Singapore Divorce Process: Things To Know About Getting Divorced
AspectLaw | December 7, 2021
In this article, the person seeking a divorce will be referred to as the Plaintiff, while the other spouse, the Defendant.
Eligibility for Divorce
- 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.
Singapore Divorce Process
Stage 1: Dissolution of Marriage
(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
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.
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