In legal terms, divorce is the legal procedure that ends a marital relationship. Divorce procedures can be complex, which is why it is advisable that you have some basic knowledge of the requirements and correct procedures. To begin, there are 2 key points you must be absolutely clear about.
First, divorce in Singapore is a 2-step process:
Stage 1: Dissolution of Marriage
Stage 2: Ancillary Matters
The first stage of the divorce process involves dissolving the marriage, if the Family Court is satisfied that your marriage has irretrievably broken down (i.e. is beyond salvage). You will receive an Interim Judgement when a Judge of the Family Justice Courts grants your divorce.
The second stage of the divorce proceedings involves resolving ancillary matters such as division of assets in divorce, divorce maintenance payments (i.e. alimony), access and custody of children after divorce below 21 years old. You will receive a Final Judgement if you are successful.
Second, divorce procedure will vary according to the type of marriages:
For Civil marriages, the divorce will be filed with the Family Justice Courts. The Women’s Charter governs the law on divorce for civil marriages in Singapore.
For Muslim marriages, the divorce will be filed with the Syariah Court. The Administration of Muslim Law Act (AMLA) governs the law on divorce for Muslim marriages in Singapore. For divorces in Muslim marriages, marriage counselling is mandatory. The Syariah Court also offers counselling and mediation to allow for the amicable settlement of ancillary issues. A hearing will only be scheduled by the Court if both parties are unable to reach a settlement.
There are some preliminary criteria that you must meet before you can apply for a divorce. In Singapore, you can get a divorce in the Family Justice Courts if you or your partner:
1. Are a Singapore Citizen or Singapore Permanent Resident
2. Have lived in Singapore for a minimum of three years
3. Are domiciled in Singapore
Accordingly to Section 94 of the Women’s Charter, you are also required to have been married for at least three years before you can apply for a divorce. Nonetheless, the court may grant a concession in exceptional cases and allow divorces in marriages that are less than 3 years, if you have suffered exceptional depravity or hardship.
Below are some instances where the court may grant an early divorce:
1. Extreme mental distress
2. Physical or mental abuse
3. Unusual cruel adultery
a. Committing adultery multiple times, with multiple partners
b. Adultery with a maid
c. Adultery with a relative or close friend of the spouse
d. Committing adultery on the matrimonial bed
4. Adultery-induced pregnancy
5. Homosexual tendencies in either parties
Do note that this list is non-exhaustive and it is ultimately the court’s discretion whether an early divorce will be granted.
2.1 Expat Divorce: What if I am an Expat?
Even if you are an expat contemplating an Expat Divorce in Singapore, the Singapore Courts can still hear your case so long as one of the spouses has been habitually resident in Singapore for at least three continuous years before the divorce, or has Singapore domicile. Pursuant to Section 94 of the Women’s Charter, you must be in a marriage of at least three years.
If your spouse is a dependant pass holder, the filing of a divorce application by you does not affect his/her right to live or work in Singapore. However, once the divorce is legalised under the Family & Matrimonial Laws of Singapore, your spouse must do one of the following:
(1) Leave Singapore within 14 days, or
(2) Apply for a work permit and seek employment, or
(3) If he/she is unable to get a job straight away, request for extension of the employment. In this situation, he/she would require authorisation from you via your employer. This means that you would still have to be a sponsor to him/her.
If you do not satisfy the requirements to file for a divorce in Singapore, you can consider alternatives to divorce, such as entering into a separation deed with your spouse. If you insist on getting a divorce, you should check with the country of your origin whether the Courts can hear your case.
To divorce, a Judge of the Family Justice Courts must concur that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. This means that there must be nothing else you and your spouse can do to repair the marital discord. In order to satisfy the Court that your marriage has broken down irretrievably, you must prove that you fall within at least one of the grounds of divorce, namely:
1. That your spouse has committed adultery and you find it intolerable to live with him/her anymore;
2. That your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with him/her;
3. That your spouse has deserted you continuous period of at least 2 years immediately preceding the initiation of divorce proceedings;
4. That you and your spouse have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 3 years immediately preceding the initiation of divorce proceedings, and your spouse consents to a divorce;
5. That you and your spouse have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 4 years immediately preceding the initiation of divorce proceedings.
Once you are certain that you fall within a ground of divorce, you may initiate a divorce proceeding. From this point on, the procedures will get very technical could be highly complex and challenging for the layperson. Thus, it is highly recommended that you engage a good divorce lawyer in Singapore to assist you in your divorce proceedings.
In brief, a good divorce lawyer will complete these steps for you in chronological order:
1. Start a divorce proceeding by filing the relevant legal documents.
2. Serve the sealed copies on your spouse to alert him/her that you have initiated the divorce proceedings in court.
3. Obtain for you your first court date.
If you and your spouse are both agreeable to a divorce, your lawyer will file a Request for Setting Down Action for Trial
If you and your spouse are unable to set down, the Court will call for a Status Conference to check on your case. Your lawyer will attend the Status Conference on your behalf.
4. Accompany you on the First Stage of your divorce, which is the Divorce hearing.
5. Accompany you through the Ancillary matter pre-trial process.
6. Accompany you on the second stage of your divorce, which is the Ancillary Matters hearing.
7. Obtain for you a Certificate of Making Interim Judgment Final, which would finalise your divorce and conclude all Court proceedings.
Disclaimer: The information provided on the Huffe portal does not constitute legal advice. Articles are not written by lawyers. You should obtain specific legal advice from a lawyer before taking any legal action. Although we try our best to ensure the accuracy of the information on this website, you rely on it at your own risk.