Divorce

Here are some things you should know about a Divorce:

What is a Divorce?

  • A Divorce is the legal process that formally and officially ends a registered marriage.
  • The parties to a marriage can only remarry after they have obtained the Final Judgment which is issued by the Court when a Divorce is concluded.
  • Divorce proceedings will be conducted in the Family Justice Courts if the marriage involved non-Muslim parties or the parties were married under Civil Law.
  • Divorce proceedings will be conducted in the Syariah Court if the marriage involved Muslim parties or the parties were married under Muslim Law or Syariah Law.

Who can obtain a Divorce?

  • A person can apply to obtain a Divorce in the Family Justice Courts if the following criteria are satisfied:
    • The applicant or his / her spouse must be a Singapore Citizen
    • Alternatively, the applicant has either lived in Singapore for at least 3 years before the Divorce or intends to live in Singapore indefinitely
    • In addition, either 3 years must have passed since the date of the marriage or the person must be able to show that the spouse has caused the person to suffer exceptional hardship

What are the legal requirements for a Divorce to be granted?

  • A Court will only grant an application for a Divorce if the following criteria are satisfied:
    • The applicant can prove that there has been an “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage by showing at least one of the following facts:
      • Adultery: the applicant’s spouse must have committed adultery and the applicant finds it intolerable to live with the spouse.
        • The applicant must also have stopped living together with the spouse within 6 months after the adultery was discovered.
        • The applicant cannot rely on the adultery as a grounds for Divorce if the applicant continued to live with the spouse for more than 6 months after the adultery was discovered
        • Adultery is often difficult and expensive to prove. This is because the applicant must prove that the spouse had consensual sexual relations with the third party and a Private Investigator may need to be engaged to obtain supporting evidence of the adultery.
        • Alternatively, the applicant can prove that the spouse had an “improper association” with a third party (e.g. by showing that the relationship between the parties is so intimate that adultery may reasonably be assumed if there was an opportunity for it to occur).
      • Unreasonable behaviour: the applicant’s spouse must have behaved in such a way that the applicant cannot reasonably be expected to live with the spouse
        • Some examples include situations where the applicant’s spouse has acted in the following way:
          • The spouse has committed family violence by:
            • Placing a family member in fear of hurt
            • Causing hurt to a family member
            • Wrongfully confining or restraining a family member against their will
            • Causing continual harassment with intent to cause anguish to a family member, including verbal abuse, psychological or emotional abuse
          • The spouse has neglected the family (e.g. keeping late nights, not financially supporting the family, irresponsibly incurring debts that adversely affect the family)
          • The spouse has committed adultery with or has improper associations with a third party
          • The spouse has committed domestic violence
        • The applicant cannot rely on the spouse’s unreasonable behaviour as a grounds for Divorce if the applicant continued to live with the spouse for more than 6 months after the final incidence of unreasonable behaviour
      • Desertion: the applicant’s spouse deserted the applicant f or a continuous period of at least 2 years before the Divorce
        • The applicant must not have agreed to the spouse’s desertion
        • The ordinary wear and tear (e.g. tension) of married life cannot be relied on as a sufficiently serious reason for the desertion
        • There can be “constructive desertion” when one party leaves the home due to the behaviour or mistreatment of the other party
      • 3 years’ separation with consent: the applicant and spouse must have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 3 years before the Divorce and the spouse must agree to the Divorce
        • Parties will be considered as having been separated if they have lived under the same roof but sleeping in separate bedrooms and keeping separate households (e.g. financially independent and separate expenses).
      • 4 years’ separation without consent: the applicant and spouse have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 4 years before the Divorce
        • The a pplicant’s spouse does not need to agree to the Divorce if the parties have been separated for at least 4 years

How is a Divorce obtained?

  • You may apply for a Divorce at the F amily Justice Courts o n your own and without engaging a lawyer.
    • You will need to understand and fulfill the formal requirements of conducting the case on your own (e.g. file / submit documents to Court the correct format, pay filing / administrative fees, speaking and providing information in Court)
  • As the Family Justice Courts will not provide you with any advice on what you should do, you would need to consult a qualified lawyer if you wish to obtain legal advice on the strengths and weaknesses of your case. Th e lawyer can also help by preparing the necessary documents on and appearing in Court on your behalf.
  • A Divorce is obtained by formally submitting documents and information to the Court to address the following issues:
    • Showing that a Divorce should be granted (e.g. proving the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage through adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion or separation)
    • Dealing with all other key issues resulting from the Divorce (also known as Ancillary Matters) such as:
      • Maintenance of the wife and children (e.g. financial support)
      • Custody, care and control of as well as access (e.g. visitation rights) to the children
      • Division of the matrimonial assets (e.g. matrimonial home)

What are the main stages in a Divorce?

  • The Divorce process generally involves the following 2 stages:
    • Stage 1 (Divorce Proceedings): the parties will submit documents and information to the Court to show that a Divorce should be granted (e.g. proving the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage through adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion or separation)
    • Stage 2 (Ancillary Proceedings): the parties will submit documents and information to the Court to deal with all other key issues resulting from the Divorce (also known as Ancillary Matters):
      • Maintenance of the wife and children (e.g. financial support)
      • Custody, care and control of as well as access (e.g. visitation rights) to the children
      • Division of the matrimonial assets (e.g. matrimonial home)

What are the main issues to be decided in a Divorce?

  • Maintenance of the wife by the husband (e.g. financial support)
  • Maintenance of the children by the parents (e.g. financial support)
  • Division of the matrimonial assets (e.g. matrimonial home)
  • Custody, care and control of as well as access (e.g. visitation rights) to the children
If you would like to speak to a Singapore family lawyer about your case, please contact Jonathan Wong at jonathan@law-isaac.com or 8660 2624 today.