Divorce in Singapore
What is the Divorce Process in Singapore?
In Singapore, divorce is a 2-stage process for both contested and uncontested divorces. The first stage is called dissolution of marriage, where the court will decide whether the marriage has irretrievably broken down. If it has, the court will grant an Interim Judgment to officially dissolve the marriage.
The second stage of the divorce is called the ancillary matters stage, where the court will decide how the parties’ affairs should be dealt with. Such affairs include spousal maintenance and child custody.
Parties can only apply to make the Interim Judgment final 3 months after receiving it, or upon settling all ancillary matters, whichever is later. The parties will then receive a Certificate of Final Judgment. This concludes all divorce proceedings.
In this article, “Plaintiff” refers to the spouse filing for divorce, and “Defendant” refers to the other spouse who is defending against the divorce.
A. Requirements for Getting a Divorce in Singapore
Eligibility for divorce in Singapore
In order to obtain a divorce in Singapore, either you or your spouse must meet the following eligibility requirements under sections 93 and 94 of the Women’s Charter:
1. Be domiciled in Singapore at the point of the commencement of divorce proceedings OR habitually resident in Singapore for at least 3 years, before the commencement of divorce proceedings; AND
2. Have been married for at least 3 years, unless the party filing for divorce has suffered exceptional hardship or exceptionally unreasonable and cruel behaviour.
The above-mentioned requirements may not be applicable to you if you were married under Muslim law.
Irretrievable breakdown of marriage
Next, you must prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This is the only legal ground for divorce.
There are a few ways of showing that your marriage had irretrievably broken down.
These ways are found under section 95(3) of the Women’s Charter:
1 Adultery: The Defendant has committed adultery and the Plaintiff finds it intolerable to live with the Defendant
2. Unreasonable behaviour: The Defendant has behaved in such a way that the Plaintiff cannot reasonably be expected to live with the Defendant
3. Desertion: The Defendant has deserted the Plaintiff for at least 2 years
4. Separation: The parties have separated for at least 4 years (or 3 years if the Defendant consents to the divorce)
Before Filing for Divorce in Singapore
If you and your spouse have at least one child under 21 years old, and are unable to agree on the legal ground for divorce and all ancillary matters, both of you will be required to attend a Mandatory Parenting Programme.
This programme is conducted by Divorce Support Specialist Agency counsellors and aims to help divorcing parents make informed decisions that prioritise their children’s needs and well-being.
Application Process for Divorce in Singapore
Stage 1: Dissolution of the Marriage
After the Writ for Divorce and all accompanying documents have been filed in court, they also have to be served on the Defendant.
The Defendant will then have 8 days to decide whether or not to contest the divorce and/or the ancillary matters.
If the Defendant chooses to contest the divorce
If the Defendant chooses to contest the divorce, he/she will have to file a Memorandum of Appearance and a Defence. You can also request for a Resolution Conference with a judge of the Family Resolution Chambers, or a counselling session with a court counsellor, to try to reach an amicable settlement via divorce mediation with your partner.
If both parties are unable to agree on the reason for divorce on their own, the case would go to court for a judge to determine if the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The Defendant will have to file in court and serve on the Plaintiff:
The Memorandum of Appearance within 8 days from the date of being served the Writ for Divorce; and The Defence within 14 days from the deadline for the serving of the Memorandum of Appearance.
All in all, the Defendant has 22 days to file and serve both the Memorandum of Appearance and Defence.
Alternatively, if the Defendant wants to put forth their own reason for the divorce and/or other claims on the ancillary matters, the Defendant will file a Defence and Counterclaim within the above timeframes, instead of a Defence.
If the Defendant chooses not to contest the divorce
If the Defendant chooses not to contest the divorce, but wishes to be heard on the ancillary matters, he/she should still file the Memorandum of Appearance to indicate the issues he/she wishes to be heard on.
If the court is satisfied that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, it will grant an Interim Judgment ordering the marriage to be dissolved. The case will then move to the ancillary matters stage of divorce proceedings.
Stage 2: Ancillary Matters
Prior to the hearings on ancillary matters, both parties are required to file Affidavits of Assets and Means. In their affidavits, they are to disclose all assets/liabilities, income and expenditure. Up to 3 rounds of affidavits will be exchanged.
Should the net value of the estate(s) amount to more than $1.5 million, the case will be transferred to the High Court and be heard there.
Following the filing and exchange of documents, an ancillary hearing date will be set before the court decide on the ancillary matters heard.
After all ancillary matters have been settled, both parties can apply for the Final Judgment once 3 months have passed since the grant of the Interim Judgment.
B. Do I Need a Lawyer to Get a Divorce ?
It is possible to file for a divorce without engaging a lawyer. It would certainly involve less costs than having a lawyer. Nonetheless, bear in mind that this will not excuse you from the legal, procedural and formal requirements of conducting court proceedings.
In other words, you will be held to the same standards as if you were represented by a lawyer.
Furthermore, the Family Justice Courts cannot advise you on your matter.
Hence it may be advisable for you to seek a lawyer’s help, especially if you anticipate that your spouse will contest the divorce. This is because it could lead to complex and lengthy proceedings.
Should you need any guidance on the costs of engaging a divorce lawyer in Singapore, please do not hesitate to contact us at ARLC.
Disclaimer: Kindly note that the opinion rendered above only serves as a general advise and the circumstances for each case differs. Should you require any further advice or clarification on the above, please do not hesitate to contact any of our legal experts by booking an appointment through firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us at +65 6240 6901.
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