The divorce laws in Bangladesh are based on Sharia law. This means that family law is linked to Islamic traditions, but laws also require divorces to be formally registered. So how do you get a divorce in Bangladesh? What are the child custody rules in Bangladesh following divorce? And how are your finances settled after divorce? Here we provide answers to these questions and more.
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The Divorce laws and types of divorce in Bangladesh
There are three main methods of divorce that are recognised under Sharia law:
This is where the husband pronounces three times “I divorce thee” in front of two or more witnesses. Traditionally, this would have been sufficient for divorce, however the Muslim Family Law Ordinance 1961 means there are now formal requirements for the recognition of full talaq divorces in all parts of Bangladesh.
The husband must give notice in writing of the pronouncement of a talaq divorce to the Chairman of the Union Council and give notice of the same to his wife. The chairman will encourage reconciliation during the three-month period of iddat and, if this is unsuccessful, the divorce will come into effect at the end of 90 days (or at the end of the wife’s pregnancy).
Where the two of you mutually agree to a divorce.
Khula is a divorce petitioned by the wife, provided that she agrees to forego her financial rights (mahr).
Grounds on which a wife may seek khula include:
- Desertion for more than 4 years
- Failure to provide maintenance for more than 2 years
- Husband’s imprisonment for more than 7 years
- Husband’s failure to fulfil marital obligations for more than 3 years
- Husband’s polygamy without wife’s consent.
Additionally, if a wife was married while under 15 years of age, the marriage was not consummated, and she chooses to end the marriage before she reaches 18 years of age, the marriage can be dissolved.
More women seeking divorce in Bangladesh
Over recent years, there has been a rise in the number of women seeking a divorce in Bangladesh.
As more and more women attend higher education and enter work – the proportion of women working has risen from 4% to 35% in the last 30 years – the numbers of women petitioning for divorce has increased.
Child custody laws following divorce in Bangladesh
Under the law in Bangladesh, a father is the natural ‘guardian’ of his child while a mother the ‘custodian’ until a certain age.
This means that a mother is entitled to custody of her son until the age of 7 years old, and her daughter until she has obtained puberty. A divorce does not end these rights, unless the mother remarries in which case custody will revert to the father.
A father (the ‘guardian’) will maintain responsibility for his child even on divorce This means that he will have a duty to provide child support even if the child is living with the other parent.
In common with many other Muslim countries, Bangladesh is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on Child Abduction. This means that there is no legal framework in place if your child is taken out of Bangladesh without your consent or taken from your country of residence to Bangladesh.
This can make it difficult to ensure the swift return of your child if they are taken to/from Bangladesh without your consent. You may have to speak to a local solicitor for specialist advice.
Financial settlements following divorce in Bangladesh
In Bangladesh, women have no recognised rights over marital property. As of 2018, no divorcee has filed any lawsuit claiming her share of the matrimonial property in any court of law in Bangladesh.
This means that if you’re a woman and you divorce in Bangladesh, you have to leave the marital home. Even if you have contributed to the property – perhaps by looking after your children and the home while your husband works – the laws do not take this into account.
Many women therefore choose to remain in an unhappy marriage as they do not have an earning source of their own and retain no rights to property acquired during their marriage.
There have also been cases where men deliberately behave poorly towards their wives in order that the wife initiates a divorce. They do this as they believe that a wife seeking divorce exempts them from paying denmohor; the alimony/support which is mandatory under Islamic law.
However, senior Bangladeshi lawyers say that this is a misconception. According to the 1961 Muslim Family Laws Ordinance, a husband must pay alimony to his wife irrespective of which party petitions for the divorce.
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