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Divorce in Singapore

They say marriages are made in heaven. Unfortunately, they have to be lived on earth.

Despite vows to love, cherish, respect and honour, sometimes the demands, pressures and stresses of life lead to the breakdown of marriages and result in divorce.

Statistics show that 6,328 Civil Divorce Writs were filed in 2009 – this figure does not include divorces commenced in the Syariah Court with regard to Muslim marriages.

Divorce in Singapore is a very real thing and sadly, there are many victims. 

The Women’s Charter

Divorce Law in Singapore is governed by the Women’s Charter.

Recognising the sanctity of marriage, the Women’s Charter provides that a Writ of divorce cannot be filed within the first 3 years of marriage UNLESS it is a case of exceptional hardship. What amounts to exceptional hardship depends on the facts of each individual case.

If the 3 year threshold has been satisfied, a person – husband or wife – can apply for a divorce if he/she can show that the marriage has broken down irretrievably by reason of one of the following facts:

(a)       that the Defendant has committed adultery and the Plaintiff finds it intolerable to live with the Defendant;

(b)       that the Defendant has behaved in such a way that the Plaintiff cannot reasonably be expected to live with the Defendant;


(c)       that the Defendant has deserted the Plaintiff for a continuous period of at least 2 years immediately preceding the filing of the writ;


(d)       that the parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 3 years immediately preceding the filing of the Writ and the Defendant consents to a judgment being granted;


(e)       that the parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 4 years immediately preceding the filing of the Writ.

What is the Divorce Procedure in Singapore?

The person who applies for a divorce is known as the Plaintiff in Court proceedings while the other party is called the Defendant.


The Uncontested Divorce

A divorce can be, and is often uncontested.  This would be a situation where the Defendant too agrees that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and decides not to contest the divorce.

Parties can also agree on the Ancillary Matters. If no agreement can be reached, parties will proceed to court for a decision on the ancillary matters.


The Contested Divorce

A divorce can be contested by the Defendant for various reasons.

If a Defendant decides to contest the divorce, a Defence is filed setting out facts and reasons why the claim is disputed and why in the opinion of the Defendant, the marriage has not broken down irretrievably.

There is also the situation where a Defendant accepts that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, but refuses to take responsibility for it. The option for the Defendant in that case, would be to file what is known as a Defence and Counterclaim.  

In the Counterclaim, the Defendant would set out the facts supporting the Defendant’s case that the marriage had broken down.

Faced with a situation where there is a claim and a counterclaim, there are several options open to the parties:

-          The Plaintiff and Defendant can choose to proceed on both the claim and counterclaim, wherein the Plaintiff and the Defendant would both succeed on their claims;


-          Either the Plaintiff or Defendant can choose to abandon their claim and proceed on only the other; or


-          The matter can proceed to trial in which both parties will have to prove their case to the Judge who will then make a decision on whether the marriage had irretrievably broken down and if so, who caused it.


Once the divorce has been finalised, the Court issues what is known as an Interim Judgment.

The Interim Judgment always states that the Judgment is interim (i.e. having temporary effect), to be made Final within 3 months. An Interim Judgment cannot however be made Final until all the Ancillary Matters in the divorce proceedings have been settled.


What are Ancillary Matters?

When a couple gets married, they have children, they buy assets jointly and live the life of one family.

With Divorce, decisions relating to the children and these joint assets as well as issues of maintenance for the wife and the children need to be made.

These are collectively called “Ancillary Matters” and the Court is usually called on to make decisions on:

-          how the joint assets of the parties are to be divided;

-          which parent is to have custody, care and control of the children;

-          how much access the other parent is to have;

-          how much maintenance is to be paid for the children; and

-          how much maintenance is to be paid by the husband to the wife.


Please email or call if you require further information on our Divorce practice and someone will attend to you.

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