From a legal perspective, divorce is simply the ending of a contract in law. It involves the completion of certain items of paperwork which have to be filed with the courts. The courts levy a fee for handling this paperwork, currently around S$350.00. There will also be the cost of any advice you obtain from a lawyer and their help in completing the divorce paperwork.
If you initiate the divorce you will be known as the Plaintiff. Your lawyer will need to prepare the writ for divorce and certain other paperwork on your behalf. As you are initiating the divorce you will be asked to pay the Court fees as well as your lawyers’ fees. At Yeo & Associates LLC, we do this work for a fixed fee of S$1,500.00, which includes the Court fees and GST.
If you are the Defendant in a divorce (i.e. your spouse has initiated divorce proceedings) and where the divorce is uncontested, Yeo & Associates LLC offers a fixed fee of S$500.00 to handle the divorce on your behalf. This includes Court fees and GST. You do not have to pay Court fees, this is payable by your spouse who has initiated the divorce. For more complex cases your divorce lawyer will be able to give you a clear estimate on the cost of carrying out this work for you.
Most people have to pay these costs themselves, although some couples going through an amicable divorce choose to split the costs between them.
Very few cases, however, involve only the divorce paperwork. In most marriages there is a marital home, money in a joint account or savings scheme, pensions held by one or both parties, and other financial issues which need to be agreed on. These can include division of household furniture, who will keep the family car, pets and so on.
In a marriage in which children are involved, there is also likely to be agreement needed as to which parent the children shall live with, and contact arrangements with the other parent.
If both parties can agree on how to split finances and/or arrangements for the children, a case can be very simple and may not require the parties to attend court. In these circumstances, your lawyer will ensure your agreement is a legally-binding document that both parties can then sign for the court’s approval.
But most people will need help from an experienced divorce lawyer to assist them in knowing what to negotiate for.
In some cases, a couple cannot agree even with the help of their lawyer and decide to let the Family Justice Courts deal with issues. This is when costs can begin to escalate.
It is worthwhile understanding at the outset that, in addition to the lawyers’ fees, you will need to budget anything between S$1,500 to S$2,000 for the following:
Getting a divorce is fairly straightforward. It is the issues like agreeing a financial settlement, dividing property and matters involving children which can take time to sort out. This is why it is important to take qualified legal advice from someone specialising in family and divorce law, at an early stage.
Married couples have certain rights in law but the specifics of a case will need to be examined by an experienced family lawyer to assess any claims or liabilities if an amicable agreement cannot be reached.
These are some of the common ‘rights’ which may come into question during separation or divorce.
Much here will depend on how the property is owned and whether it is in joint names. It can also be affected by any prenuptial or co-habiting agreement drawn up when you first acquired the property. Basically, if you are married you have a right of occupation. Whether or not your name is on the deeds, you have the right to live there and not to be excluded, for instance by the other party changing the locks.
If you are married and have children living with you, you may be able to secure the right to live in the property until the children have left school.
In any situation, if your partner is trying to force you out of the house you should take legal advice straight away.
There are no hard and fast rules regarding your financial rights in the breakdown of a relationship or how a divorce settlement will be calculated.
If you are better equipped to “re-generate” your finances than the other party, you may well receive less than they do. It can appear that you are losing out because you have worked hard, but this is the way a court is likely to deal with things.
There will often be a range of possible solutions to dividing the assets, and it is important that you explain fully to your lawyer your own preferences within that range. It may be that you can come to an amicable agreement with your partner. If you can’t agree however you have the right to invite the court to decide on a division of the assets with your partner.
Your lawyer will guide you through the factors that the court may take into account, such as the age of the parties, the length of the relationship, jointly and individually held assets (including property), your income and pension provisions. Sorting out these arrangements with your former partner outside the bounds of the court will save time, money and additional headache.
If there are children from the relationship, generally speaking, the court will give priority to whoever is caring for them, and will try to address the reasonable needs of the parties for things like housing.
It can sometimes seem as though men have fewer rights than women or that Court favours women due to Women’s Charter. This will often be a result of any children living with their mother, who earns less, has a lower mortgage capacity and less pension provision than the other spouse.
The law is very clearly based upon the rights of the children, rather than those of the parents. In broad terms, it is considered to be their right to have a relationship with both parents.
If you were married, you will have parental responsibility for the children and this will give you the right to access information and make decisions on their behalf, for example about the health and education.
If the couple are not married, only the mother has automatic parental responsibility in all cases. Full details on this important issue are covered in the Parents Rights Section.
It is often perceived that fathers do not really have any rights and it can be very difficult sometimes for the courts to intervene in an effective way if the parent with whom the child is living is determined to resist there being any contact.
But the courts can and do take steps, such as changing residence arrangements. They can even send a disobedient parent with care to prison if they wilfully and repeatedly ignore an order of the Court.