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Specialist Divorce & Family Lawyer

Divorce

DIVORCE IN SINGAPORE

To get a divorce in Singapore, you have to satisfy the following eligibility set out under sections 93 and 94 of the Women’s Charter:

  1. you must have been married for more than three (3) year (you can apply for divorce earlier than three (3) years if you can prove to the court that you have suffered exceptional hardship or depravation); and
  2. either one of the spouses has been domiciled in Singapore OR based on habitual residence of a party to the marriage for at least three (3) years in Singapore, and has not left Singapore for a period of 180 days in a block, immediately preceding the filing of the Writ for Divorce.

2-stage Process for Divorce:

In Singapore Divorce process, there are two (2) components to complete before the Family Justice Courts issues Certificate for Divorce:-

  1. Divorce- Dissolution of the legal relationship between a man and a woman due to the irretrievable break down of the marriage;
  2. Ancillary Matters arising out of a marriage- The issues of custody, care and control, access and maintenance of Child(ren) of the marriage; division of matrimonial assets and HDB or private properties, spousal maintenance, costs etc must have final conclusion. To record the concluded terms reached by Parties’ settlement by way of private negotiation or court mediation, a draft consent order or draft interim judgment; if terms concluded by judge’s decision after hearing the case at the Ancillary Matters Hearing, an Ancillary Matters Order or Order of Court will be issued.

Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage as the Sole Ground for Divorce

To apply to get a divorce under section 95(3) of the Women’s Charter, you must have been married for more than three (3) years from the date of your Registration of Marriage (“ROM”).

To end your marriage, you need to cite one (1) of the five (5) facts which demonstrate that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

Unreasonable behaviour

This is fault-based divorce which requires you to show that your spouse has behaved in such a way that you can no longer live with him/her. In your Statement of Particulars, you will be required to list out examples of their behaviour that you think you cannot tolerate.

The court does not insist on harsh allegations of your spouse in order to grant a divorce. Many divorces do not have incidents of violence or gambling or extra-marital affairs.

Relatively mild allegations such as devoting too much time to a hobby, placing too much priority on career, differences in opinion or pursuing a separate social life may suffice.

Divorcing couples find it easier to agree to the contents of the Statement of Particulars if mild allegations are used. It also prevents parties from having prolonged debate about the “real facts’ leading to divorce since each party has own opinion as to why the marriage breaks down.

However, it is worth nothing that the Statement of Particulars must still contain sufficient facts and certain level of allegations against the other spouse in order for the judge to grant a divorce. Certainly, if the filing party has little or nothing to write about the other spouse’s conduct, it is hard for the judge to allow the divorce to go through. An experienced Divorce Lawyer in Yeo & Associates LLC who is an excellent wordsmith will know how to strike a balance between helping parties reach an amicable divorce and ensuring that your divorce application gets through the court.

Unreasonable behaviour is a common ground used to apply for divorce in Singapore.

Adultery

Actual evidence of a spouse having sexual intercourse with another person of the opposite sex must be presented to the court in order to obtain a divorce based on adultery. This is usually available via a Private Investigator’s report. Many would rethink this option as Private Investigator’s report ranges from S$5,000 to over $10,000 (without guarantee that you would get result of your spouse’s adulterous conduct). Or, without such actual evidence, you may prove adultery through actual admission or through sufficient circumstantial evidence that your spouse has had sexual intercourse with another person of the opposite sex.

In Singapore, it is a trend for Family Lawyers to suggest to a client to use the ground of unreasonable behaviour, rather than adultery if the intimate affairs of a spouse with another person of opposite sex cannot prove that sexual intercourse has taken place. This suggestion is usually preferred if the victim spouse wishes to end the marriage expeditiously and to save costs from having to engage a Private Investigator or paying higher legal costs to sue the mistress/adulterer/co-defendant.

The law prohibits you from using adultery as the reason to divorce if you continue living with your adulterous spouse for more than six (6) months after you discovered about the adultery/extra-marital affair. But you may use other reasons like unreasonable behaviour to divorce.

The person who has committed adultery cannot use the ground of having admitted to adultery to the victim spouse to commence divorce. This spouse can however use other reasons like unreasonable behaviour to divorce.

Three (3) years’ separation with the other spouse’s consent

You have lived apart for at least three (3) years and you both agree to the divorce. The parties must sign a consent form as part of the divorce documents to be submitted to the Family Justice Courts.

Four (4) years’ separation

You have lived apart for at least four (4) years. In this instance, you do not need the agreement of your husband or wife. However, this does not mean that your divorce will automatically happen. You still have to file your Writ for Divorce in the Family Justice Courts to obtain an order for Divorce.

Your spouse may contest that he/she had ever been separated for more than four (4) years with you, and rather opt for other reasons to divorce, for e.g. using your unreasonable behaviour as the reason for divorce.

Two (2) years’ Desertion

Your spouse has gone missing for a continuous period of at least two (2) years without your knowledge and without your consent. Most of the times, you have no way of contacting him/her or that the disappeared spouse never responded to you.

You have to show that the missing spouse has evinced the clear intention to abandon the family.

How long does it take to get a divorce?

If your case is simplified & uncontested divorce, which means that the case is straightforward and you are both in agreement a divorce, you will obtain your Interim Judgment within one (1) month after filing the court papers with the Family Justice Courts. You have to add on three (3) more months for the Courts to generate the Certificate for Divorce, making the total process normally take four (4) to six (6) months.

If you have certain unresolved issues or having dispute with each other over the terms, the duration may lengthen. Parties will be directed by the Family Justice Courts to attend compulsory CFRC Counselling and Mediation and other dispute resolution methods or even send the matter for contested trial/hearing.

Is it true that I must be separated for three (3) years before I can divorce?

Many people heard from unreliable sources and believed that they can only divorce after three (3) years of separation. This is untrue and complete waste of a person’s time. You do not need to insist on only using three (3) years’ separation to divorce. You have five (5) grounds to choose from if you have been married for more than three (3) years from the date of the ROM. For instance, if you have been married for five (5) years, you do not have to wait for another three (3) years (a total eight (8) years of marriage) to start a divorce proceeding.

Likewise, some have been misinformed that if the spouse refuses to consent to three (3) years’ separation, the divorce will be granted “automatically” on the fourth (4th) year. This is completely false. The Defendant can still contest the divorce based on four (4) years’ separation, if used as a reason for divorce.

Does it matter who starts the divorce?

Who is named as the Plaintiff- If you think your spouse is the one who caused the breakdown in the marriage, you will be the one applying to the courts for a divorce. You spouse, who will be named as the Defendant will have the chance to defend your allegations against him/her. If he/she agrees to your allegations, it will be an uncontested divorce.

Cost – for uncontested divorce where parties work on the settlement of terms together, they would usually agree to share the costs involved. But if your spouse refuses to pay for the legal costs or court fees, or that he engages his own lawyer to represent him/her, the person who starts the divorce will be the one paying for his/her own legal fees and pays own sets of court fees.

I do not wish to agree to the divorce

You can contest the divorce if you object to the reason on which a divorce is being sought. You may engage your lawyer to put up a defence and/or counterclaim against your spouse and also dispute on the settlement terms which your spouse desired. However, before you contest the divorce, you should consider working towards a full or partial settlement.

To achieve settlement, your divorce lawyers may negotiate with your spouse’s lawyers to use different reasons for divorce or to amend the original statement to a milder allegation. Usually, this part can be sorted out in correspondence between the parties and their lawyers. Singapore Family Justice Courts sees no more than 5% of divorces proceeding for full-blown contested divorce trial. If you and your spouse settle the reason for divorce first, the next step will be the setting down for uncontested & simplified divorce to obtain the grant of the Interim Judgment for Divorce.

I do not agree to the ancillary terms

If you dispute the ancillary matters, you may commence exchanging of proposal for settlement indicating your terms for settlement for your spouse’s consideration. Parties should try to negotiate on the issues as amicably as possible. With the help of lawyers, Parties may be able to work within the legal principles and compromise on the terms. For instance, parents may know the parameters of his/her obligation towards child support and thus be able to mutually agree on the maintenance amount. In some situations, couples cannot agree even with the help of their lawyers, the matter will proceed to the next step which is Ancillary Matters Hearing which means the Court will deal with the issues and reach a conclusion to the ancillary issues.

Only after the divorce and ancillary matters are fully dealt with will the Family Justice Courts issue the Final Judgment for Divorce i.e. Certificate for Divorce.

Will I have to appear in court to get a divorce?

If parties fully agree to the reasons for divorce, the way it is written; and full settlement on ancillary matters, you will not be required to appear in Court. Your Family Lawyers will e-file your simplified divorce proceedings in Courts and you will receive your Interim Judgment and Certificate for Divorce by post and/or email.      

If you want to go for uncontested divorce, but you still have certain disagreement with your spouse, your Family Lawyer may be engaged as early as possible to negotiate a settlement for you and your spouse. This option allows parties to work out the terms in the presence of an expert Divorce Lawyer which heightens your chance of achieving uncontested divorce. After the successful negotiation and redrafting of the documents to both parties’ satisfaction and agreement, your lawyer will file the divorce in the Family Justice Courts under the Simplified & Uncontested Divorce track.

Call Yeo & Associates LLC for an initial chat with one of our divorce specialists – 62203400 or complete our Online Form.

The Singapore divorce process

Step 1 – Before filing the divorce application

Since 2016, the law mandates divorcing couple whom have at least one child under 21 years old to attend a Mandatory Parenting Programme (MPP) at one of the Divorce Support Specialist Agency located at four (4) Family Centres in Singapore if they CANNOT FULLY agree on the reasons for divorce and all ancillary matters and intends to contest the divorce proceedings.

If you have reached full agreement to reasons for divorce and all ancillary matters, you may proceed to file your divorce by way of Uncontested Divorce track or Simplified Divorce Track. You may find out more about Simplified & Uncontested Divorce if you have reached full agreement to the reason for divorce and all ancillary matters in other article.

Mandatory Parenting Programme is set up to help divorcing parents to understand possible effect of divorces on children and finances.  The session usually takes around 30 minutes with a group of 12 attendees. You will get a Certificate for Attendance after the session. This Certificate is essential to form the full set of divorce papers for filing a Writ for Divorce.

Application for Writ for Divorce

The person applying for the divorce is referred to as the Plaintiff. The other party is referred to as the Defendant. In adultery where there is a named third party, they are referred to as a Co-Defendant(s).

Step 2 – Drafting the divorce documents: –

  1. Writ for Divorce –autogenerated document indicating the serial number (FC/D 1234/2020);
  2. Statement of Claim- document indicating particulars of parties, children and assets, as well as the Plaintiff’s claim for ancillary reliefs. Ancillary reliefs include issues like division of matrimonial home and other relevant items in the marriage;
  3. Statement of Particulars – story of facts of how the divorce breaks down, what happened during the marriage that prompted the divorce. For instance, unreasonable behaviour, violence or adultery etc.
  4. Parenting Plans- Listing out current care arrangement for the child(ren) under 21 years old, information on their school and schedule; as well as the care arrangement for them after divorce; and
  5. Property Plans- to list the information of the HDB flat, including cash and CPF contributions, as well as the intended division of the HDB flat after divorce.

Step 3 – Service of the Writ on a Defendant

The Writ for Divorce, together with the full set of documents will be filed into Family Justice Courts to commence the divorce proceedings.

The Writ will be served to the Defendant for him/her to respond to the Courts within eight (8) days. The Defendant or his lawyer has to indicate in the Memorandum of Appearance whether he/she wishes to contest the divorce and/or ancillary matters.

If the Defendant cannot be found or refuses to respond despite being able to respond, you have to commence application for Substituted Service on the Defendant. Read more on what is Summons for Substituted Service or Summons for Dispensation of Service on a Defendant.

If the Defendant wishes to dispute, he/she has to file a defence and/or counterclaim within 22 days of receiving the Writ. At this time when the Divorce is contested, you may discuss with your lawyer to commence one of the following dispute resolution methods:-

  1. Exchanges of settlement proposals; and/or
  2. Without prejudice meeting with parties and respective lawyers; and/or
  3. Private divorce mediation; or
  4. Apply for court mediation to mediate with a judge mediator at the CFRC mediation court; or
  5. It is compulsory to attend compulsory CFRC counselling with court counsellors and CFRC mediation with judge mediator at the CFRC mediation court if you have child(ren) below the age of 21 years old.

Step 4 – Grant of Interim Judgment for 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.

The Family Justice Courts will grant the Interim Judgment for Divorce if the Defendant chooses to agree to the divorce and ancillary matters. The timeline is usually one (1) month from the date of filing the Memorandum of Appearance indicating that the Defendant does not wish to defend the action; and that a Draft Interim Judgment or Draft Consent Order indicating all the agreed terms are filed.

If the Defendant wishes to contest the ancillary, the case will be directed to attend to one of the dispute resolution methods or directed for the Ancillary Matters Hearing to take place. Read more on Ancillary Matters Hearing.

Step 5 – Grant of Certificate for Divorce

After that, another compulsory wait of three (3) months and one (1) day, you may extract your Final Judgment for Divorce i.e. Certificate for Divorce. You are officially divorced at this point.

Both spouses are able to settle all matters of the divorce (i.e. the reason for divorce and all ancillary matters) before filing for divorce. If one spouse later decides that he/she wants to contest at least one matter of the divorce, the case cannot continue as a simplified uncontested divorce but will become a contested divorce.

If you need further advice, speak to one of our specialist divorce lawyers at Yeo & Associates LLC at 62203400, especially if your spouse is not cooperative and may contest the divorce.

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