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Divorce FAQs

Not sure how to get a divorce in Singapore? We help to answer some common divorce-related questions covering all aspects and stages of divorce in Singapore.

Am I allowed to get a divorce in Singapore?

You can get a divorce in Singapore if the Singapore Courts have the jurisdiction to order your divorce, and if your marriage is at least 3 years old and you can prove an irretrievable breakdown of your marriage, or your marriage is shorter than 3 years and falls within certain exceptions.

I have been married for less than 3 years. Can I divorce?

It is possible to get a divorce in this scenario, but the Court will only allow this in very specific and rare cases. You will have to prove that you are suffering extreme hardship, or that your spouse is extremely depraved. You may get more useful information on this subject here.

How long will divorce proceedings take?

The time taken for divorce proceedings to be completed depends on whether it is a contested or uncontested divorce. You can find out about them here.

The estimated time taken for an uncontested divorce to be completed would usually be around 6 to 7 months in total. A contested divorce will take a longer time.

When is my divorce considered finalized?

You are legally divorced once the Final Judgment is extracted. It is only after the extraction of Final Judgment that you can remarry. Find out more about the stages of divorce here.

What should I do if I have been served with divorce papers?

If you have been served with divorce papers, you should take action immediately and talk to a lawyer about this. You will have to file a Memorandum of Appearance if you wish to oppose a divorce. Additionally, if your opposition is that you do not want to get a divorce at all, you will have to file a Defence. However, these documents must all be filed within a tight timeframe, it is thus advisable to get a lawyer to help you. Find out more here.

What can I do to show the Court that I am separated from my spouse?

Generally speaking, you will need to show that you and your spouse no longer live as though you are a married couple. This is called a loss of consortium between you and your spouse. There are a few typical actions you can carry out to show loss of consortium. Find out more about separation here.

A commonly held belief is that matrimonial assets will always be divided in half during divorce proceedings. This is false since the courts will split the matrimonial assets in a ‘just and equitable’ manner that takes many factors into account, including the financial positions of the spouses. The division of matrimonial assets is usually measured by devising ratios that assess the direct financial contributions as well as the indirect contributions of each party to the marriage. Indirect contributions to the marriage include time spent caring for the household and time spent caring for any children to the marriage. These ratios are then combined, with the weight to be ascribed to each ratio varying based on various factors that the court will take into account, including the length of the marriage and the needs of the children. As such, an equal split of matrimonial assets is not always guaranteed.

 

Another commonly held belief is the assumption that fathers have fewer parental rights and that mothers always get custody of the child/ren after a divorce. In reality, parents will typically get joint custody of the child/ren, and will have to make important decisions regarding the child/ren jointly. Apart from joint custody, issues of care and control and access arise. As aforementioned, care and control deals with the day-to-day decisions made for the child/ren, and access issues relate to the time that the non-custodial parent gets to spend with the child/ren. These issues are very much dependent on the individual circumstances of each case, and the courts’ paramount consideration is to ensure that the welfare and the best interests of the child/ren are secured during the divorce process. It is notable that ex-spouses cannot deny access to the child/ren – to prevent such denial of access, the FJC implemented a supervised visitation programme in 2016 to help parents and children who were affected by a divorce that ended badly. The courts will thus look to make fair and just decisions on custody, care and control and access issues, and will always consider the child/ren’s welfare and interests to be the paramount consideration.

Can I still get a divorce if my spouse ignores the divorce papers?

Yes, you can still get a divorce if your spouse ignores the divorce papers. You will still have to serve the divorce papers on your spouse but the Court can choose to let you proceed with the divorce without the Defendant’s participation. Find out more here. (Link to commencing an application for divorce)

Can I still get a divorce if I do not know where my spouse is?

Yes, it is still possible to get a divorce. You can apply for the Court to let you serve divorce papers using an alternative method or for the Court to give you permission to dispense with service of the divorce papers depending on the situation. Read more about what to do if you cannot find your spouse here. (Link to Can I Still Proceed with the Divorce if I Cannot Find My Spouse)

Can order of Court be changed?

Yes, you can apply to Court to vary the Order of Court. The Court will usually only grant a variation of Order if there has been a material change in the situation. Read more on this issue here.

What takes place at a divorce mediation?

Generally, the mediator spends the first part of the mediation interviewing the parties and their lawyers to find out the issues in dispute. This can be done individually or in a group setting, depending on the mediator’s preference and the comfort level of the parties present.

The mediator will then attempt to find out each parties’ position on the divorce and/or ancillary matters, and propose solutions and workarounds to help each party achieve the best possible result. The mediator may also give suggestions, or refer to case precedents, so that parties can have a better sense of whether their expectations are realistic or not.

Ultimately, the mediator’s goal is to bring both parties together and give them an opportunity to settle things amicably without the need to have matters heard in Court. The latter is a comparably more time-consuming, expensive, and emotionally draining process.

If a settlement can be reached at mediation, the mediator will further assist both parties by arranging for the settlement to be entered as an Order of Court, which will be binding on both parties going forward. It is not uncommon to have the divorce concluded and settled at this stage. This way, parties would ideally have an Order of Court that both are happy with and agreeable to.

On the other hand, if a settlement cannot be reached at mediation, then parties will return to Court to have the divorce and/or ancillary matters heard before a judge. The judge will hear the evidence and make a decision that will be binding on both parties.

As a final point, it is important to note that anything disclosed/discussed at mediation, or any offers made to the other party at mediation is done on a confidential and ‘without prejudice’ basis, which means that parties are not entitled to rely on them during the subsequent Court hearing of the matter.

Will I have to appear in Court for my divorce?

If you choose to engage a lawyer, you would generally only be required to appear in Court if parties contest the divorce and/or the ancillary matters.

If the divorce is uncontested and parties are able to agree on both the grounds of divorce and all the ancillary matters, they may sign a draft Court Order for the Court’s approval and will not need to show up in Court at all. The parties can entrust the filing of the divorce papers and any court attendances to their respective lawyers.

On the other hand, if the divorce is contested, parties who engage their own lawyers will generally not be required to attend the Court-directed Status Conferences and Pre-Trial Conferences. They can be represented by their lawyers at such conferences. If a party chooses not to engage a lawyer, he or she would have to attend the conferences as a self-represented litigant-in-person.

By and large, it is only if the Court orders mediation, or if the matter progresses to a Court hearing, that the parties would be required to attend in person together with their lawyers, to discuss a potential settlement, or to give evidence to the Court, respectively.

Will the ground for divorce affect the Court's decision on ancillary matters?

“The facts used to obtain a divorce and the unreasonableness or adulterous nature of any behaviour alleged and/or proved do not necessarily affect how the Court will decide on ancillary matters. The Court will not automatically rule against a party on the ancillary matters just because it is held that the party had committed adultery or other unreasonable behaviour, nor will the Court automatically give less to a party who admits to adultery or other unreasonable behaviour. 
For example, in a 2014 divorce decision, the High Court found that they would still recognise the Wife’s indirect contributions throughout the marriage although she had poisoned her Husband. The Court in that case commented that its power to divide the matrimonial assets was not intended to be used to punish parties. However, the Court did note that the Wife’s role as a caregiver could be said to have declined significantly after she began poisoning the Husband.”

Lie Chin Chin “Instant Legal Protection for Your Family” – Pg102

What can I do to safeguard my assets and my children in the event of separation?

You can get a Deed of Separation drafted. This document will govern and record the boundaries of your separation.  

What matters or assets can the Court decide on during the divorce?

The Court can divide any matrimonial assets. These are assets acquired during the marriage by you, your spouse or both of you, or any asset acquired before the marriage but ordinarily used by you and your spouse, or your children, or substantially improved during the marriage by your spouse or both you and your spouse. Read more about division of matrimonial assets.
The Court can also decide on issues relating to your children, such as who will get to make decisions on your children’s welfare, who will get to live with the children and when you will get access to your children. Read more on issues relating to children during divorce proceedings .
The Court will also be able to make decisions on maintenance for you and/or your children. Read more on maintenance issues.

Will the Court be able to divide something a third party gave me?

Gifts given by a third party to only one spouse are generally not considered matrimonial assets and cannot be divisible during divorce unless the gift was substantially improved during the marriage by your spouse or if the gift was meant for the benefit of both you and your spouse. Read more about division of assets during divorce

Will the Court be able to divide something that my spouse gave me during our marriage?

Generally, the Court has the power to divide such gifts. However, if the gift is not very valuable of if it is highly personal in nature, the Court can choose to exclude it from the pool of matrimonial assets. Read more about division of assets during divorce

Will the Court divide all our assets in a 50-50 ratio?

Not necessarily. The Court will look at your situation as a whole and decide what kind of division would be “just and equitable”. For a general list of factors that the Court will look at during division of matrimonial assets during divorce, read more here.

Is it a guarantee that I will get maintenance from my spouse if I have been getting money from him/her during the whole marriage?

Not necessarily. However, this matter is highly dependent on your individual situation.
If you are the ex-husband, there is generally no right for you to be maintained by your ex-wife. The Court may order your ex-wife to pay maintenance if you are incapacitated. 
Even if you are the ex-wife and have been maintained throughout the marriage, the Court may not order maintenance if you are still fully capable of working.
Read more about maintenance here.

What if my ex-spouse refuses to pay the maintenance sums ordered by the Court?

You should ask the Court to enforce the maintenance order. Find out more about this issue here.

How much maintenance can I/my child(ren) get?

This is a very fact-dependent issue. The Court will look at the whole situation and many factors such as your expenses, you and your spouse’s earning capacities, and you and your spouse’s respective contributions to the household, family and children’s expenses. Read more on maintenance here.

What kind of maintenance is more suitable for me?

You can ask for lump sum or monthly maintenance. Lump sum maintenance is useful if you are afraid your spouse may default on the payments, however, once lump sum payments have been made, you cannot change this figure. Monthly maintenance is more flexible and can be revised by the Court if circumstances have changed materially. Find out more about the maintenance here

Is it possible for me to get sole custody of my children?

It is very rare for the Court to grant sole custody of children. You would have to prove very exceptional situations before the Court would consider granting you sole custody of your children. Find out more about this here.

Can the Court decide who gets possession of my pet during divorce?

The Court can make such a decision, but it is likely that the Court will direct that you and your spouse come to an agreement on your own on this issue. Find out more about how the Court is likely to decide on decisions about your pet here.

Can the Court grant custody, care and control of my pet?

In Singapore, pets are considered personal property. Therefore, the Court will not be able to grant custody, care and control of your pet. More on issues on pets during divorce.

What must I prove in order to get a divorce?

The Court in Singapore will only grant you a divorce if it finds that your marriage has broken down irretrievably. You may prove this using one or more of these fact scenarios:
  1. Adultery
  2. Unreasonable Behavior
  3. 2 Years of Desertion
  4. Separation
Find out more here.

Is there anything else I can do if I am unable to get a divorce yet, but do not wish to be with my spouse anymore?

Yes, you can be separated from your spouse and eventually get a divorce, or you can annul your marriage. Find out more about the alternatives to divorce.

I find my spouse's behavior unreasonable and believe that this has led to an irretrievable breakdown of marriage. Can I still get a divorce if my friends and family do not find my spouse's behavior unreasonable?

Yes, you can still use unreasonable behavior to prove irretrievable breakdown of your marriage. The Court will look at your and your spouse’s personalities and characteristics and see things from your perspectives. Find out more here.

Can I still get a divorce if my spouse ignores the divorce papers?

If your marriage is annulled, your status will go back to being single. Find out more about annulment of marriage here.

I am waiting for my divorce to be complete, what can I do to protect myself and my child(ren) from my abusive spouse?

If your spouse is abusive physically, verbally, mentally, or emotionally, you can apply for a Personal Protection Order for yourself or on behalf of your children who are below the age of 21. Find out more about Personal Protection Orders and how to obtain one against your spouse here.

Is there a way to reinstate my "single" status?

In the case of a divorce, no. Upon divorce, your marital status would become “divorced”.

However, in the case of an annulment, your marital status would revert to the marital status you were in immediately before the annulled marriage. For example, if you were single before the annulled marriage, you would revert to being “single”; or if you were a divorcee before entering into the annulled marriage, you would revert to being “divorced”. This is because in an annulment, the annulled marriage is treated as never having existed in the first place.

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