Govt plans to amend acts on child custody in case of a change in religion

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Source: The Malay Mail Online

SANDAKAN, Feb 12 — The government plans to amend three acts concerning child custody and property rights in case there is a change in religion by the husband or wife.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri said the acts concerned were the Act 164 Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976, Act 505 Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) 1993, and the Act 303 Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) 1984.

“Amendments to the acts were being scrutinised and considered for inclusion.

“The basic principles for consideration include the welfare and interests of the children,” she said when opening the Seminar on Women’s and Children’s Rights and Issues organised by the Sabah Women’s Advisory Council, here today.

She said she had organised a meeting with Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali to discuss issues that arose in cases of changing religion.

She said harmonising the shariah and civil laws must be given top priority especially in cases involving child custody and property rights in the case of a change in religion by only the husband or wife.

Commenting on the matter when approached by reporters after the event, Nancy said the process of amendment on the three acts was being carried out and expected to be presented in Parliament in June.

She said the amendment was being made because there were cases where non-Muslim couples divorced and one of them later converted to Islam and took their children along without obtaining approval from the former husband or wife.

“The Muslims cannot go to the Civil Court while the non-Muslims cannot go to the Shariah Court.

“So, we arrange for the divorce to be dealt by the Civil Court because when they were married, it was done at the Civil Court,” she said.

The minister said although the husband had converted to Islam and the former wife was not a Muslim, the husband must give alimony to the children even if the children were not Muslims. — Bernama