What are the Legal Grounds for Divorce in Singapore?

What are the Legal Grounds for Divorce in Singapore?

Divorce refers to the legal action of dissolving a marriage. To divorce in Singapore, the filing party must be able to satisfy the only accepted ground for divorce, which is the “irretrievable breakdown of marriage”. This means that either or both parties have become definitively unable or unwilling to live or reconcile with one another.

Under the divorce law as stated in the Women’s Charter, the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage can be evidenced by any of the following:


This refers to sexual intercourse between a married person and an individual who is not his or her spouse. For adultery to be succeed, there should be evidence that sexual intercourse occurred, which is why adultery can be difficult to prove if the accused party does not want to admit to it. You may have to hire a private investigator to collect evidence if a confession or other definitive evidence cannot be produced. You cannot rely on this ground for divorce if six months have passed after you had knowledge of your spouse’s adultery.

Unreasonable Behaviour

Unreasonable behaviour is defined as a situation whereby an individual behaves in such a way that his or her spouse is unable or cannot be expected to live with him or her. Examples are as follows:

  • Physical or verbal abuse
  • Emotional negligence
  • Financial incapability or irresponsibility
  • Alcohol or drug addiction leading to aggressive behaviour
  • Compulsive gambling
  • Sex deprivation
  • Improper association with a third party outside of the marriage.

You can file for divorce in Singapore on the fact of your spouse’s unreasonable behaviour.at any time after the incident/s occurs though there must be a particular incident which took place within six months from the time of filing the divorce.


If an individual is proven to have left his or her spouse for a continuous period of at least 2 years before filing for divorce, this is called desertion. The abandoned spouse can prove this by presenting evidence that they live separately, and that his or her partner intends to end the marriage by showing no desire or intention to come back.

Separation for Three Years by Consent

This occurs when parties by agreement have lived separately for a continuous period of three years before filing for divorce. The other partner must also agree with the divorce, as this is a no-fault ground for divorce and is used by couples who want to have a peaceful split.

The filing party must cite evidence of living separately, for example, a deed of separation, to prove this fact. The separation or living apart must be done by choice and not due to necessities such as going abroad for work. Parties may continue to live under the same roof, but if they run separate households with each leading their own live, this can still be accepted as a separation. One common myth about this fact is that when partners live separately for 3 years, they are automatically separated, when in fact, one still needs to file papers to get a divorce.

Collaborative Family Practice (CFP)

A new and emerging area of practice in divorce in Singapore is a process known as CFP. This is where both parties accept that the marriage is over but commit to collaborating to achieve an amicable outcome. To this end, parties will each instruct a CFP-trained lawyer to help them through the process of discussion and negotiations. Parties agree from the outset to provide full disclosure and to work hard towards a settlement. This may include hiring other professionals for example, financial experts and/or therapists. The CFP lawyers are also required to be committed to the process and cannot act for the parties in the event CFP fails and parties resort to litigation.

Separation for Four Years

For married couples who have been living separately for the last 4 years, the Plaintiff does not need to get the consent of the other partner for the divorce. Instead, the plaintiff should show that they have been living separate, independent lives without performing spousal duties like cooking or showing respect and fidelity. For couples who are living separately in the same house, they may prove their separation by indicating the absence of sexual or marital relations, among other things.

Process of Filing for Divorce in Singapore

For parties who have amicably agreed to divorce and resolve ancillary matters, they will follow protocols for an uncontested divorce in Singapore, which involves the following steps:

  • Before filing for divorce, the Plaintiff must have a deeper understanding of his or her eligibility and the requirements. These requirements include having a legal ground for divorce, facts that will be used to support the divorce, and ancillary matters such as custody, care and control and access to the children.
  • Parties may choose to discuss between themselves and come to an agreement or they may engage lawyers to negotiate on their behalf.
  • Once an agreement on all the terms have been achieved, the Plaintiff will prepare the documents for the Defendant’s review and endorsement.
  • The divorce proceedings will officially start with the Plaintiff filing the necessary documents. The Plaintiff can file these divorce papers personally or with the help of a divorce lawyer in Singapore.
  • The submitted documents will be reviewed by the Family Court. If the documents are in order, the Court will send a notice of a date for an uncontested hearing, which is usually scheduled within 4 to 6 weeks from date of filing. A divorce may be granted at this hearing based on the agreed-upon terms between both parties. A document called the Interim Judgment will be issued.
  • The Final Judgment will be issued 3 months after the date of the Interim Judgment. This serves to finalise the divorce.

On the other hand, if either or both parties have not agreed on ancillary and divorce matters; this will be known as a contested divorce, which has a different set of timeline:

  • Once the eligibility for divorce is established, the plaintiff can start to prepare all the divorce papers that would be filed with the Court. Once the Court approves the divorce papers, the Plaintiff must serve them on the Defendant. The Defendant has between 8 days (if in Singapore) and 21 days (if overseas) to indicate if they are contesting the divorce.
  • If the Defendant is not contesting the divorce, the Plaintiff can proceed to request for a divorce hearing date. After the Interim Judgment is granted, if parties have a child under the age of 21, attending a mediation and counselling session at the Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) Division will be required. Most cases can be settled at mediation. Otherwise, it will proceed for an Ancillary Matters hearing.
  • If the Defendant is contesting the divorce, the Defendant must file a Defence and/or a Counterclaim. There are fixed timelines for parties to file certain documents before the pleadings are closed. The parties will then have to file their respective Affidavits providing more details of their allegations together with supporting evidence. The case will then proceed for trial where the Court will determine whether a divorce is to be granted. If the divorce is granted, similar steps in relation to a uncontested divorce would apply for the Ancillary Matters.

Role of Family Justice Courts

In Singapore, the Family Justice Courts (FJC) is a judicial system that is composed of the Youth Courts, which deals with cases concerning children and minors; the Family Courts, which deals with family law related-cases such as divorce and maintenance; and the Family Division of the High Court, which deals with ancillary and probate matters exceeding a value of $5 million, as well as appeals against Youth and Family Court decisions.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to get a divorce in Singapore?


Can I file for divorce if I’m not a Singapore citizen?


Can I get a divorce if my spouse doesn’t agree?

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