Singapore Court can grant financial relief for divorce obtained overseas

Posted under News Updates on 14 June 2016

If you had obtained your divorce overseas, you may still be able to obtain financial relief through the Singapore Courts.

This is because although a marriage may have been terminated in a foreign and overseas jurisdiction, ancillary matters (e.g. division of matrimonial assets, maintenance for the former spouse) that arise from that divorce may still be dealt with in Singapore.

The Women’s Charter allows parties who have obtained a divorce in a foreign country to apply for financial relief in the Singapore Courts.

The principles relating to this area of law were applied in the the case of Harjit Kaur d/o Kulwant Singh v Saroop Singh a/l Amar Singh [2015] SGHCF 5.

These are the brief facts of the case:

  • The wife and husband had been married in Ipoh, Malaysia in 1995 and obtained a divorce in Malaysia in 2014.
  • The case involved a dispute between the parties over the release of the sale proceeds of a property in Singapore.
  • The wife had initially applied to the Singapore Courts to have the sale proceeds divided but this was declined by the District Court.
  • The wife filed an appeal in the High Court against the District Court’s earlier decision.

The High Court provided a number of useful explanations and observations:

  • The aim of the relevant provisions in the Women’s Charter was to provide the Singapore Court with powers to grant financial relief even though the marriage had been terminated overseas and if either there was no relief granted when the divorce was obtained or the relief granted by the foreign court was inadequate or unfair.
  • Although the Singapore Court was empowered to close any gaps left open by an overseas divorce, the Singapore Court should be careful not to reopen the case and prematurely conclude that the foreign divorce order was unfair especially.
  • This was because the Court should bear in mind the importance of a mutual recognition by nations of the laws and customs of others and that there was possibility that a party may be trying to “get a second bite of the cherry” by using the application in Singapore to reopen the case.

More information on the case may be found in the Grounds of Decision here.

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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.