Three draft bills that will make obtaining divorces far easier are due to be presented to Parliament next month.
The Matrimonial Causes Act, the Recognition of Foreign Divorce Judgments Act and an amendment to the Civil Procedure Code will radically reform outdated laws that currently severely restrict grounds for obtaining divorce, Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe told the Sunday Times.
At present, those seeking a divorce must prove one of three grounds in court: adultery by a spouse with a third party, malicious desertion, or impotency at the time of marriage. The burden on the person filing for divorce is heavy, and the grounds are extremely difficult to prove. Some divorce cases drag on for 10–20 years, the Justice Minister said.
The Matrimonial Causes Act, however, will recognise the “no-fault basis” for divorce.
Accordingly, if a court is convinced that a marriage has “irretrievably broken down” for whatever reason and that both parties cannot continue their married life peacefully, the court can grant a divorce.
Aside from divorce, marriages can be nullified for reasons such as one or both spouses being below 18 years of age. Spouses can also ask for a separation without dissolving the marriage, which is also available under current laws.
The new legislation will make divorce easy for those whose spouses have gone missing. Under Section 108 of the Evidence Ordinance, if a person is missing for one year, there is a presumption that he or she is dead. Accordingly, a person seeking divorce can place an advertisement in the newspapers asking the spouse to appear in court on a designated date or for someone to present evidence that he or she is alive. If they fail to present themselves and if no evidence is produced that they are alive, then the divorce is granted.
Even if a marriage is declared a nullity, the legitimacy of the children produced by such a marriage will be preserved. This will cover issues such as alimony, property settlement and maintenance of the minors. Adult offspring between the ages of 18 and 21 will also be covered to ensure that their maintenance and education expenses are met. The court can order one or both spouses to pay, depending on their assets and income.
Those seeking divorce from spouses who have gone missing while abroad will be able to file a sworn affidavit in court and obtain a summons for their spouse, and it can be published in a newspaper. If the spouse fails to turn up in court on the assigned date, the summons will be considered served, and the case can continue without him or her.
Under the Recognition of Foreign Divorce Judgments Act, divorces granted by overseas courts will be accepted in Sri Lanka. The countries whose jurisdictions are recognised in Sri Lanka will be gazetted, and those who have obtained a divorce from a court in such countries need to produce a certified copy of the judgment and it will be registered in the country.
Meanwhile, the government also intends to amend legislation so that urgent and interim court orders and summons can be delivered in different ways, including via phone calls, emails and WhatsApp messages.
Source : The Sunday Times