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Divorce Proceedings

When either one or both parties in a marriage make the decision to terminate their marriage, it is never an easy decision. Once that decision has been made though, often times the parties involved are not fully aware of the process and the procedures required in taking the necessary steps towards the dissolution of their marriage. This can lead to a lot of stress, heartache and frustration for all the parties involved.

Divorce proceedings can be an intricate, complicated process as each country has its own laws, rules and regulations governing the process. Thus couples seeking to dissolve their union in Singapore need to be aware of the laws that are unique to the Singapore Family Justice Courts.

The Singapore system encourages couples who are in troubled marriages attempt to resolve their differences and try to salvage the marriage, by means of counselling if need be. There is thus a 3 year period in which couples are required to remain legally married. Divorce is to be considered a last resort, when the couple have exhausted their options at reconciliation after three years of marriage. The exception to this rule is if a spouse is experiencing exceptional cruelty and hardship remaining in the marriage.

Requirements to file for divorce in Singapore

  • Either one or both parties are residing in Singapore when beginning divorce proceedings
  • Either one or both parties have been living in Singapore for at least 3 years when beginning divorce proceedings
  • The couple must have been legally married for at least 3 years before beginning divorce proceedings. The rule can only be circumvented if the spouse filing for divorce (the plaintiff) can prove that they are suffering exceptional cruelty and hardship remaining in the marriage
  • There is irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, i.e.
    • The opposing spouse (the defendant) has committed adultery and the plaintiff finds it intolerable to remain in the marriage
    • Unreasonable behaviour on the part of the defendant, e.g. physical and/or mental abuse where the plaintiff cannot be reasonably expected to continue living with the abusive spouse
    • Desertion by the defendant for two years or more
    • Separation of at least three years and there is mutual consent for divorce
    • Both parties have been living apart for four years in which case there is no necessity for consent

The plaintiff, or the spouse applying for divorce, can file for a Writ of Divorce by him- or herself, or by engaging the services of a lawyer.

Contesting the divorce

Once a spouse has been served the divorce papers, he or she has a grace period of eight days in which to contest the divorce. They can also file for an extension where they will then have fourteen days in which to file a defence or to counter file.

Process after the Writ of Divorce is filed

Once the Writ of Divorce is filed, a date and time for a Status Conference or pre-trial hearing is set. Depending on whether the divorce is contested, the process may take up to several days. During this time witnesses testimonies from friends and neighbours may be called to verify claims of abuse, as well as medical documentations to substantiate these claims.

In cases where the children are deemed old enough to testify, they may also be called up for statements.

The plaintiff is also required to provide proof of marriage during the divorce proceedings.

Consequences of Divorce

Other than the termination of a marriage, the divorce procedure also decides on the division of matrimonial assets, such as the family home, and any other assets belonging to and for the use of the family.

The divorce procedure will also determine the care and custody of the children, notably who will be the custodial parent. The court will make the ruling based on the best interest of the child after considering the affidavits presented by both parents, and consultation with the child. Custody judgement will also include visitation rights as well as maintenance orders.