The divorce procedures for the two types of divorce differ to a great extent. Many of the major variances that arise between the two result from this difference in process. The following is the usual procedure for an Uncontested Divorce:
(a) Filing Necessary Documents
Divorce Proceedings usually start with the Plaintiff serving the Writ of Divorce, Statement of Claim and Statement of Particulars onto the Defendant.
The Statement of Claim must specify which fact is being relied on in asking the court to terminate the marriage: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, three years’ separation with consent or four years’ separation (section 95 of the Women’s Charter). All of these come under the sole ground of divorce in Singapore, which is the marriage in question having irretrievably broken down. The Statement of Particulars gives details on the fact being relied upon.
If the Plaintiff and Defendant have agreed on care arrangements for their child/children post-divorce and what to do with their matrimonial HDB flat, they can file an Agreed Parenting Plan (Form 1) and Agreed Matrimonial Property Plan (Form 14) respectively.
If the Defendant does not dispute the contents of the documents filed, he may file a Memorandum of Appearance which may contain a statement indicating that he agrees to a divorce (s17 Women’s Charter Matrimonial Proceedings). This has to be done within 8 days of service of the Writ of Divorce.
(b) Divorce Hearing
If the Defendant does not enter an appearance, the Plaintiff can proceed to set down the matter for trial on an uncontested basis regardless.
Uncontested divorce hearings are generally held in chambers and typically last only a few minutes. Spouses and lawyers need not attend. Despite parties having no contest to the granting of the divorce or the fact used, the court will not merely ‘rubber-stamp’ their petition- it must be satisfied that the marriage has indeed irretrievably broken down (Kwong Sin Hwa v Lau Lee Yen ). This process is often made smoother by lawyers, who know to comply with the relevant Practice Directions and ensure good practice when attempting to secure a divorce for their clients.
Following the divorce hearing, the judge will grant an Interim Judgment if he is sufficiently satisfied that there are grounds for divorce. This marks the end of the first stage of the divorce process. An Interim Judgment is a provisional order for divorce where there is no application to show why it should not be made final. It is made final after three months and remarriage is only legal after the Final Judgment.
The second stage of divorce concerns division of matrimonial assets, custody of children, divorce maintenance, etc. If the parties have amicably agreed on the direction forward for ancillary matters, they can file a Draft Consent Order, which indicates settlement of all ancillary issues. This can be done on behalf of both parties by only one lawyer.
In some divorces, parties choose not to contest the actual divorce but tend to want to contest ancillary matters. Especially when there are children, or even pets, involved, spouses may be vehement in trying to obtain what they feel is optimal for themselves. This same situation may arise in disputes regarding property.
The pre-trial process, or Ancillary Matters case conference, is conducted to determine whether or not settlement is possible.
If settlement is possible, parties may be referred for counselling with a court counsellor or to Family Resolutions Chambers. This is succeeded by a Consent Ancillary Matters Hearing and the Draft Consent Order is prepared here.
If settlement is not possible, parties will have to file Affidavits of Assets and Means (Form 206). This will be followed by a Contested Ancillary Matters Hearing. It is best for parties to negotiate on their own and come to a settlement to avoid the prolonged emotional drain that inevitably comes with any further dispute in court.
(d) Final Judgment
Under the Women’s Charter (s 123), the court may hold back turning the interim judgment of divorce into a final judgment where it is dissatisfied with the former spouses’ arrangements over a child. This is in line with the overriding principle of ensuring that any children embroiled in their parents’ divorce do not have their welfare compromised. A well thought out Parenting Plan will largely supersede this.
The uncontested divorce process may seem simpler and easier to handle than its contested counterpart; this may lead parties seeking a divorce to self-represent to save costs (instead of hiring an Uncontested Divorce Attorney). However, the requisite forms and documents that have to be filed, as outlined above, are complex and difficult to comprehend.
In uncontested divorces, a sole lawyer can represent both spouses. The Defendant, after having received a draft of the Statement of Claim, Statement of Particulars and other relevant terms from the Plaintiff, can propose amendments to the lawyer who will then inform the Plaintiff. Should the Plaintiff and Defendant be in total agreement about the contents of the draft divorce papers, the papers can then be signed and filed in court; an uncontested divorce hearing will be fixed.
Should the Defendant disagree with the contents of the draft divorce papers, he can proceed to seek independent legal advice to contest the matters he takes issue with, and the divorce will proceed as contested.
Spouses should not be hesitant to enter into an uncontested divorce thinking that their interests will not be protected- they are able to pursue independent legal advice if they deem the other party’s terms unacceptable.
As long as the uncontested divorce in question falls under the purview of Section 95 of the Women’s Charter, i.e. the ground for divorce is the marriage having irretrievably broken down, its hearing will be conducted in chambers. This is in contrast to open court hearings for contested divorces, in which members of the public are able to witness proceedings if they wish to do so.
Although the length of proceedings in an uncontested divorce tends to be shorter than that of a contested one, parties wishing to obtain a divorce must not be deluded into believing that it is an extremely quick process. The time between the granting of an Interim Judgment and a Final Judgment alone is 3 months.
Spouses cannot expect to be granted a divorce due to minor disputes. The court advocates exploring alternative measures such as counselling and mediation before resorting to divorce. The length of time taken to be granted a divorce, albeit an uncontested one, is to allow spouses time to work out their issues if possible.
To ensure that the package is really value-for-money, you should check that these components (listed below) are included in the package. As a guideline for you, the prices listed next to each component are the prevailing fee that a law firm in the current market is charging. You may use that as comparison when engaging a divorce lawyer.
1. Service fee (S$1,357.40)
2. Filing cost and Court fees (S$254.60)
3. Commissioning fees (S$20.00)
4. Photocopying, Postage and other Miscellaneous fees (S$18.00)
5. Any GST
For this amount that you are paying, you should be receiving professional advice from a seasoned lawyer that is well-versed in Family and Divorce law. These are the bare minimum services that your divorce attorney should be providing you with:
A. Your lawyer should provide you with at least 20 minutes of free consultation.
B. Your lawyer should obtain all the necessary information from you and provide you with a detailed explanation on divorce procedures.
C. Your lawyer should draft all your divorce paperwork and e-file them to the Singapore Family Courts. These documents include statement of claims, terms of settlement, and a statement of particulars.
D. Your lawyer should provide easy access to him/her through phone and email. You should be entitled to an allowance of 1-2 hours of discussion with him/her
E. Your lawyer should inform you on the status of your case on a regular basis.
F. When everything is in order, your lawyer will arrange for you and your partner to sign the divorce papers in the presence of the lawyer and the Commissioner of Oaths.
G. Your lawyer will file all the papers to the court and for an uncontested divorce, a hearing date will be fixed. He/she will then extract your Interim Judgement and Final Judgement.
As a final word of advice, if you are proceeding with an uncontested divorce, do check with your lawyer to make sure that the fees are nett. It is also advisable that before you sign the engagement letter, you negotiate for a set amount of consultation time that you deem necessary for the divorce process.
Many divorce lawyers offer fixed fees for uncontested divorces. While parties may be tempted to hire cheap divorce lawyers that offer the lowest fees, they must keep in mind that lawyers’ fees are entirely separate from and do not include filing fees, court fees, etc. unless specified.
Full cooperation by both parties with each other and with their lawyer is essential to keep legal costs low.
Founder and Principal Lawyer
of Yeo and Associates LLC
Beatrice Yeo Poh Tiang
Having handled over 10,000 divorces since 2006, Ms. Beatrice Yeo, the Founder and Principal Lawyer of the firm, is widely acknowledged as one of the best divorce lawyers in Singapore.
She has extensive experience in all aspects of Matrimonial Law, including Nullity Proceedings, Contested & Uncontested Divorce and Mediation.
It is Beatrice’s personal endeavour to make sure that her clients get her personal and specialised attention.
Contact Ms. Beatrice Yeo right away for a FREE phone consultation on legal costs and divorce procedure. You may also fill up the enquiry form above to be contacted by Yeo & Associates LLC.
Call +65 85888824
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.