Grounds for Divorce

Understanding the legal Grounds for Divorce in Singapore


Marriage is a crystallization of a bond between two parties that putatively lasts until death. However, no marriage is free from conflicts, and over the course of a relationship, a lot happens: personalities change, bodies age, and romantic love waxes and wanes. You might eventually find yourself in a situation where a marriage cannot be saved. At this point, filing for a divorce might be the best option for both you and your spouse.

Before filing for a divorce, you should understand the matrimonial laws in Singapore. Every country has different grounds for divorce, and you need to know which grounds are accepted by the courts in Singapore. For example, many clients go to their lawyers wanting a divorce on the basis that they and their spouse cannot get along, but mere inability to get along with the other party is insufficient for the court to grant a divorce. From a legal perspective, adequate facts and evidence must be adduced or satisfied before a divorce can be successfully obtained.

Thus, if you want to get a divorce, you must first fulfil the legal requirements to apply for a divorce. This will be covered in the first part of this article. Next, you must satisfy the vital requirement of an irretrievable breakdown of marriage, which will be covered in the next section in further details.



Before you can file for divorce, there are some preliminary criteria that you must meet. In Singapore, you can get a divorce in the Family Justice Courts if you or your partner:

a) Are a Singapore Citizen or Singapore Permanent Resident
b) Have lived in Singapore for a minimum of three years
c) Are domiciled in Singapore

You must also have been married for a minimum of three years before you can apply for a divorce.

If you want a divorce even though you have not been married for three years, you can consider filing for annulment. 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. If you are uncertain about you legal options, you should seek advice from a good divorce lawyer in Singapore to aid you in choosing the appropriate course of actions.



In Singapore, there is only one ground of divorce, and that is an irretrievable breakdown of marriage. A Judge of the Family Justice Courts must concur that your marriage has irretrievably broken down before you would be allowed to divorce. 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 at least one of the following facts, namely:

a)  Adultery: If your spouse has committed adultery and you find it intolerable to live with him/her anymore, you can file for divorce. You will be required to produce evidence about your spouse’s adulterous behaviour, and this is best done through a hired private investigator.

b) Unreasonable Behaviour: To prove unreasonable behaviour, you must show that your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with him/her. There are no specific grounds of unreasonable behaviour, and you are open to prove to the court that your factual circumstances constitute unreasonable behaviour. Some common examples of unreasonable behaviour include violence, drug addiction and compulsive gambling habits.

c) Desertion: You need to show that your spouse has deserted you for a continuous period of at least 2 years immediately before the initiation of your divorce proceedings. You must show that you and your spouse has been living separately for 2 years, and that you spouse intended to desert you.

d) Separation for 3 years: You need to show that you and your spouse have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 3 years immediately preceding the initiation of your divorce proceedings. Your spouse must also consent to the divorce.

e) Separation for 4 years: For this fact, you just need to show that you and your spouse have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 4 years immediately preceding the initiation of divorce proceedings.

If you are unable to fall within any of the above reasons, you can consider filing for a legal separation. This will allow you to live separately from your spouse, and a divorce can subsequently be filed after 3 years if both you and your spouse are agreeable to the divorce. On the other hand, the period of separation provides you with time to slowly decide whether a divorce is what you really want, and also whether reconciliation is a viable option.



Marriage is treated very seriously in Singapore. Thus, courts are careful not to award divorces unless the high threshold of an irretrievable breakdown of marriage is satisfied. That said, it is not always clear-cut whether the situation you are in falls within any of the 5 reasons stated above. Furthermore, divorce procedures in Singapore can be very technical, complex, and challenging for the layperson. Coupled with how emotional this entire process could be, most people make the wise decision not to go through this alone.

To this end, it is highly recommended that you engage a good divorce lawyer in Singapore to assist you in your divorce proceedings. A legally trained counsel would be in a better position to explain the ground of divorce in Singapore to you and evaluate whether your situation is likely to succeed. You will also be better informed about the legal options that are available to you. Most importantly, a divorce lawyer will file all the necessary paperwork such as the Statements of Particulars, and make sure that your divorce is procedurally taken care of at every stage of the process.

We provide a useful listing of lawyers on our divorce lawyer’s page to allow you to choose the best divorce lawyer for your case. Do visit the page to see which law firm and/or lawyer is suitable for you. Choosing a good divorce lawyer that accommodates your needs would help you tide through the difficult divorce process as smoothly and as painlessly as possible.