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 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.