What are the detailed steps in Stage 1 of a Divorce?
Stage 1 involves the following individual steps:
- If you are starting the Divorce process and submitting the Divorce application to Court, you will be the Plaintiff and your spouse will be the Defendant. If your spouse has committed adultery, the third party will be referred to as the Co-Defendant.
- If your matrimonial assets include an HDB flat (e.g. matrimonial home), your Divorce lawyers will send a Standard Query Forms to HDB and CPF Board to calculate the amount for the flat and your CPF balance and also give the Court the required information regarding (1) ownership, payments already made by you and your spouse and the outstanding balance relating to the HDB’s property, (2) you and your spouse’s proposals on what will happen to the flat after the Divorce, (3) whether HDB consents or objects to your proposals and (4) if your proposals will be affected or disrupted by any other special HDB policies such as those regulating the minimum occupation period or subsidies for special schemes. The information and responses given by HDB and CPF will form part of the Proposed / Agreed Matrimonial Property Plan which you must also submit as part of your Divorce application. This process will take about 1 month to complete. You won’t be able to start your Divorce if you don’t have the HDB and CPF responses unless you have the Court’s permission to do so.
- To start the Divorce process, you will need to submit these documents in Court:
- Writ for Divorce and Statement of Claim – this is a summary of the key facts you are relying on to apply for and explain why you should be granted the Divorce.
- Statement of Particulars – this is gives the full details of the facts you’ve written in the Statement of Claim
- Proposed Parenting Plan – you must file this if your Children are below 21 years old
- Agreed Parenting Plan – you must file this if you and your spouse have reached an agreement on living and care arrangements for the children after the Divorce (and if you are applying for an Uncontested Divorce i.e. Consent Divorce)
- Proposed Matrimonial Property Plan – you must file this if a Housing and Development Board (HDB) flat to be divided between parties).
- Agreed Matrimonial Property Plan – This is only filed if parties have managed to agree on what to do with the HDB flat after the divorce;
- Acknowledgement of Service – this is to confirm that the Divorce papers have been properly served or delivered to you
- Memorandum of Appearance – this gives advanced notice to the Court and your spouse that you intend to participate in the proceedings and give your response to the claim made against you
- Once the Writ for Divorce has been filed in the Family Court, the Writ will also be served on the Defendant via way personal service, if the address of the Defendant is known to the Plaintiff. If the Court papers cannot be successfully delivered to the Defendant after two attempts, the Plaintiff can apply to the Family Court for permission to delivere or serve the papers in an alternative way, namely Substituted Service, which includes mailing the divorce papers to the last known address of the Defendant, and also to post the papers in the Family Justice Court or by sending it via Registered Post to the last known address of the Defendant or even by email. If the Plaintiff doesn’t know or is unable to find the Defendant’s address, the Plaintiff can apply to the Family Justice Court for permission to deliver information of the papers to the Defendant by advertising the information in the newspaper.
- Once the Divorce Papers have been served or delivered on the Defendant, he must file a Memorandum of Appearance within 8 days if he plans to challenge the Divorce or Ancillary Matters. This document gives advanced notice to the Court and your spouse that you intend to participate in the proceedings and give your response to the claim made against you. If the Defendant fails to file this on time, the Plaintiff can proceed to file an Affidavit of Service and to set down the matter for trial.
- If the Defendant is not contesting the Divorce Writ, a hearing date and a trial date will be fixed by the Court.
- If the Defendant is contesting the Writ, he must file a Defence in the Family Court and deliver the Defence papers on the Plaintiff. If no Defence is filed in Court by the Defendant within the given time limit, the Court will consider the case as being unchallenged or uncontested by the Defendant.
- If the Divorce is uncontested, a hearing date will be given by the Court, and the couple will usually be given permission by the Court not to attend. At the hearing, the Judge will decide if there is sufficient evidence to grant a Divorce and, if so, he will grant a provisional divorce by issuing a Court Order called an Interim Judgment. The Interim Judgment is usually finalised and regarded as conclusive and binding on the couple after 3 months.