Are You Eligible to Get a Divorce?
The first thing to consider is whether the Singapore Court has jurisdiction over the matter before a divorce proceeding is commenced. Familiarize yourself with the enforcement of family law within Singapore. For the Singapore Court to hear the divorce proceedings, both parties:
- Should be Singapore residents for at least three years before proceedings commenced; and
- The parties must have been married for a minimum of 3 years. Though the Court has the discretion in letting go of this requirement in cases where there has been unbearable hardship or cruel behaviour.
Getting a divorce is different from filing an annulment. In the case of an annulment, the marriage, technically, did not take place. On the other hand, getting a divorce is when an existing marriage is dissolved. An annulment doesn’t require the nuptials to have a 3-year lifespan before it is given to the couple. However, the Court only grants an annulment under specific circumstances and earlier in a marriage. Before proceeding with anything, you should first consult your most trusted family lawyer in Singapore.
Stages of Divorce
Civil divorces (i.e non-Muslim) in Singapore proceed in two stages:
Stage 1: Dissolution of Marriage
Stage 2: Ancillary Matters
Each stage resolves the various issues and conflicts before and after the dissolution of marriage.
Stage 1: The Dissolution of Marriage
The grounds for divorce are brought forth by the party seeking the dissolution of marriage. According to Singapore law, the main reason for seeking a divorce is the irretrievable breakdown of the union. Plaintiff should provide evidence that any of the following reasons have occurred:
- Adultery – The Plaintiff refuses to live with the Defendant after committing adultery, finding them intolerable. There should be adequate evidence of the Defendant’s act of adultery provided. The hiring of a private investigator to gather information is allowed.
- Unreasonable Behaviour – The Plaintiff finds it impossible to continue living with the Defendant after unreasonably. There could also be a filing for Personal Protection Order tothe Singapore Court if violence is involved.
- Desertion – The Defendant deserted for a minimum of two years. There should be no sign or intention of coming back.
- Separation – The parties involved agreed to live apart for at least three years.
Whether or not these situations are facts will be questioned and has to be proven in Court. Standing trial, if challenged by the other party, will make it a lengthy process. It involves the production of witnesses, hearings and the judgement by the Court. With the agreement of both parties that the breakdown occurred for any of the stated reasons, the trial will not be necessary. The divorce proceedings will proceed to Stage 2 after the Court grants interim judgement to dissolve the marriage.
Stage 2: Ancillary Matters
This stage of the proceedings deal with the following three issues:
- Care, control and custody of children
- Maintenance of wife and children
- Division of assets
It is important to note that, under Singapore law, the reasons given for the breakdown are not considered by the Court when deciding on the ancillary matters. Your divorce lawyer would be able to advise you regarding the areas that may affect the ancillary matters.
Matter 1: Children
Three issues regarding children in the marriage are discussed at this stage. These are:
- Custody – It generally relates to making the major life decision for the children such as education, religion, medical treatment and migration or relocation. If parties cannot agree on the custody, the Court tends to award joint custody to both parents as a general rule.
- Care and Control – It refers to the principal caregiver of the children. The child will primarily live with the parent granted care and control after the divorce.
- Access – This is gifted to the parent that did not obtain care and control of the children. Access can come as supervised, reasonable, liberal, etc.
Matter 2: Maintenance
After the marriage, the husband is generally obliged to maintain his wife and children (up to 21 years of age). For short nuptials or the wife is earning well, the husband is not obliged to provide any maintenance. On the other hand, the children of the marriage are maintained after the divorce.
The parties are free to agree on the amount provided to the wife and children. If parties cannot do so, the Court will make a finding based on several factors. The standard of living enjoyed by both parties during the marriage, each party’s income (current and projected), the length of the marriage, household expenditure, and a few other factors are taken into consideration. Both parties are to produce relevant proof of their contributions, like bank statements, invoices, etc.
Matter 3: Division of Matrimonial Assets
The assets are divided between the parties upon the dissolution of marriage. It may not include the home acquired by inheritance and which are defined by law. The consideration factors regard the direct contributions to the acquisition of the as well as indirect contributions, such as:
- The extent of the contributions made by each party towards acquiring, improving or maintaining the assets, monetary, property, work;
- Any debt or obligation incurred by either party for their joint benefit or the benefit of their children;
- The needs of the children (if any);
- The extent each party made contributions for the welfare of the family (includes looking after the home, caring for the family or any aged or infirm relative or dependent);
- Any agreement between the parties regarding the ownership and division of the assets made in contemplation of divorce;
- Any period of rent-free occupation or other benefit enjoyed by one party in the home;
- Assistance or support given by one party (whether or not of a material kind) including the aid in carrying on of each party’s occupation or business;
Both parties are to produce relevant proof of their contributions, like bank statements, invoices for the maintenance of the spouse and children. However, any party can include contracts if there is any.
Some divorce proceedings don’t need much intercession by a divorce lawyer. However, it is still wise to know one for legal counsel. Always prepare for any possibilities. Approach a lawyer from firms like Aspect Law Chambers LLC, a Family and Criminal Law firm trusted by many Singapore citizens when seeking legal advice. All of their lawyers will try to help you to the best of their abilities. They also have the best family and criminal lawyers in Singapore on their roster.