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What are the legal grounds for divorce in Singapore?

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:


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.


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.


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.

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