If you are thinking about getting a Divorce for your Civil Marriage in Singapore, you must first find out if the Singapore Courts have authority to handle the case before you can actually start a Divorce action in Singapore. Muslim Marriages according to Syariah Law are controlled by separate rules.
For the Singapore Courts to have authority to handle actions for Divorce, you or your spouse must satisfy 2 conditions:
Getting a Divorce is very different from getting your marriage Annulled. A Divorce dissolves and terminates the existing marriage but an Annulment “erases” the marriage by declaring that the marriage never technically existed and was never valid.
Although, you do not need to have been married for at least 3 years to get an Annulment, the Court only grants an Annulment in very limited situations. Usually, an Annulment is easier to obtain at an earlier time in the marriage.
There are 2 key phases in Divorce proceedings for a Civil Marriage:
In Phase 1, the person applying for the Divorce must prove to the Court that there’s a basis to allow a Divorce. According to Singapore Divorce and Family Law, a Divorce can only be allowed by the Court when there’s proof of the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
You can prove the irretrievable breakdown in the marriage may by showing that any one of the following events has taken place:
1. Adultery: This means that your spouse has committed adultery (meaning voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not their spouse) and you now feel that it is intolerable to live with your spouse. Adequate evidence is required to prove the Defendant’s act of adultery. You may want to engage a private investigator to obtain evidence showing your spouse’s adultery.
2. Unreasonable Behaviour: This means that has behaved in an unreasonable manner that the Plaintiff feels that it is now impossible to continue living with the Defendant. Some examples of unreasonable behaviour include the following:
3. Desertion: This means that your spouse deserted and abandoned you for at least 2 years and shows no intention or indication of returning.
4. Separation: This means that you and your spouse have lived apart and maintained separate households in practice and fact. You need to be separated for at least 3 years if both you and your spouse agree to using Separation as the basis for Divorce – this is also known as Separation with Consent. If your spouse doesn’t agree to using Separation as the basis for Divorce, then you need to be separated for at least 4 years – this is also known as Separation without Consent.
Proving the events relating to the irretrievable breakdown of your Marriage will be a question of fact that the Court will consider in Court. This means that you will need to prove your version of events based on evidence if your spouse contests, challenges or disagrees with your claims. A Contested Divorce and Trial can be long-drawn-out process and requiring you and your witnesses to give evidence during Court sessions and hearings after which the Court will make a decision and deliver its judgment.
If you and your spouse agree and do not contest that the irretrievable breakdown of your marriage has occurred, then this phase of the divorce process doesn’t need to involve a trial.
This is a very common question asked by people thinking about getting a Divorce.
It’s important to know that according to Singapore Divorce and Family Law, the Court generally does not consider the reasons for the Divorce and breakdown of the marriage when it decides on how to handle the Ancillary Matters. That’s why in reality there may not any or much advantage you can gain by proving that your spouse was “at fault” or “responsible” for causing the Divorce. If you are represented by a Divorce Lawyer, he would be able to tell you more about whether the breakdown of the marriage will affect the Court’s handling of the Ancillary Matters in your Divorce.
After the Court is convinced that your marriage has irretrievably broken down (for example if this was agreed and consented to by you and your spouse or if you managed to successfully prove this through a trial), the Court will issue an Order known as an Interim Judgement to dissolve and terminate the marriage, after which the Divorce proceedings will proceed to Phase 2 and Ancillary Matters.
In Phase 2, the Court will look at how to handle the Ancillary Matters regarding 3 issues:
When it comes to Ancillary Matters regarding Children, there are 3 main issues that the Court needs to decide:
Custody of the Children does not mean giving the rights to the parent who will get physical custody. Custody in this context doesn’t only mean daily, physical custody. In Divorce proceedings, Custody of the Children relates to the overall authority to make major and important life decisions for the children, for example, choices regarding their education, schooling and choice of school, what religion they choose or are exposed to, whether they can receive specific medical treatment and whether they can migrate or relocate to live or study overseas.
Generally, if you and your spouse cannot agree on how to deal with the issue of Custody, then the Court will often give both parents Joint Custody of the Children.
Care and Control of the Children relate to which parent will be given the rights and responsibility of being the main caregiver on a day-to-day basis. This means that the Children will mainly live with the parent who has been granted Care and Control, for example from Monday to Friday whilst attending school.
Access of the Children is the rights given to the parent who was not granted Care and Control of the Children. Access of the Children effectively means the visitation rights that the parent will have, meaning that the parent will have the right to spend time with the Children either on an unsupervised or basis depending on the circumstances of the Divorce and family situation. The terms of Access can also be very specific and clearly defined or they can be very general and cover a broad range of situations.
Maintenance is the payment that the husband must pay to the wife and parents must pay for their children. Generally, a husband is required by law to provide financial maintenance (meaning support) for his wife during and after the marriage, and parents are likewise required by law to provide financial maintenance for children of the marriage during and after the marriage. Although a court will often order that a father pay maintenance for children of the marriage, it may not order a husband to pay maintenance for the ex-wife in some situations such as very short marriages or where the wife is financially independent and self-sufficient.
In a Divorce, you and your spouse are allowed to decide and agree on the amount of maintenance that needs to be paid to the wife and children. If you and your spouse cannot agree, the Court will decide on the amount after assessing many factors including the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, current and forecasted future income, the duration and length of the marriage and household expenditure which are proven in Court through documents and evidence in support of the claims made by you and your spouse, for example, bank statements, medical bills and expenses, spending on the children’s education and enrichment activities.
The Division of Matrimonial Assets and Property is an issue that can be decided by agreement or consent between you and your spouse or by the Court if you and your spouse are unable to agree.
If the Court needs to decide on this, it will assess both direct (financial) contributions and indirect (non-financial) contributions to the assets by taking into account a wide range of factors which must be supported by documentary and other evidence:
Examples of these factors are:
These refer to cases in which a Divorce and the terms for the Divorce phase or Ancillary Matters phase have been agreed and consented to by the couple, meaning that it is not contested, which therefore makes it the process “uncontested”.
In many cases, a Divorce can take place on an uncontested basis if:
Sometimes, people decide to carry out the Divorce process on their own without hiring a lawyer because they feel that this will help them save money.
However, many people often are unaware that the Court will expect you and your spouse to comply with all the formal rules regarding the formal and technical process of applying for the Divorce through the Family Justice Courts. This means that you will need to prepare all the Court papers and documents and communicate with the Judge at Court sessions (whether in writing legal arguments or presenting oral arguments) according to the same rules as a lawyer. In short, although the Judges and staff of the Family Justice Courts are patient and understanding and will try to guide you during your case if you are not represented by a lawyers, you must remember that Judges and staff of the Family Justice Courts cannot and will not give you any legal advice for your Divorce case, meaning that they cannot discuss your options or suggest and plan your next steps with you.
If you decide to apply for a Divorce, there are many Court papers and documents that you will need to prepare and submit to Court, for example:
If you know or feel that your spouse will challenge and contest any part of the Divorce or Ancillary Matters (e.g. Custody, Care & Control, Maintenance for the Wife and Children and the Division of Matrimonial Assets and Properties), then you must be prepare that the case is likely to become complex and long-drawn-out and you should therefore carefully consider whether you can and should engage an experienced Divorce lawyer to advise you, explain to you your options as well as help you decide, plan and carry out the next steps in your case.
In terms of the process and timeline of a Divorce, here is a typical example of how a Divorce can proceed: