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Personal Status Laws


The laws of the country in which the marriage was contracted govern divorce and separation. Thus, divorce proceedings for a marriage officiated in Sudan are under the jurisdiction of Sudanese personal status laws.

Under Shari'a Law, a marriage may be terminated when its continuation becomes incompatible with Islamic precepts. Examples of such circumstances include apostasy from Islam by either partner, conversion to Islam by the wife of a non-Muslim, or conversion to Islam by either partner of a couple that practices a religion other than Christianity or Judaism.

Talaq. Divorce can be obtained in three ways. The first method, talaq, occurs at the husband's initiative. A talaq divorce is achieved by pronouncing the phrase "I divorce you" three times, and each repudiation should be separated by an iddat period. After talaq is completed, the court prepares the official documents and the Sudanese Government formally recognizes the divorce.

A man's unilateral authority to divorce his wife is checked by procedural safeguards that are designed to inhibit the abuse of talaq. The various steps of the talaq process reflect these limitations. The first stage, talaq bain, consists of a single pronouncement followed by a period of iddat. The husband can retract his statement at any time. The next stage, talaw bain bainunna kubra, can lead to permanent dissolution of the marriage. Talaw baininnuna kubra involves three pronouncements separated by three consecutive iddat periods after which the divorce becomes irrevocable. In this case, a marriage cannot be resumed until the wife has married another man, consummated her new marriage and obtained a second divorce. (S. 126)

Khula. Mutual agreement to dissolve a marriage without court intervention, or khula, is a second method of divorce. The couple agrees in advance to a monetary settlement in which the wife either returns the dowry or relinquishes financial rights or accepts remuneration in exchange for a divorce. The divorce papers are then issued in a court. (S. 142 to 147)

Tafriq. Tafriq, a third method of divorce, is the only form of divorce in which the court intervenes. There are five grounds for valid tafriq applications: physical or emotional injury, irreconcilable differences, discovery after marriage that the husband has an incurable physical defect (i.e., impotence), failure to pay maintenance to the wife, and imprisonment or absence without reason of the husband for over one year.

As in talaw bain bainunna kubra, tafriq prohibits resumption of the marriage until the wife has married and divorced another man. This stipulation is based on the idea that the couple may improve their relationship by prolonged separation or by the woman's association with another man.

A women is permitted to sue for indemnity should her husband seek divorce without her consent. The court determines the sum of the indemnity based on the length of the marriage. A woman who was married for fifteen years, therefore, would obtain a larger award than another whose marriage lasted only five years.