Thu, Jan 16, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Law to benefit deserted spouses

CIVIL DISPUTES Revisions to civil law that were passed by the legislature this week will make it easier for thousands of wives to claim back money from adulterous husbands

By Crystal Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Jilted spouses are expected to benefit from legal revisions passed in the legislature on Tuesday that make it easier to reclaim the assets of their wayward husbands or wives.

When claiming money from someone else, the plaintiff must submit a certain percentage of the amount claimed to the court as a form of bond to prevent abuse of the system. The assets of the defendant can only be frozen once the bond has been paid.

Presently, judges almost always set the requirement at 30 percent, meaning that deserted spouses frequently could not afford to file suits to reclaim money from their marriages.

Dubbed "anti-second-wife clauses," two of the 287 revisions to the Civil Procedure Law (民事訴訟法) limit this percentage to 10 percent if the claim is for alimony, living expenses or other marriage-related payments.

Another revision allows the court to continue holding disputed assets in custody before a settlement.

Women's rights groups hailed the two provisions adopted by the legislature Tuesday, calling them major breakthroughs in the campaign to protect the finances of wives jilted by irresponsible, adulterous husbands.

Yu Mei-nu (尤美女), a lawyer and official of the Awakening Foundation, said the majority of jilted spouses, mainly women, had difficulty raising the necessary funds.

"Their long-term devotion to the family renders them economically disadvantaged," Yu said. "The revisions help to redress the situation by lowering the threshold for temporary detention of joint assets."

Recognizing the pecuniary value of housework, a 1985 regulation states that wealth gained after marriage belongs to both husband and wife and should be equally divided if their marriage ends.

In practice, sly spouses have managed to dispose of their assets before leaving their partners, Yu said.

Yu's foundation, the Warm Life Association for Women (晚晴協會), and other women's rights groups have pushed hard for the legislation for the past decade.

They arrived in the legislature Tuesday afternoon to celebrate the legislative triumph and thanked lawmakers who backed the bill.

PFP Legislator Shen Chih-hwei (沈智慧) said the rising number of divorces made the legal amendments necessary.

"Hopefully, the two revisions can help close legal loopholes used by unfaithful husbands, the number of whom is surging as more and more Taiwanese businesspeople move across the Strait," she said.

Shen, convener of the Judiciary Committee, said the panel agreed to revamp the entire Civil Procedure Law in an attempt to push through the two articles.

KMT lawmaker Wang Yu-ting (王昱婷), another sponsor of the bill, said that single females can now go ahead and get married without fear of being left destitute if they lived off the earnings of their husbands.

"Many friends of mine who prefer to stay home after marriage had voiced concerns about doing so," joked Wang, who is single.

The legislature passed 116 bills in the past session, including the government's Budget for this year, as well as three internal bills. The body is slated to reconvene on Feb. 25.

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