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Last Updated: 2007/01/06
Summary of question
If a woman has not received alimony for 5 months, is she considered divorced?
question
Can a woman who has not received nafaqah (alimony) for the passed five months, consider herself divorced? For example; if a father desserts his first family because he has a second family and he no longer cares about the first family. If so, when does her edah (waiting term) start from, the time that he left or three months after he abandoned his family?
Concise answer

Executing a divorce, in Islam, is a choice which pertains to the husband; hence, women cannot divorce themselves from their spouses. The husband’s not paying his wife’s canonically-required expenses (nafaqah) does not constitute a right to divorce. Consequently, the issue of the ‘iddah and when it ought to be initiated does not rise in the first place. However, the woman is entitled to request a divorce, from her husband, from the Canonical Authority; the latter may enforce the man either to pay his wife the nafaqah or to divorce his wife, if necessary, in her absence. Assuming a man abandons paying his wife the nafaqah without a canonically-legitimate excuse, a divorce may be executed and the ‘iddah will commence thereafter. Today, thanks to modern technological means of communication such as e-mails, telephones etc., Muslim women all around the globe have access to religious and canonical Islamic authorities, thus being able to raise their issues (e.g. being abandoned by their husbands, not being given their nafaqah…) with the relevant sources and be able to attain a canonically valid divorce, albeit in their absence.

 

Grand Ayatollah Makarim’s Response

Assuming the husband abandons his duty of paying his wife the nafaqah, without a canonically-legitimate excuse, the canonical authorities may canonically divorce him from his wife. The prescribed ‘iddah will, thereafter, commence.

 

Grand Ayatollah Fazel Lankarani’s Response

She must approach the (Islamic) law courts. The ‘iddah commences once the divorce has been effectuated.

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