Getting a Divorce doesn’t always have to be complicated. The process for applying for Divorce in the Family Justice Courts in Singapore can be straightforward if it is an Uncontested Divorce, and it only becomes complex if it is Contested Divorce.
An Uncontested Divorce can take place if you and your spouse both agree on all the key parts of the Divorce, meaning that:
An Uncontested Divorce is a Divorce case that becomes prolonged and complex when you and your spouse can’t agree on the key parts of the Divorce and therefore need to engage lawyers to represent you to negotiate or challenge each other’s requests in Court, meaning that:
To qualify for a Divorce in Singapore, you must first prove to the Court that your marriage has “irretrievably broken down” by showing that one of the following events have taken place:
In Stage 1, the Court’s goal is to decide on whether the marriage can be dissolved or terminated. The Court will issue an Interim Judgment if it decides that the marriage can be dissolved or terminated at the end of Stage 1.
Stage 1 involves the following individual steps:
A. If you are starting the Divorce process and submitting the Divorce application to Court, you will be the Plaintiff and your spouse will be the Defendant. If your spouse has committed adultery, the third party will be referred to as the Co-Defendant.
B. If your matrimonial assets include an HDB flat (e.g. matrimonial home), your Divorce lawyers will send a Standard Query Forms to HDB and CPF Board to calculate the amount for the flat and your CPF balance and also give the Court the required information regarding (1) ownership, payments already made by you and your spouse and the outstanding balance relating to the HDB’s property, (2) you and your spouse’s proposals on what will happen to the flat after the Divorce, (3) whether HDB consents or objects to your proposals and (4) if your proposals will be affected or disrupted by any other special HDB policies such as those regulating the minimum occupation period or subsidies for special schemes. The information and responses given by HDB and CPF will form part of the Proposed / Agreed Matrimonial Property Plan which you must also submit as part of your Divorce application. This process will take about 1 month to complete. You won’t be able to start your Divorce if you don’t have the HDB and CPF responses unless you have the Court’s permission to do so.
C. To start the Divorce process, you will need to submit these documents in Court:
D. Once the Writ for Divorce has been filed in the Family Court, the same writ will be served on the Defendant via way personal service, if the address of the Defendant is known to the Plaintiff.
Steps (c) and (d) will take two (2) to four (4) weeks
E. If service of the papers on the Defendant fails after two attempts, the Plaintiff can make an application in the Family Court for Substituted Service. This allows the Plaintiff to obtain a Court Order to post the divorce papers to the last known address of the Defendant, and also to post on the Notice Board of the Family Court. Alternatively, the papers can be sent by Registered Post to the last known address of the Defendant or alternatively by email.
Step (e) will require one (1) month or thereabouts
F. If the Defendant’s address is unknown to the Plaintiff but the Plaintiff believes that the Defendant is still residing in Singapore, an application to the Family Court for Substituted Service by posting the Notice of Proceedings at the last known address, on the Notice Board of the Family Court or advertising the same in the local newspaper.
G. The Defendant will have to enter an appearance to state within 8 days of the date of service of the Divorce Papers if they intend to contest the writ or ancillary matters. If no appearance is entered by the Defendant, either by himself or via his solicitors, in this time frame, the Plaintiff can proceed to file an Affidavit of Service and to set down the matter for trial.
H. Where appearance is entered by the Defendant
If the Defendant is not contesting the Divorce Writ, the Plaintiff can then proceed to set down the Writ for trial on an uncontested basis. A hearing date will be received within a month’s time, and the earliest trial date can be 10 days after setting down.
If the Defendant is contesting the Writ, they will have 22 days from the date of service of the Writ, or 14 days from the date of entry of appearance either –
I. If the Divorce is uncontested, a hearing date will be given by the Court, but the requirement of parties to attend the court hearing is usually dispensed with, unless the Court requires the compulsory attendance of parties. The hearing will usually last 5-10 minutes. The Judge, if satisfied with the case, will grant an Interim Judgment, to be made Final after 3 months.
If the Divorce is contested, PTCs (Pre-Trial Conferences) will be conducted. The main objective of a PTC is to look into whether there are common areas where parties can agree, thus narrowing the issues to be heard by the Court. Sometimes a date for Mediation is also fixed to resolve certain issues.
If the PTC or Mediation is not successful, a hearing date will be given depending on the Family Court’s calendar. The duration of the trial is usually one day. In contested cases, both the Plaintiff and the Defendant and the respective witnesses give evidence in Court by way of affidavit evidence and are cross-examined on their affidavits. In most cases, after a PTC (and sometimes after several conferences) the Divorce Writ proceeds as uncontested leaving the ancillary matters to be contested.
In Stage 2, the Court’s goal is to decide on how to handle the Ancillary Matters regarding the Division of Matrimonial Assets and property (e.g. matrimonial home), Custody, Care and Control and Access to the Children, and Maintenance of the Wife and Children. The Court will issue a Final Judgment if it decides that the marriage can be dissolved or terminated at the end of Stage 2.
A. Hearing of Ancillary Matters.
Questions of spousal maintenance, custody of children, division of assets and costs, etc. may be adjourned to be heard in Chambers at a date to be fixed by the Registrar. The Registrar may also fix a Mediation session to assist parties in resolving the issues amicably.
The Court will require parties to file their respective Affidavit of Assets and Means in which they must disclose all assets, liabilities, income and expenditure. There are two (2) rounds of exchange of Affidavits. Parties are entitled to also undertake Discovery, Injunctions and Interrogatories proceedings at this stage if they suspect assets, liabilities, income and expenditure have not been truthfully disclosed.
Once parties have filed the prerequisite affidavits, they will also be required to file a Check List and an Ancillary Matters Facts and Position Sheet. Upon filing these documents, the Court will then decide if the matter should be heard in the Family Court or transferred to the High Court. The case can be transferred if the Court agrees that the case has an important question of law, is a test case, or for any other sufficient reason. Usually, the case will be heard in the High Court if the net value of the asset exceeds $ 5 million.
Thereafter, an Ancillary Hearing date will be fixed to hear the respective counsels’ written and oral submissions in Court.
B. 3 months from the date of making Interim Judgment, provided that the ancillary matters have been heard and the requisite orders made, the Plaintiff can proceed to file the necessary papers to extract the Final Judgment Order.