Family lawyers from I.R.B. Law explain the divorce process in Singapore and answer FAQs for Singaporeans & expats alike
From China to the U.S., it would seem that the life under quarantine in the time of Covid-19 has led to a spike in divorce rates all around the world. Family lawyers here have also seen a jump in queries about the divorce process in Singapore, as stresses relating to everything from finances to the unfair division of household labor have come to the fore.
Getting a divorce is obviously a life-altering event (both for the couple and their children), so it’s worth knowing all the facts before you decide to move forward. We recently spoke with Nureliza Syahidain and Muntaz Zainuddin, family lawyers at full-service Singapore law firm I.R.B. Law, to get the rundown on the divorce process in Singapore, including the difference between contested and uncontested proceedings, and special considerations when children are involved. Even if you’re just a little bit curious, note that I.R.B. Law offers a free first consultation on divorce or any other family-related matters. Give them a call (+65) 6298 2537 or email them at [email protected] to find out more.
What are the steps to the divorce process in Singapore?
- Parties should seek legal advice to find out more on their rights and obligations.
- Thereafter, they should attempt to privately negotiate the divorce terms between themselves to see whether they can agree to the divorce and the ancillary matters (such as child custody, access, maintenance, division of assets, etc.).
- If private negotiation fails, they may wish to consider having legal representation to formally negotiate with their spouse or their spouse’s lawyers. This should be done before filing any documents in Court.
- If an agreement can be reached through private negotiations or negotiations through the lawyers, the matter can be filed in Court as a simplified uncontested divorce. This is a quick and cheap process open to parties who have come to an agreement on all terms.
- If there is still no agreement, parties may wish to consider filing for a contested divorce to move matters forward. This means that the Court will adjudicate on the terms of the divorce The terms in Divorce proceedings can be divided into two parts:
-First, the reason for the divorce, referred to as the particulars of irretrievable breakdown; and
-Second, the ancillary matters (such as child custody, access, maintenance, division of assets, etc.).
- If either part is not agreed upon between the parties, it continues as a contested divorce. At this stage, we would strongly recommend engaging a lawyer to represent party for the proceedings and to help in drafting the divorce papers and attending Court.
- If parties agree to the first part but not the second (ancillary matters), the Court will grant an Interim Judgment and parties will be directed to attend mediation (if there is a child below 21) to discuss and negotiate the ancillary matters with the help of a mediator.
- If there is still no agreement to the ancillary matters, parties will be asked to prepare their Affidavits to declare all their assets, liabilities and contributions towards the family, as well as their position in relation to the ancillary matters.
- Parties will proceed for hearing and the Court will make the relevant orders in relation to the ancillary matters.
- If parties are unable to agree to the first part (particulars of breakdown), they would need to file Affidavits and proceed to Court for a Trial. The Court will decide if the particulars are proven and divorce can be granted.
What satisfies the Court’s requirement to demonstrate that a marriage has broken down?
There is only ONE Ground for divorce, Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage, which can be proven using the following particulars:
- Unreasonable Behaviour;
- Separation for 3 years with Spouse’s consent;
- Separation for 4 years; and
- Desertion of 2 years.
If I’m thinking about divorce, what steps should I take to prepare financially, or in terms of evidence gathering, for the financial matters?
Assuming that the ancillary matters of the divorce is going to be contested, you will need to gather evidence of financial contributions towards the marriage and/or documents evidencing maintenance required (ie, receipts for utilities, furniture, groceries etc).
It is worth noting that the Court may also take into consideration non-financial contributions towards the marriage (especially in long marriages). These include cleaning the house and taking care of the children. In some interesting cases, even shampooing your spouse’s hair can be considered to be a form of non-financial contributions towards the marriage.
If you are considering taking over a HDB property, it is best to do your due diligence and check your eligibility. For example, you may wish to check with HDB if you are eligible to take over and if you have the financial capacity to take over the HDB/mortgage loan.
How does having children impact divorce proceedings?
Where the children are below 21 years old, parties are required to attend compulsory counselling called the Mandatory Parenting Programme before they are allowed to commence divorce.
Parties would also be required to attend Mediation as part of the contested divorce proceedings if they are unable to agree on issues surrounding the custody, care and control, access and maintenance of the children.
If this is not resolved at mediation, the Court would have to decide on these matters. Caregiving of children can also be considered by Court in assessing the indirect financial contribution of parties in deciding issues relating to division of assets.
If I am not Singaporean, can I return to my home country with my kids?
If either party plans to relocate with the children, this must be pleaded in their case and the Court will decide if the relocation is in the best interest of the children. In deciding this, the Court will also need to balance the right of access for the party, without care and control, to the children.
What recourse do I have if we’re not legally married but share a child or children?
You may wish to consider applying for an Order from the Family Justice Court to seek the custody, care and control of the children or determination of any maintenance.
What happens to my Dependant’s Pass (DP) if we get divorced, or my partner cancels it?
Your spouse can cancel your Dependant’s Pass. You may also lose the Pass after the divorce. In the alternative, you may consider applying for a Long-Term Visit Pass instead if you are eligible. During divorce proceedings, you may also be able to argue that your spouse should reinstate your Dependant Pass if it interferes with the welfare of the children. More information on alternative passes can be found on ICA’s website.
Want to learn more about the divorce process in Singapore? Contact I.R.B. Law for a free first consultation on divorce or any other family-related matters. Give them a call at (+65) 6298 2537 or email [email protected] to find out more. They have five office locations conveniently located all around Singapore.