Divorce Proceedings: Expectations vs Reality
In situations wherein divorce may seem like the only option to go with, people typically know what to expect. With different movie portrayals or having some experience through a loved one’s proceedings, it is not unusual for couples contemplating divorce to have their own expectations. However, despite these second-hand encounters, facing your divorce can bring unexpected outcomes. This is why it is crucial to understand and know as much as possible about divorce before proceeding with it. With that, we will look into divorce proceedings in Singapore and the realities and procedures to get a better understanding.
What is The Process of Divorce in Singapore?
Before we discuss precisely how the divorce process takes place, we must understand the conditions to be eligible. According to sections 93 and 94 of the Women’s Charter, you must meet the following requirements:
- Marriage between two spouses must be more than three (3) years to be eligible to apply for a divorce. If you can present proof that you have suffered exceptional hardship or deprivation to the court. It is possible to file before the three (3) year mark.
- A spouse (either one) has been domiciled in Singapore or based on the habitual residence of a party to the marriage for at least three (3) years in Singapore. Additionally, said spouse must not have left Singapore for a period of 180 days in a block prior to application.
Now that we understand the requirements for filing the Writ of Divorce, how exactly does the divorce process go?
In Singapore, divorce proceedings are a 2-stage process, whether uncontested or contested:
- Dissolution: is the legal relationship between a man and woman due to irretrievable marriage breakdown. The court will decide this decision. If deemed so, they will grant an Interim Judgement to dissolve the marriage officially.
- Ancillary Matters -A record of concluded terms reached by both parties either via private negotiation or court mediation to resolve future disputes. These will then serve as the court’s reference and influence their decision on how the parties’ affairs should be handled. These also include spousal maintenance and child custody.
Stage 1: Dissolution of the Marriage
After filing all the necessary documents needed for divorce to the court, the plaintiff will have to serve it to the defendant. Afterwards, the defendant will have 8 days to decide whether he or she wants to contest the divorce and/or the ancillary matters.
If Defendant Contests
The defendant will have to file a Memorandum of Appearance and a Defence if he decides to contest the divorce. A Resolution Conference or a counselling session with a court counsellor can also be requested in hopes of reaching a proper settlement with your partner. This is usually done via divorce mediation.
However, if both parties cannot agree, the case would go to court, where a judge will determine why the marriage is deemed irretrievable. The Defendant will be allotted 8 days to file the Memorandum of Appearance, which will take into effect from the date the Writ for Divorce was given. Afterwards, they will have 14 days from the deadline for serving the Memorandum of Appearance to file the Defence.
This gives the Defendant a total of 22 days to file and serve both required documents.
Alternatively, if the Defendant wants to file for their own reason for the divorce and/or other claims on the ancillary matters, a Defence and Counterclaim should be filed instead.
If Defendant Doesn’t Contest
In the event that the Defendant decides not to contest the divorce but wishes to do so the ancillary matters, he or she must file for a Memorandum of Appearance.
If the court deems the marriage irretrievable, it will grant an Interim Judgment to dissolve the marriage. The case will then proceed to the ancillary matters stage of divorce proceedings.
Stage 2: Ancillary Matters
Both parties need to file Affidavits of Assets and Means prior to the hearings on ancillary matters. This is where they have to disclose all assets/liabilities, income and expenses. The court will only allow up to 3 rounds of affidavits to be exchanged.
The court will set an ancillary hearing date after the documents have been filed and exchanged. At the hearing, the court will decide ownership of assets, children, and their arrangements.
After settling everything, both parties can apply for the Final Judgment at least 3 months after the Interim Judgment was granted.
If both parties, who have shared custody of children under the age of 21, cannot agree on the legal grounds for divorce and all ancillary matters, a Mandatory Parenting Programme will be required.
Can I Divorce Immediately in Singapore?
The course of divorce proceedings depends on how complex the case will be. Simplified uncontested divorces tend to be settled in a shorter time, specifically within 6 months to a year. A contested divorce, on the other hand, may take over a year or more to be resolved in Singapore.
In addition, all outstanding ancillary matters also need to have been settled for the Final Judgment to push through, apart from that, the Final Judgement can only be granted after at least three (3) months since the Interim Judgment was granted.
All divorce proceedings will only be considered completed once the Final Judgment has been granted.
When it comes to the specific time for when you can file for a divorce, it depends on the legal facts presented to support your application.
- Adultery — you can file as soon as infidelity is known.
- Unreasonable behaviour — at any time after any suspicious acts or behaviour occurs
- Desertion — after 2 years from the date of desertion.
- Separation — after 3 years from the date of separation. It must be supported by the agreement of both parties. This is in correlation that both spouses have been living separately and apart for that duration.
How Long Can One Remarry After Divorce in Singapore?
To remarry after a divorce, one must request for a Certificate of Final Judgment for your divorce. However, this is only made available if it has been at least three (3) months since receiving the Interim Judgment and all outstanding ancillary matters orders have been made.
Remarrying without first obtaining the Final Judgment or remarrying without going through a divorce is an offence under section 6A of the Women’s Charter. If found guilty, offenders could be fined up to $10,000 and deemed a penalty for a term of up to 7 years.
Suppose the offender concealed their former marriage from the person with whom they are remarrying. In that case, they could be fined up to $15,000. Also may face penalised imprisonment for a term of up to 10 years. However, there can be exceptions to this offence. One example is when a marriage is voided. Another is when one partner has been absent for 7 years at the time of the succeeding marriage. These facts have to be supplemented with evidence and fully disclosed to their new spouse.
Types of Divorce Proceedings
1. Simplified Track
Divorced proceedings on a simplified track is if both parties agree on both the ground for divorce and all ancillary matters before filing the Writ for Divorce. Grounds for divorce include unreasonable behaviour, adultery, desertion, and/or separation. Ancillary matters are issues concerning the division of assets and children’s ownership and arrangements.
The simplified track is a faster and more cost-effective route because it does not involve the court.
2. Normal Track
If both parties can’t come to an agreement on the ground for divorce and/or the ancillary matters, then the court will have to intervene. With that, the divorce will be filed on the normal track.
This long-drawn process is usually extremely costly and can have a long-lasting negative impact on the children involved.
Application for the Certificate of Final Judgment is usually made available after an agreement on the ancillary matters is reached.
However, both parties may still fight to reach an agreement later in the Court process. If this is done, that issue will be regarded as uncontested, shortening the normal track divorce process.
How Do I Commence Divorce Proceedings in Singapore?
Divorce proceedings begin with filing for divorce with the Family Justice Courts, along with compliance with the legal requirements of divorce. To better protect the interests of children affected by their parent’s divorce, ancillary matters must be filed. In addition, there will also be a mandatory parenting programme before the filing for divorce can be done. This programme will cover housing, finance, care arrangements and positive co-parenting after divorce.
YeoLaw Can Assist You Through Every Step of Your Divorce
Going through a divorce is not easy for any individual, no matter one’s desired outcome. And no matter how you decide to go about it, there are simply things that one cannot prepare for. This is why at YeoLaw, they are ready to guide you through this process with your interests and the best possible outcome in mind. Contact them today via +65 6220 3400 or visit Yeo & Associates LLC website for the best quality service that puts you and your welfare first.