Am I eligible to divorce in Singapore?

Eligibility for Divorce

In order to commence civil proceedings for divorce in Singapore, one of the parties filing for divorce is required to fulfil the requirements as listed below:

  1. They must be domiciled in Singapore during the commencement of divorce proceedings (‘domicile’ means to treat Singapore as a permanent home) .
  2. They must be residing in Singapore for a minimum of 3 years, before divorce proceedings is commenced; and
  3. Have been married for a minimum of 3 years, unless if the party filing for divorce has suffered unbearable hardship or exceptionally cruel behaviour.

Note: If you were married under Muslim Law, the previously mentioned requirements may not applicable to you. Please get in touch if you require more information on Syariah Divorce.

Do I really need a lawyer to file for divorce?

Do you need a lawyer to file for divorce

You might be wondering; do I even need a lawyer to get a divorce? The honest answer is that you don’t, you could choose to reach an amicable state with your spouse and handle the necessary paperwork and filing yourself. This however is still a complicated and timely legal process, and thus it usually makes sense to hire a legal professional to handle this matter for you.

There is also situations where you may not be able to easily reach an amicable decision point with your spouse. A lawyer can therefore help to protect and insulate you from a difficult spouse, and take care of the legal and administrative aspects of a divorce. This includes making sure you don’t enter into a bad deal, attending court, and preparing all the necessary documents.

Assuming you have reached the decision to engage a lawyer to handle your divorce, what are some key factors you should look out for when choosing who to engage?

Strong Integrity

Part of a lawyer’s responsibility is to assess your case, and highlight both the good and bad aspects. good or bad. You should be wary of any lawyers that promise you a sure thing, no matter how much you want to hear it.

Be wary of lawyers who don’t ever disagree with your point of view. A good lawyer is focused on helping you get the best possible deal, and this may require them to disagree with you on certain elements.

You can rely on our lawyers to advise you on the strong, and the weak parts of your case.

Confidence grown from experience

You should look for a lawyer who instills you with confidence in their understanding of your case, the law, and the next steps proposed.

Being a good lawyer is not about wearing a fancy suit or having luxurious offices in the CBD. It’s about skills and experience, coupled with good old-fashioned hard work and preparation.

The accumulated knowledge and experience of our team of divorce lawyers will ensure that you will have the best representation.

Responsiveness to your needs

It’s truly impossible for a single lawyer to be on call all of the time, but a team can be. There is nothing wrong with engaging a lawyer who works solo, but can you be sure of their workload and ability to assign enough focus to your case?

We have a large team of over 20 lawyers and 30 support staff, ensuring that we have the capacity to handle any case with the dedication and attention our clients deserve.

Complete transparency

When reviewing lawyers to handle your case, you want to ensure that they are going to act in your best interests, and not just line their pockets.

One of the best ways to figure this out is to see if there is transparency in their fees. Some lawyers may entice you with a low advertised rate, only to find out later that there were many hidden fees.

At IRB we quote reasonable nett rates, which are inclusive of tax and disbursements, so you know exactly how much you must pay, before you take a decision on whether to engage us.

What is the process for divorce in Singapore?

Divorce process in Singapore

Divorce in Singapore involves 2 stages, the Dissolution of Marriage and the handling of Ancillary Matters (which covers aspects such as custody of children, division of matrimonial properties and spousal maintenance).

If the divorce is accepted by the court then an interim judgement will be granted to dissolve the marriage. At this point you proceed to settle on the ancillary matters.

Parties are required to wait for 3 months (from the date of the interim judgment being granted) in order to apply to have this turned into a final judgment and thus complete the divorce process.

Are you eligible to divorce in Singapore?

Before even commencing the process, you must check your eligibility for divorce in Singapore. The following aspects must be met:

  1. The person filing for divorce, must be domiciled in Singapore during the commencement of divorce proceedings (‘domicile’ means to treat Singapore as a permanent home);
  2. The person filing, must have resided in Singapore for a minimum of 3 years, before divorce proceedings are commenced; and
  3. Have been married for a minimum of 3 years, except if the party filing for divorce has suffered unbearable hardship or exceptionally cruel behaviour.

Do you have legal grounds to succeed in filing for a divorce?

It is also compulsory for the party filing for divorce to prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down due to one or more ot the following reasons:

Adultery

You must be able to prove that your spouse has committed adultery, particularly if your spouse is unwilling to admit this directly. In certain situations you may wish to hire a private investigator to gather the necessary evidence.

Unreasonable behaviour

Your spouse has behaved in an unreasonable manner, such that you can no longer live together. There is many forms of unreasonable behaviour that sits under this broad category.

Desertion

Your spouse has deserted you for a period of more than 2 years and shown no signs of willingness to return.

Separation

If the parties have been separated for a period of 3 years then you may apply on this ground if both parties consent to the divorce. If the parties have been separated for 4 years or more then you may apply for divorce even without the other parties consent.

See our more detailed article on the legal grounds for divorce in singapore.

What documents need to be created and filed?

The party filing for divorce needs to file 3 types of documents, these are:

  1. Writ for Divorce
  2. Statement of Claim
  3. Statement of Particulars

Step 1: Dissolution of Marriage

After serving of the above-mentioned documents to your spouse, they are given 8 days to decide whether to contest the divorce.

If they choose to contest the divorce, they are required to file 2 types of documents as follows:

  1. Memorandum of Appearance
  2. Defence

Our advice is always try to avoid a contested divorce. It is time consuming, emotionally painful, and can become a very costly endeavour. You may wish to request a resolution consultation with either of the below, that might help to reach an amicable resolution between parties:

  1. Resolution Conference with a Family Resolutions Chambers’ judge
  2. Counselling Session with a Court Counsellor

If such alternatives cannot resolve the divorce case in an amicable manner, the divorce case will be transferred to the court. The court will examine whether the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

However, if  your spouse decides not to contest the divorce, but intends to challenge the ancillary matters, they should file the Memorandum of Appearance to highlight the ancillary matters he/she intends to challenge.

If the court concludes that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, the court will grant an Interim Judgment, which is an order to dissolve the marriage. The court then proceeds to decide the ancillary matters.

Step 2: Ancillary Matters

Before the court decides on the ancillary matters, both parties must file the document of Affidavits of Assets and Means. The parties shall disclose all assets and liabilities, earnings and expenditure in their affidavits. The parties may exchange their affidavits a maximum of 3 times.

If the total net value of the matrimonial asset(s) exceeds $1.5 million, the divorce case will be transferred to the High Court.

After the filing and exchange of documents, the court will set a date to hear the ancillary matters.

After settlement of all ancillary matters, parties are required to wait for 3 months (from the date of the interim judgment) in order to apply for converting this into a final judgment, at which point the divorce is final.

What are the legal grounds for divorce in Singapore?

Grounds for Divorce Featured Image

When seeking a divorce in Singapore, it is compulsory for the party filing for divorce to prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down due to one or more of the reasons listed below:

Adultery

The party filing for divorce (known as the Plaintiff) finds it intolerable to live with the Defendant due to the Defendant having committed adultery.

In truth, this can be a challenging route to take, as the court will need the Plaintiff to provide adequate evidence of adultery being committed. In an ideal situation the Defendant would be agreeable to admitting their guilt, but in some situations Plaintiffs may also consider hiring a private investigator to gather evidence.

If the Plaintiff is unable to gather the required evidence, and the Defendant is unwilling to admit to adultery, then it would be normally be advisable to seek divorce on other grounds.

Unreasonable behaviour

The most common grounds for divorce in Singapore is for unreasonable behaviour. The party filing for divorce must, as the name suggests, show that the Defendant has behaved unreasonably, to the extent that it is no longer tolerable to live with him or her.

The challenge of course is perhaps defining unreasonable behaviour, as this may be open to some subjectivity in the eyes of the general public. It is advisable to discuss your situation with a lawyer to see whether your grounds may fall under this category, but common examples are:

  • The threat of physical violence, or indeed the usage of physical violence.
  • Challenges around alcohol or drug abuse.
  • Clear evidence that your spouse shows little respect towards you, such as continuously insulting you.
  • Evidence of financial immaturity/carelessness that has led to poor maintenance of you and/or any children.
  • Consistently being absent at abnormal hours (i.e., going out late every evening) and unable to provide acceptable answers on where they have been.

Desertion

The individual filing for divorce can also claim on the grounds of desertion, where the Defendant has effectively left and showed no sign of returning for at least 2 years.

The Plaintiff must have clear evidence that the Defendant had an intent to desert, which could be challenging in situations where the Defendant wishes to contest this in court.

It cannot be leveraged as a legitimate grounds for divorce in situations where two parties are legitimately ‘living apart’, for example one party if working overseas.

Separation

If both parties have lived apart for a period of at least 3 years, and both parties are agreeable to the divorce, then you can claim on the grounds of separation.

If both parties have lived apart for a period of over 4 years, then you may also file for divorce based on separation. Due to the time factor, you do not need your spouses agreement to complete the divorce process.

This is an extremely common grounds for divorce in Singapore, and usually leveraged when both parties are able to reach an amicable split.

In Conclusion

It is advisable to discuss your situation with a lawyer before deciding on how to proceed. We offer a free initial consultation and can take stock of your situation and provide some initial direction on how best to proceed.