.
I was informed that alternatively I can file the applications and represent myself in the Syariah court, but I am worried that I will not be able to represent myself as a Syarie lawyer, while my ex-husband and his family are high-income earners and are able to appoint good lawyers and use their legal expertise.
I feel this would give my ex-husband the upper hand to take advantage, and to ensure my kids and I fail in our claims. I would also like to proceed with the applications for alimony and matrimonial property claims immediately, as my ex-husband was already engaged to another woman a month after our divorce and will be getting married soon. However, since the Syariah court is still not fully operational, I have had to postpone filing the applications since April 2021.
While waiting for the court process to take place, I still have to continue to bear the monthly expenses for myself and the children, on my own. These things make it very difficult for me to claim my rights and those of my children in the Syariah court.
This is a translation of the original testimony in Bahasa Malaysia.