Embarking on the path of divorce is a challenging journey. The emotional upheaval can often overshadow the legal realities underpinning Singapore’s divorce procedures.
Understanding each step of the divorce process in Singapore is crucial, providing the groundwork for informed decisions that protect both your interests and those of any children involved.
This article seeks to guide you through these procedures, making a complex process more approachable and manageable.
1. Eligibility And Grounds For Divorce
In the divorce process in Singapore, eligibility criteria are strictly adhered to. Firstly, your marriage must have lasted at least three years. Additionally, either spouse must be a Singapore citizen, domiciled in the country, or have resided in Singapore for at least three years immediately before filing for divorce.
In Singapore, the sole ground for divorce is based on the fact that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This fundamental breakdown can be demonstrated through one or more of the following factual circumstances:
The plaintiff must prove that the defendant has committed adultery, and the plaintiff finds it intolerable to live with the defendant. Proving adultery can be complicated and often requires solid evidence, such as photographs, video footage, or witness testimonies. It’s important to note that if the plaintiff continues to live with the defendant for more than six months after becoming aware of the partner’s committed adultery, they may not use adultery as the ground for divorce.
The plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant has behaved in such a way that they cannot reasonably be expected to live with the defendant. This can include physical violence, verbal abuse, habitual drunkenness or drug-taking, and financial irresponsibility, among other things.
The defendant has deserted the plaintiff for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the filing of the writ. Desertion implies that the defendant has no intention of returning.
Both parties have lived apart for a continuous period of at least three years, and the defendant consents to a judgement being granted. If the defendant does not agree to interim judgement, the period of separation extends to four years.
In demonstrating these grounds, one must provide detailed information about the circumstances and events leading to the marriage breakdown. Additionally, if these grounds are contested, further evidence may be required to substantiate these claims.
2. Process Of Filing For Divorce
When commencing the divorce process in Singapore, the initial step involves filing a Writ for Divorce at the Family Justice Court. This is accompanied by two other crucial documents: a Statement of Claim, which stipulates the proposed divorce terms, and a Statement of Particulars, which elaborates on the ground for the divorce.
A proposed parenting plan, known as the Proposed Agreed Parenting Plan, must be included if children are involved.
The documents are then served to the other spouse (the defendant), who is given eight days to decide whether to contest the divorce. If they choose not to, the plaintiff can proceed with an uncontested divorce – a quicker, less complicated process.
3. Division Of Matrimonial Assets And Maintenance
The Court follows a principle of just and equitable distribution, considering various factors such as direct and indirect contributions to the acquisition of these assets, any debts incurred, the welfare of any children, and the future earning potential of both parties.
If applicable, the Court can order maintenance for the wife and children, the amount being determined by several factors:
- Financial Needs And Resources
- Income And Earning Capacity
- Standard Of Living During The Marriage
- Duration Of The Marriage
4. Child Custody And Access Arrangements
Regarding children, the high Court in the Singapore divorce process places their well-being as a top priority. The Court may grant either sole or joint custody. It will determine which parent should have care and control, affecting the child’s place of residence.
In a scenario where joint custody is awarded, major decisions on the child’s life, such as education and religion, are made jointly by both parents. The parent given care and control will be responsible for the child’s everyday needs.
Access arrangements are also made for the non-custodial parent, ensuring the child maintains meaningful relationships with both parents.
5. Contested Divorce Case
A contested case in the context of a divorce refers to a situation where both the plaintiff and defendant cannot agree on one or more key issues related to the divorce proceedings. These issues could involve:
- The grounds for divorce: The defendant may dispute the reasons given by the plaintiff for the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
- Division of matrimonial assets: The parties may not agree on how the properties, savings, investments, and other assets accumulated during the marriage should be divided.
- Child custody, care and control, and access: If children are involved, the parties may have differing views on who should have custody, how the responsibilities should be shared, and how much time the non-custodial parent should spend with the children.
- Maintenance: The parties may have differing views on the amount of spousal and/or child maintenance to be paid.
In a contested divorce, these issues will need to be adjudicated by the Court. The divorce process in such cases can be lengthy, expensive, and emotionally draining as it may involve numerous Court hearings and the presentation of evidence to support each party’s claims.
Due to their complexity, it’s advisable to have legal representation in contested divorce cases.
6. Divorce Trial And Final Judgement
If the divorcing parties cannot reach a consensus on the divorce terms, a contested divorce trial will follow. Both parties will have the chance to present their evidence before the Court, after which a judgement is made.
The first judgement, the Interim Judgement, legally ends the marriage but is not the final stage of the process. The court will address ancillary matters – including asset division, child custody, and maintenance issues – before the Final Judgement.
Once the Final Judgement is issued, the divorce process in Singapore officially comes to an end.
7. Life After Divorce
Life after completing divorce proceedings in Singapore is a journey of readjustment and healing. Emotional impacts can be profound, and it’s essential to seek support from professional counselling, family, friends, or support groups.
Financial changes will likely occur, and it may be necessary to reassess your budget, plan for your financial future and acquire new skills for employment. Children must adjust to new living arrangements and access schedules if they are involved.
Legal advice remains invaluable in this phase, especially if circumstances change or the ex-spouse does not adhere to the agreements. You might have a lot of questions regarding the divorce process and this is where an experienced legal team will be helpful. Moving forward, maintaining open lines of communication with your ex-spouse can be beneficial, particularly for co-parenting.
Conclusion On The Divorce Process In Singapore
Embarking on the divorce process in Singapore can seem daunting due to its intricate legal procedures and emotional complexities. However, the process becomes more manageable with a comprehensive understanding of each stage.
Having a seasoned divorce lawyer by your side can provide immense support, ensuring your interests are well-represented. Remember to always practise self-care and reach out for support when needed. Divorce marks the end of a chapter, but it also signifies the beginning of a new one.
While navigating this process can be challenging, it also presents an opportunity for growth and self-discovery. If you or anyone you know is going through divorce proceedings and needs help, our team of experienced divorce lawyers will be glad to offer you assistance. Schedule a free consultation with one of our seasoned Divorce/family lawyers in Singapore today.
Frequently Asked Questions About Divorce Procedures In Singapore
What Is The Average Duration Of The Divorce Process In Singapore?
The duration varies depending on the case. An uncontested divorce may take 4 to 5 months. In comparison, a contested divorce can extend from 18 months to 2 years or longer, depending on the complexity of the issues involved.
Can I File For Divorce In Singapore If I Am Married Overseas?
Yes, you can file for divorce in Singapore as long as either you or your spouse is domiciled in Singapore or has resided in Singapore for at least three years before the commencement of divorce proceedings.
Can I Stop The Divorce Process In Singapore Once It Has Started?
Yes, you can stop the divorce process at any stage before the Final Judgment by jointly applying to the Court with your spouse. If the divorce is contested, both parties need to agree.
What Are Matrimonial Assets?
Matrimonial or matrimonial assets include any assets acquired during the marriage by either party, assets acquired before marriage but used for the benefit of both parties or their children, and the matrimonial home.
Does An Affair Affect The Division Of Matrimonial Assets In Divorce In Singapore?
Adultery itself does not directly affect the division of matrimonial assets. However, if a party has dissipated matrimonial assets in an affair, the Court may consider this.
What Is A Deed Of Separation?
A deed of separation is a legal document that allows married couples to live apart while remaining legally married. It can outline agreements regarding child custody, division of assets, and maintenance.
It can also serve as a ground for divorce if the couple remains separated for at least three years with consent or four years without consent.