Divorce by definition is a legal proceeding dissolving the marriage in whole or in part and releases the marriage partners from all matrimonial obligations.
In Singapore, 2016 record shows a total of 27,971 civil and Muslim marriages registered (a 1.2% decrease from the year prior). On the contrary, there were 7,614 divorces and annulments registered for 2016, which a 1.2% increase from last year, according to the data from Department of Statistics (Singstat). Top two reasons for the divorce were unreasonable behavior (53.5%) and having lived apart or separated for three years or more (42.5%).
Filing for a divorce can be lengthy, costly and emotionally stressful. Certain couples have to resort to divorce to protect themselves and their children from additional emotional or physical harm. Thorough research and understanding of your situation will determine if you should file for a divorce or not, start at https://www.divorcelawauthority.com.
Who can apply for a divorce in Singapore?
The Family Justice Court can process a divorce if you meet the following requirements:
· Singapore Citizen or Permanent Residence status (PR)
· Have lived in Singapore for the last three years before applying for the divorce
· Have been married for 3 years (exceptional case when the person filing for the divorce has suffered grave hardships)
· If you or your spouse is a Muslim and those who were married under the Muslim Law are not able to file for a divorce in the Family Court
What are the grounds or justifications for a divorce?
Has your marriage fallen apart and there is no way to salvage it? Here are a few basics in getting divorced in Singapore. The law also provides certain facts to consider when filing for one.
1. Adultery and Intolerability
· You have proven that your spouse has cheated on you and you cannot bear to live with them anymore
· However, legally if you still live with your spouse for over 6 months, intolerability may not be considered as a ground for divorce anymore.
2. Unreasonable behavior
· Generally no one wants to live with someone whose qualities you find unacceptable.
· This could include but not limited to neglect, physical and emotional abuse or one spouse refusing to have conjugal relations with the other.
· Proving unreasonable behavior does not just constitute incompatibility – getting bored of each other does not give sufficient reason for a divorce.
3. Desertion for 2 years
· For a ground of desertion to be successful, abandonment must be a minimum of unbroken two years.
· This is not limited to physical desertion; this also includes emotional separation from your spouse.
4. Have lived apart for 4 years
· In cases of uncontested divorce, only 3 years of separation is required.
Stages of the divorce proceedings in Singapore
There are several documents that need to be filed in the Family Justice Courts for the proceedings. Bear in mind that filing of these papers has applicable fees.
Stage 1: Divorce outcome or termination of marriage
Before the start of the proceedings, an HDB (Housing and Development Board) and CPF Board Standard Query must be sent out. The reason for that is because HDB have rules relating to the use of certain HDB units. This procedure may take up to one month.
Once papers are filed against the defendant, he/she will have 8 days to contest the divorce. If the divorce is contested, documents such as the Statement of Claim, Proposed Parenting Plan (if there are children below 21 years old), Proposed Matrimonial Property Plan, Acknowledgement of Service and Memorandum of Appearance. Both parties will need to file the same set of documents. This will require 2-4 weeks.
If divorce is uncontested, a hearing date is set by the Court. Unless the court requires compulsory attendance from both parties, there is no need to be present for the proceedings.
If the divorce is contested, Pre-Trial Conferences are conducted – to determine if both parties can reach an amicable agreement. If PTC or mediation is not reached, a date of hearing will be scheduled. Trial normally is for one day and both parties are cross-examined with their respective witnesses.
Once the Judge has confirmed that divorce needs to be done, he will grant an Interim Judgment which is finalized after 3 months.
The parties now proceed to the hearing for the Ancillary Matters.
Stage 2: Ancillary Matters
Conjugal properties, child support and custody, maintenance and overall costs are discussed at this stage. An Affidavit of Assets and Means are filed before the hearings of ancillary matters. Both parties are required to disclose all assets/liabilities, incomes, and expenses. Should the asset amount to more than S$1.5 million, the case is transferred to the High Court.
Mediation, counseling and joint conferences are set for both parties to resolve the issues willingly.
If no amicable agreement is made, the Court will then decide on the Ancillary Hearing date.
A Final Judgement is then issued once ancillary matters have been heard and settled after 3 months from making the Interim Judgment.
In some cases, you may need a lawyer to represent you as the Family Courts will not give you any legal advice regarding your case.
In conclusion, ensure that you are fully equipped with the knowledge on the divorce proceedings before filing and spending a vast amount of money. Take into consideration your financial situation as well as the welfare of your children and your emotional limit to handle the length and time needed for this.