Singapore Divorce Process: Things To Know About Getting Divorced
AspectLaw | December 7, 2021
Filing for a divorce is a complicated process that can be simplified if you have a good understanding of Singapore’s divorce process. It is also critical to engage a reliable family lawyer to assist you with divorce proceedings so that you do not overlook important documents and procedures.
If you have decided to file for a divorce, here are the basics of the Singapore divorce process you should know.
In this article, the person seeking a divorce will be referred to as the Plaintiff, while the other spouse, the Defendant.
Eligibility for Divorce
To obtain a divorce in Singapore, you or your spouse must meet the eligibility requirements outlined in sections 93 and 94 of the Women’s Charter:
- 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
- Have been married for at least 3 years, unless the party filing for divorce has suffered exceptional hardship or exceptionally unreasonable and cruel behaviour.
There are two stages to Singapore’s divorce process; the Dissolution of Marriage and Ancillary Matters.
Singapore Divorce Process
Stage 1: Dissolution of Marriage
At this stage, you are required to file a number of documents in Court. You may choose to prepare your own divorce papers, but we recommend that you have them prepared by a family lawyer in Singapore to ensure that you do not miss anything.
(Litigants in Person will not be excused from the highly complex procedural requirements of conducting court proceedings and the Court will still hold Litigants in Person to the same standard of any other lawyer.)
Once your divorce documents are in order, the Court will accept them for filing and provide you with a sealed copy of them that has been electronically affixed with the Court seal.
The sealed copies must then be served on the Defendant to notify him or her that divorce proceedings have begun in Court. These documents include:
- Writ for Divorce
- Statement of Claim
- Statement of Particulars
- Proposed Parenting Plan
- Proposed Matrimonial Property Plan
- Acknowledgement of Service; and
- Memorandum of Appearance
Grounds for Divorce in Singapore
The Plaintiff must also establish the grounds for divorce. In Singapore, there is only one legal ground for divorce; the irretrievable breakdown of marriage. There are five ways to prove that, which are as follows:
- Unreasonable Behaviour
- Separation for at least 4 years
- Separation for at least 3 years if the Defendant consents to the divorce
If the Court is satisfied that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, whether proven in court or by consent of the parties, the Court will grant an interim judgment dissolving the marriage. The divorce case will then move on to stage 2 – Ancillary Matters. This is provided that the Defendant does not contest the divorce.
The Defendant will have to file a Memorandum of Appearance and a Defence should he or she wish to contest the divorce.
Stage 2: Ancillary Matters
The second stage of the divorce process will commence when an Ancillary Matters Case Conference is called. This conference is called to get both parties ready for the ancillary matters hearing, which will take place in chambers before a District Judge of the Family Justice Courts. This means that the hearing is closed to the public.
If you have a lawyer representing you, you will not be required to attend the Ancillary Matters Case Conference yourself. Similarly, if the Defendant has a lawyer, his or her lawyer will attend the Ancillary Matters Case Conference.
The ancillary matters to a divorce deal with issues pertaining to the following:
- Custody, Care and Control and Access to children
- Maintenance for spouse and/or child
- Division of matrimonial assets
Before the Court decides on the ancillary matters, both parties must file the document of Affidavits of Assets and Means, disclosing all assets and liabilities, earnings and expenditure in their affidavits.
Typically, the Court may direct divorcing couples to exchange proposals and consider whether a settlement is possible. If so, the Court may refer the case to a Court Family Specialist for counselling or a Family Dispute Resolution Conference. Mediation will be mandatory for divorcing couples with non-adult children born to their marriage.
If mediation is successful, a Terms of Settlement will be recorded and the order of court will be extracted. Then, three months after the Interim Judgment is granted, both parties can apply for the Final Judgment.
If a settlement is not possible, the Court will then fix the case for a contested Ancillary Matters hearing. To achieve a fair result, the Court will take into consideration various factors when deciding on the division of matrimonial assets. They include (but are not limited to):
- The financial contribution of each party towards the acquisition of the assets
- The extent of non-monetary contributions made by each party to the family’s welfare;
- Any debts owed by either party that was contracted for the benefit of the other; and
- The needs of the marriage’s children, especially minor children
- Any agreement reached between the parties regarding the division of matrimonial assets upon divorce
Once the Court has decided on the ancillary matters, both parties may proceed to apply for the Final Judgment. If you are not satisfied with the orders, you may appeal to the Family Division of the High Court by filing a Notice of Appeal.
Filing for a divorce is not a simple procedure and can be very time consuming. Marriage is an important event in life, and a divorce is arguably all the more crucial. The impact of a divorce is long-lasting. Seek the assistance of a family lawyer in Singapore to guide you through the divorce process so that you can move on with your life without letting the divorce consume you and/or your loved ones.
Equipped with years of experience in family law, our lawyers at Aspect Chambers LLC are more than ready to help you push forth your case and achieve closure. Contact us today for more information.
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