A prominent Indonesian Muslim scholar, Nazarudin Umar, has recently aired his concern regarding the increasing divorce rate in Indonesia, especially after the Supreme Court adopted a one-roof judicial system.
Umar says most judges at the Religious Courts conduct divorces too easily.
He adds that in order to gain “reward points” for promotion in their careers, most judges were motivated to do so, which makes it worse.
The more they separate couples, the more reward points they get.
Law No. 1/1974 on Marriage and Government Regulation No. 9/1975 on the implementation of the Marriage Law states that divorce is not allowed to be carried out except in court, after careful examination of each case by judges.
The law insists that divorce can only be allowed for one of the following reasons: One spouse leaves the other for two years successively without any legal reason or the other’s permission; one of the spouses is adulterous, a drunk, a junkie or a gambler, and he or she is not yet rehabilitated; one of the spouses commits cruelty and extreme oppression which threatens the other’s safety; one of the spouses is convicted by a court and sentenced to five years’ incarceration or longer during the marriage; the spouses are in an extreme and continuous dispute without hope of living together in harmony; and one of the spouses suffers from a disease and/or physical defect which is incurable, preventing him or her from fulfilling his/her spousal duties.
For couples seeking divorce, the law requires some difficult requirements that need to be fulfilled.
However the law does not accept as a basis for divorce the kind of agreement that Australia has. In Australia, couples can mutually agree to end their union after 12 months of living separate lives.
Umar says that he found many couples trying to deceive the law by presenting a joint agreement to divorce although they did not have any legal reason to support their desire to divorce. That is why judges should examine whether they really have strong legal reasons to divorce or not. If a marriage is harmonious, there will be no divorce.
In addition, all judges are required to comply with Supreme Court Regulation No. 1/2008 onmediation procedures in courts
In article 2, verse 4; it states that judges must mention in their verdicts that a mediation procedure has been performed. A verdict will be declared invalid if a mediation procedure has not been done.
Couples are given 40 days for mediation, which is extendable by 14 days. Clearly, couples are given enough time to find the best solution for their marriage. Spouses are assisted by one of the judges who act as a mediator, a professional or an independent mediator.
It often pays off when courts work hard to save family unity. Judges are endeavored to reconcile couples by giving them advice and it is urgently noted in litigation.
Judges seeking “reward points” is obviously a contemptible accusation.
Umar says that as judges, they are never promised that. A serious attention on the mediation procedure is required from the judges. And the Supreme Court has provided mediation trainings for judges, which are all aimed at saving Indonesian families.
Umar and his fellow judges feel very happy when they succeed in mediating conflicting couples. After the one-roof system took effect, there is no difference in style or trend to the litigation procedures in religious courts. Judges are still applying the same procedural law that they used to do.
So why is divorce increasing in Indonesia?
According to Umar, so many factors are involved. And all of which are complicated and interrelated.
First, the longevity of married life is influenced by the poor economic condition.
According to the Directorate General of the Religious Courts (Badilag), divorce data in 2010 showed that 67,891 couples divorced due to economic problems. It is common in Indonesia that a young man is allowed to marry a girl even though he is not economically independent. He has no stable job. And he still depends on his parents.
Second, a lack of responsibility by couples for their marriages. A husband leaves his wife for years and never comes back. In worse cases, he marries another woman.
In 2010, there were 78,407 divorces due to this reason.
Third, a never-ending dispute between spouses also causes divorce. Bad communication, immaturity, a lack of mutual understanding, etc. are the most common triggering factors. In this case, giving the couples more time will examine if there is a possibility or not to save the family. Some judges also suggest that couples seek help from their families, religious leaders, priests and others.
The data shows that 112,374 couples divorced due to this factor.
Fourth, awareness of the law also plays a significant role in causing divorce, particularly relating to people’s rights. A spouse who consciously knows that his or her marriage is not working anymore will suddenly think of going to court. As stipulated by law, they already know that divorce can only take place in court.
Most women nowadays are starting to understand that they also have the legal right to end their marriage.
169,673 divorce cases were filed by women in 2010 while 81,535 were filed by men.
According to article 10, verse 1 of Law No. 48/2009 on Religious Courts, courts are not allowed to reject any case filed with them. Therefore, all judges have to study and decide on the cases brought before them. Spouses file their cases with the courts that’s why the divorce rate in Indonesia is increasing.
And in terms of the law, the religious courts are the final step in solving these family problems.