Separation Vs Divorce: 3 Ways Couples Can Separate In Singapore

by | Jun 24, 2024 | Knowledge & Insights

Separation and Divorce are two distinct legal statuses for couples who decide to live apart in Singapore. 

While separation and Divorce offer different paths for couples looking to live apart, both require careful consideration of their legal implications. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the difference between separation and Divorce and the three ways couples can separate in Singapore. We’ll also share the advantages of having a family or Divorce lawyer in Singapore assist you in this process. 

Understanding The Difference Between Divorced Vs Separated

Divorce legally ends a marriage, allowing both parties to remarry. It involves formal legal proceedings where grounds for Divorce must be proven, such as unreasonable behaviour, adultery, or separation for a set period.

Separation, on the other hand, does not legally end a marriage. Couples live apart but remain legally married, which affects their legal status regarding assets, liabilities, and inheritance rights.

Both require clear agreements on key issues such as child custody, support payments, and property division. Both can be initiated mutually or by one party.

3 Different Ways For Couples To Separate In Singapore

1. Informal Separation

Informal Separation involves living apart without a formal agreement. It’s flexible but lacks legal enforceability.

Deed of Separation is a legally binding agreement that outlines the terms of separation, including financial arrangements and child custody. It can later be used as the basis for a Divorce.

Judicial Separation is a Court order allowing couples to live apart without ending the marriage. It’s less common and used when Divorce is not an option due to religious or personal reasons.

2. Deed Of Separation

A Deed of Separation in Singapore is a legal document that outlines the terms and conditions under which a married couple has agreed to live separately without filing for a Divorce. 

It is a formal agreement that establishes each spouse’s rights and responsibilities during their separation period. 

This document benefits couples who may not be ready to Divorce due to personal, financial or religious reasons but wish to live apart and have clear arrangements regarding their finances, children, and property.

Although it does not dissolve the marriage, a Deed of Separation is a legally binding contract between the spouses that is enforceable in Court.

However, it is essential to note that while the deed is binding, it does not have the same legal status as a Court order.

The Deed of Separation typically includes detailed arrangements on critical issues such as:

  • Child Custody and Access: Terms regarding who the children will live with, visitation rights, and holiday arrangements.
  • Maintenance and Support: Details on spousal and child support, including payment amount and duration.
  • Division of Assets and Liabilities: How the couple intends to divide their property, assets, and liabilities, including joint accounts, investments, and debts.
  • Living Arrangements: Agreements on who will reside in the matrimonial home and who will relocate.
  • Flexibility and Privacy: One of the benefits of a Deed of Separation is that it allows couples to negotiate terms that suit their unique situation without the need for Court intervention, offering a degree of flexibility and privacy not available through Court-ordered separations.
  • Basis for Divorce: If the couple decides to proceed with a Divorce later, the terms agreed upon in the Deed of Separation can serve as the basis for their Divorce agreement, potentially simplifying the Divorce process.
  • Voluntary Agreement: Both parties must voluntarily enter into the Deed of Separation to be valid. Each spouse should seek independent legal advice before signing to understand their rights and obligations fully.

For more details, read our article about understanding the Deed of Separation in Singapore.

3. Judicial Separation

Judicial Separation in Singapore is a legal process that allows married couples to live apart without dissolving their marriage. 

The Court formally recognises this process and provides a legal framework for separating the couple, addressing issues such as child custody, maintenance, and division of matrimonial assets, similar to Divorce proceedings. 

However, unlike Divorce, judicial separation does not end the marriage; the couple remains legally married but is authorised to live separately.

Judicial Separation is granted by the Family Justice Courts in Singapore. It requires filing a petition where one or both parties seek a Court order for separation.

The grounds for seeking judicial separation are similar to those required for Divorce, which include:

  • Unreasonable Behaviour
  • Adultery
  • Separation For A Certain Period

However, there is no need to prove the marriage has broken down.

Once a decree of judicial separation is granted, the couple is no longer obligated to cohabit. However, they remain legally married, which means neither party can remarry. The decree also allows the Courts to make orders regarding children, financial support and property.

In terms of financial and child custody arrangements, the Court has the authority to make orders regarding the maintenance of spouses and children, custody and access to children, and division or settlement of any property. These orders protect the interests of both parties and any children involved.

Judicial separation allows for the possibility of reconciliation without the need to remarry. If the couple resumes their marriage, they can cohabit once again. 

They may also apply to the Court to rescind the decree of judicial separation if they wish to formally end it.

A judicial separation has no fixed duration. It can continue indefinitely until either party files for Divorce. 

The period of separation under a judicial separation decree can be used as grounds for Divorce later, should one party wish to dissolve the marriage formally.

Learn more about the difference between Divorce, nullity and judicial separation in this article

Why Opt for Judicial Separation?

Couples might choose judicial separation over Divorce for various reasons, including religious beliefs that prohibit Divorce, the hope for reconciliation, or to remain married for the sake of children or financial reasons. 

It provides a legally recognised structure for separation, addressing immediate concerns like custody and support while leaving the door open for potential reconciliation.

Judicial separation in Singapore is a significant legal remedy for those who seek to live apart from their spouse without ending their marriage. 

It offers a formal solution to address practical issues arising from separation while respecting personal, religious, or moral reasons against Divorce.

What Should You Not Do During Separation?

When navigating the period of separation in Singapore, there are certain actions and behaviours you should conscientiously avoid to protect your interests and ensure a smoother legal process should you decide to proceed with a Divorce. 

Here are key considerations to keep in mind:

Avoid Significant Financial Changes

During separation, it’s crucial to avoid any significant financial decisions or large purchases that might alter your financial landscape. 

This includes selling property, making large investments or incurring substantial debts. Such actions can complicate the division of assets and liabilities if Divorce proceedings are initiated later.

Maintain Respectful Conduct

Actions taken during the separation can have a profound impact on the outcome of Divorce proceedings. 

Engaging in a new romantic relationship prematurely, for instance, can adversely affect the terms of your separation or Divorce. 

It’s wise to conduct yourself in a manner that does not jeopardise your position or lead to unfavourable terms, especially concerning child custody, asset division and maintenance agreements.

Communication And Interactions

It’s advisable to maintain respectful and civil communication with your spouse. Escalating conflicts or engaging in disputes, especially in front of children, can harm your case in future proceedings. 

Aim for amicable interactions to facilitate a more agreeable and less contentious separation process.

Legal And Documented Agreements

If you and your spouse have come to any agreements or have a Deed of Separation, adhere strictly to these terms. 

A Deed of Separation is a legally binding document that outlines the terms of your separation, including arrangements for finances, custody, and property. It also serves as a formal agreement between you and your spouse during this period.

Disregarding agreed-upon arrangements can negatively affect your credibility and standing in any future legal disputes or Divorce proceedings.

What If The Parties Want To Reunite?

If a couple contemplates reconciliation after a period of separation, they have the flexibility to reunite at any point. 

Should they have formalised their separation through a Deed of Separation, they can choose to nullify this agreement and return to their marital life together. 

This deed essentially acts as a temporary arrangement that can be set aside if both parties agree to reconcile.

In cases where the separation is judicially recognised, meaning the Court has officially sanctioned their separation, the couple may need to undertake specific legal procedures to dissolve the judicial separation decree. 

This often involves notifying the Court of their decision to reconcile and may require obtaining legal counsel to navigate the process effectively and ensure that any legal obligations or conditions imposed by the judicial separation are appropriately addressed.

Reuniting after either form of separation suggests a willingness to repair the marital relationship. Therefore, it might be beneficial for the couple to seek marital counselling or other support services as part of their reconciliation process.

Top 3 Advantages Of Hiring A Family Or Divorce Lawyer

Hiring a family or Divorce lawyer comes with numerous benefits that can significantly assist individuals in navigating the complex and often emotionally charged process of separation or Divorce. 

Here are some improved points highlighting these advantages:

1. Detailed Guidance Through The Separation Process

A family or Divorce lawyer not only offers legal advice but also provides detailed guidance on managing the separation process emotionally and logistically. 

They understand the stress and emotional turmoil and can help you navigate these challenges more easily and clearly.

2. Access To Additional Support Resources

Beyond legal services, family and Divorce lawyers often connect with other professionals who can support them during this difficult time. 

They can refer you to counselling or mediation services, financial advisors, and other specialists who can help address the various aspects of separation, ensuring a holistic support system is in place.

3. Fair And Legally Binding Agreements

One of the most critical roles of a family or Divorce lawyer is to ensure that any separation agreement is fair, comprehensive, and legally binding. 

They meticulously review and negotiate the terms of the agreement, covering crucial aspects like child custody, asset division, and maintenance to protect your interests and rights. 

Their expertise ensures that the agreement complies with legal standards and is enforceable, preventing future disputes and complications.

Conclusion About Separation Vs Divorce In Singapore

Understanding the legalities of separation and Divorce in Singapore is essential for anyone contemplating these significant life decisions. 

The distinctions between separation and Divorce, their respective legal prerequisites, and the profound effects they can have on your life cannot be understated. 

Being well-informed about these aspects is the first step towards making decisions that align with your personal circumstances and long-term well-being.

Consulting with family or Divorce lawyers in Singapore offers more than legal advice. They can also provide invaluable guidance and support during one of the most challenging periods in your life.

At Singapore Family Lawyer, we offer free 30-minute consultations, allowing us the opportunity to understand your unique situation, discuss your concerns, and explore your legal options without any initial financial commitment. Contact us today!

Frequently Asked Questions About Separation Vs Divorce In Singapore

Can I Remarry After A Separation?

No, you must obtain a Divorce to remarry legally.

How Long Does A Couple Need To Be Separated Before Filing For Divorce?

In Singapore, couples must be separated for at least three years for a non-contested Divorce based on separation or four years for a contested one.

Is A Deed Of Separation Required To File For Divorce?

While not mandatory, a Deed of Separation can simplify the Divorce process by pre-agreeing to the terms of separation.

Can Separation Agreements Be Changed?

Yes, but changes must be mutually agreed upon and may require legal modification of the original agreement.

About the author

About the author

Jonathan Wong

Jonathan is the Founder and Managing Director of Tembusu Law. He is also the founder of LawGuide Singapore, a prominent legaltech startup which successfully created and launched Singapore’s first legal chatbot in 2017.