The Divorce process consists of two stages for both contested and uncontested Divorces in Singapore, including:
It is only after three months of receiving the Interim Judgment, provided all ancillary issues have been resolved, can parties request to have the Interim Judgment declared final. A Certificate of Final Judgement will subsequently be given to the parties. All Divorce proceedings are now concluded.
In this article, the “Plaintiff” is known as the person seeking to file for a Divorce, while the other spouse is known as the “Defendant”.
Before going into the stages and process, one must satisfy the requirements for getting a Divorce.
According to sections 93 and 94 of the Women’s Charter, either you or your spouse must satisfy the following criteria to be eligible for a Divorce in Singapore:
*These requirements may not apply to you if you were married under Muslim law.
Both parties must attend a Mandatory Parenting Programme if they have at least 1 child under 21 years of age and are unable to come to an agreement regarding the reasons for Divorce and all ancillary issues.
Divorce Support Specialist Agency counsellors conduct the programme. The programme aims to assist divorcing parents in making decisions that prioritise the needs and well-being of their children.
Thereafter, you are required to prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, which is the only legal basis / ground for Divorce in Singapore.
There are 5 ways / facts to show that the marriage has broken down irretrievably:
The Plaintiff finds it intolerable to live with the Defendant as the Defendant has committed adultery.
A significant amount of proof has to be cited for the Plaintiff to prove that the Defendant has committed Adultery. You can hire a private investigator to assist you with this to obtain evidence. If you have trouble proving adultery, it might be best to file for Divorce on another basis for eg. improper association under the Unreasonable Behavior fact.
2. Unreasonable Behaviour
The Plaintiff could file for a Divorce on the ground that the marriage has broken down irretrievably; where the Plaintiff cannot reasonably be expected to live with the Defendant due to the Defendant’s actions.
It is a requirement for the Plaintiff to prove that due to the Defendant’s behaviour or actions, the Plaintiff cannot be reasonably expected to live together with the Defendant any further. Every marriage is unique and has its own set of circumstances, thus the Plaintiff will need to provide instances and examples of such <unreasonable behaviour> if they want to proceed on this basis.
The marriage may be dissolved on the grounds of desertion if the Defendant has abandoned the Plaintiff for 2 years without any indication that they would return.
4. 3 Years Separation
The marriage may be dissolved on the basis of separation if the parties have lived apart for 3 years, and if both parties agree to a Divorce.
5. 4 Years Separation
The parties must have lived apart for 4 years if there is no consent to a Divorce.
If parties do not wish to commence Divorce proceedings immediately or are unable to commence Divorce proceedings as they have not been married for 3 years, parties may sign a Deed of Separation.
A Deed of Separation will enable you to live apart from your spouse before starting the formal Divorce process. A Deed of Separation is also not final and simply serves as a prelude to a Divorce. In the interim, parties may try to reconcile and work on saving their marriage.
Generally, a Deed of Separation will put in place an agreement on:
A Deed of Separation does not dissolve the marriage. It only acts as a tool to organise marital properties and finances before going ahead with the Divorce.
Once the requirements for getting a Divorce is met, then the process can start proper.
Should you wish to hire a lawyer to represent you in the Divorce proceedings, you will need to give that lawyer a Warrant to Act in order for him or her to do so. If the Defendant wants to contest the Divorce, he can decide to hire his / her own lawyer.
You may file a Writ of Divorce if all requirements for a Divorce are satisfied and there is no chance of salvaging the marriage through reconciliation or other means.
The party who wants to file for a Divorce will need to file certain documents in the Family Justice Courts and pay the relevant filing fees to begin the Divorce process. This includes:
You should engage a Divorce lawyer if you require assistance in preparing these documents.
The Defendant must be served with the Writ for Divorce and all supporting papers after these documents have been filed in Court. Following that, the Defendant will have 8 days to enter his or her appearance. The Defendant does this by filing the Memorandum of Appearance in Court.
If the Defendant Contests the Divorce
If the Defendant wants to contest the Divorce, a Memorandum of Appearance and a Defence will have to be filed by him or her.
The Memorandum of Appearance will need to be filed within 8 days from the date of service of the Writ for Divorce, and the Defence will need to be filed within 14 days after the 8 days to enter an appearance has expired. If the Defendant has a different view on how the marriage had irretrievably broken down, he or she may file a Counterclaim. The Counterclaim would have to be filed along with the Defence.
If parties are unable to agree on the reason for Divorce, the Court may direct parties to attend Mediation / Counselling to resolve the issue of Divorce amicably, and the judge will determine if the marriage has broken down irretrievably.
If the Defendant Does Not Contest the Divorce
If the Defendant does not wish to contest the Divorce, and only wishes to be heard on the Ancillary Matters, he or she should still file the Memorandum of Appearance.
An Interim Judgment will be issued by the Court once the judge has determined that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. Parties will then move on to the next stage of the Divorce proceedings to resolve the Ancillary Matters.
What if my Spouse Cannot be Found?
If you are unable to locate your spouse and are unable to serve the Divorce papers on him or her, a Summons application for Substituted Service or Dispensation of Service may be filed.
The Divorce will then proceed uncontested.
At the Ancillary Matters stage, both parties must each file an Affidavit of Assets and Means prior to the Hearing on Ancillary Matters. They must list all assets, liabilities, income and expenditure in their Affidavits. Parties will be given an opportunity to respond to the other party’s Affidavit of Assets and Means. If a party wishes to file another Affidavit after filing his or her Affidavit in reply, that party will need to obtain leave of Court to do so.
If the gross value of the pool of matrimonial assets exceeds $5 million, the proceedings will be transferred to the High Court.
An Ancillary Matters Hearing will be scheduled after the filing and exchange of Affidavits of Assets and Means and the Court will determine and decide on the Ancillary Matters such as child custody, child maintenance. Spousal maintenance and division of the matrimonial home and matrimonial assets at the Ancillary Matters Hearing.
Either party may file an application for the Grant of Final Judgement if at least three months have passed since the grant of the Interim Judgment and all Ancillary Matters have been resolved.
In Singapore, you can file for a Divorce or engage in divorce proceedings without hiring a lawyer. Of course, it would be less expensive to represent yourself. However, a Self-Represented Person (also referred to as a Litigant-in-Person) would still be required to go through the formal and procedural requirements in Court proceedings. In other words, there are no exemptions given to a Self-Represented Person and a Self-Represented Person will be held to the same standards as a lawyer. The Family Justice Courts and the judge will not give a Self-Represented Person any legal advice.
If you can demonstrate that you have endured notable hardship or that your spouse has displayed exceptional depravity, you may be able to obtain a Divorce in Singapore before the required three years have passed. An example of exceptional depravity is if your spouse has an affair at home while you are present, leading to your depression.
The bar is set rather high for something to qualify as exceptional depravity or hardship. It is advisable to engage a lawyer if you are planning to get a Divorce within the first 3 years of your marriage.
A simplified uncontested Divorce would cost less than a contested divorce. Contested divorces often cost more than $10,000. The legal costs may not include disbursements and GST.
The complexity of the case affects the duration of the Divorce proceedings. Simplified uncontested Divorces cases often conclude within 6 months or less while contested Divorce cases may take a year or longer to be concluded.
If you require any assistance, you may contact: