What happens in the first stage of a Divorce regarding the breakdown of the marriage?

by | Feb 1, 2024 | Media

We’ve talked before about how there are 2 key phases in Divorce proceedings for a Civil Marriage:

  • Phase 1 involves the dissolution and termination of the Civil Marriage.
  • Phase 2 involves setting out how the persons will deal with all other Ancillary Matters (meaning additional and supplementary matters regarding Custody, Care and Control, Access of Children, Dividing Matrimonial Assets & Properties and Maintenance payments for the Wife and Children).

In Phase 1, the person applying for the Divorce must prove to the Court that there’s a basis to allow a Divorce. According to Singapore Divorce and Family Law, a Divorce can only be allowed by the Court when there’s proof of the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

You can prove the irretrievable breakdown in the marriage may by showing that any one of the following events has taken place:

  1. Adultery: This means that your spouse has committed adultery (meaning voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not their spouse) and you now feel that it is intolerable to live with your spouse. Adequate evidence is required to prove the Defendant’s act of adultery. You may want to engage a private investigator to obtain evidence showing your spouse’s adultery.
  2. Unreasonable Behaviour: This means that has behaved in an unreasonable manner that the Plaintiff feels that it is now impossible to continue living with the Defendant. Some examples of unreasonable behaviour include the following:
    • Domestic violence and physical abuse
    • Verbal, emotional and psychological abuse
    • Compulsive gambling
    • Alcoholism and other addictive or obsessive behaviour with an unhealthy, negative or destructive impact on the wellbeing of the family unit
    • Improper association with another person e.g. having a girlfriend or boyfriend outside of the marriage
  3. Desertion: This means that your spouse deserted and abandoned you for at least 2 years and shows no intention or indication of returning.
  4. Separation: This means that you and your spouse have lived apart and maintained separate households in practice and fact. You need to be separated for at least 3 years if both you and your spouse agree to using Separation as the basis for Divorce – this is also known as Separation with Consent. If your spouse doesn’t agree to using Separation as the basis for Divorce, then you need to be separated for at least 4years – this is also known as Separation without Consent.

Proving the events relating to the irretrievable breakdown of your Marriage will be a question of fact that the Court will consider in Court. This means that you will need to prove your version of events based on evidence if your spouse contests, challenges or disagrees with your claims. A Contested Divorce and Trial can be long-drawn-out process and requiring you and your witnesses to give evidence during Court sessions and hearings after which the Court will make a decision and deliver its judgment.

If you and your spouse agree and do not contest that the irretrievable breakdown of your marriage has occurred, then this phase of the Divorce process doesn’t need to involve a trial.

Will you get a better or more favourable outcome if your spouse caused the breakdown of the marriage and is the party “at fault” for causing the Divorce?

This is a very common question asked by people thinking about getting a Divorce.

It’s important to know that according to Singapore Divorce and Family Law, the Court generally does not consider the reasons for the Divorce and breakdown of the marriage when it decides on how to handle the Ancillary Matters. That’s why in reality there may not any or much advantage you can gain by proving that your spouse was “at fault” or “responsible” for causing the Divorce. If you are represented by a Divorce Lawyer, he would be able to tell you more about whether the breakdown of the marriage will affect the Court’s handling of the Ancillary Matters in your Divorce.

After the Court is convinced that your marriage has irretrievably broken down (for example if this was agreed and consented to by you and your spouse or if you managed to successfully prove this through a trial), the Court will issue an Order known as an Interim Judgement to dissolve and terminate the marriage, after which the Divorce proceedings will proceed to Phase 2 and Ancillary Matters.

So, there you have it, some basic information on: What happens in the first stage of a Divorce regarding the breakdown of the marriage? If you need a Divorce lawyer in Singapore, I’m offering a free 30-minute consultation to help you figure out if I’m the right fit for your case. I’ll also provide actionable insights, helping you figuring out the complex Divorce process bit by bit. Learn more about what’s involved in Divorce consultation fees.

About the author

About the author

Jonathan Wong

Jonathan is the Founder and Managing Director of Tembusu Law. He is also the founder of LawGuide Singapore, a prominent legaltech startup which successfully created and launched Singapore’s first legal chatbot in 2017.