DIVORCE IN SINGAPORE – THE SINGAPORE DIVORCE PROCESS
- This article will give an overview of the Singapore Divorce process, where divorce is a contested one. The process of a simplified uncontested divorce in Singapore has been covered in another article, although a brief overview of the same is set out below.
- Briefly, divorce proceedings under Singapore law will proceed in the following manner:
- Commencement of divorce proceedings when the Plaintiff spouse (that is, the spouse applying for divorce) files divorce papers. The papers will then have to be personally served on the Defendant spouse;
- Grant of Interim Judgment of divorce, after the exchange of the required pleadings between the parties, and upon the Court finding that the facts relating to the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage have been proved.
- Determination of Ancillary Matters, after the grant of Interim Judgment of divorce. The Court will decide on all ancillary matters between the parties, which would include the custody, care and control, and access of the children of the marriage, maintenance for the children and ex-spouse, and the division of matrimonial assets.
- Grant of Final Judgment of divorce, when the Court has heard parties on the ancillary matters.
- Each stage of the divorce process, as briefly outlined above, will be examined in greater detail below.
Stage 1: Commencement of divorce proceedings
- Before commencing divorce proceedings in Singapore, the party who intends to apply for such a divorce should ensure that he or she meets the requirements to file for divorce under Singapore law. The requirements to file for a divorce in Singapore have been examined in detail in another article. By way of summary, the requirements are:
- The Singapore Court must have matrimonial jurisdiction;
- The parties must have been married for at least 3 years unless there are exceptional circumstances; and
- Where the parties have at least one child below the age of 21, the party filing for divorce must first complete the Mandatory Parenting Programme and obtain a certificate of completion.
- Where a party is eligible to make an application for divorce under Singapore law, after meeting the requirements set out above, divorce proceedings are commenced when the required divorce papers are filed with the Court. The papers which would have to be filed in Court are:
- Writ for divorce;
- Statement of Claim;
- Statement of Particulars with relevant annexures such as a copy of the marriage certificate, as well as the results of bankruptcy searches conducted on both parties;
- Certificate of Completion from the Mandatory Parenting Programme (where relevant);
- Proposed Parenting Plan (setting out the proposed living and care arrangements for the children of the marriage);
- Proposed Matrimonial Property Plan (setting out the party’s proposal in relation to any HDB property owned by the parties);
- Memorandum of Appearance; and
- Acknowledgement of Service.
- The spouse filing the divorce papers is known as the Plaintiff, while the other spouse will then be known as the Defendant.
- Upon the Plaintiff’s filing of the papers as set out above, and upon the Court’s acceptance of these papers, the Plaintiff will have to ensure that the papers are personally served on the Defendant. Typically, such papers would be served on the Defendant either at his/her place of residence or his/her place of work.
- Upon receipt of the divorce papers, the Defendant will have to file his or her Memorandum of Appearance, informing the Court that the Defendant intends to be heard by the Court. Subsequently, parties will have to exchange other relevant pleadings such as the Defence and Counterclaim, the Defence to Counterclaim, and Reply to Defence to Counterclaim.
Stage 2: Grant of Interim Judgment of divorce
- Preliminarily, it should be noted that where parties to the divorce proceedings have a child or children to the marriage below the age of 21, the Court will direct parties to attend mediation. Such mediation is usually ordered before the Court hears parties on the dissolution of the marriage. The goal of such mandatory mediation is to minimise acrimony and disputes between the parties, hoping that parties can reach an agreement on at least some issues relating to the divorce at such mediation sessions.
- After the relevant exchange of pleadings and after parties have attended compulsory mediation where necessary, the Court may grant the Interim Judgment of divorce if the Court is satisfied that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of marriage between the parties. In so granting the Interim Judgment, the Court will decide on whether the facts relating to the breakdown of the marriage as set out by the Plaintiff have been proved, and, where relevant, whether the facts relating to the breakdown of the marriage as set out by the Defendant have been proved. In some cases, where the Court believes that the facts set out by both spouses have been proved, the divorce will be granted on both the Plaintiff’s claim and the Defendant’s counterclaim.
Stage 3: Determination of Ancillary Matters
- After the Court has granted the Interim Judgment of divorce in any given case, the Court then has the power to make orders in relation to ancillary matters between the parties to the marriage. These ancillary matters will include:
- Custody, care and control, and access of any child(ren) to the marriage;
- Maintenance for the child(ren);
- Maintenance for the ex-spouse; and
- Division of the matrimonial assets.
- About the ancillary matters, if parties cannot reach an agreement, the Court will hear both parties before deciding on the relevant ancillary matter. The parties will put all the relevant evidence before the Court by filing an Affidavit of Assets and Means (AOM), which would set out the party’s income, expenses, and the party’s position ancillary matters.
- However, it should be noted that parties can agree between themselves on any or all of the ancillary matters as well. The Court will then make orders on the ancillary matters, and such order may include any agreement between parties on any or all of the ancillary matters.
- A more detailed examination of the different ancillary matters and the factors that the Court would consider when deciding on these ancillary matters have been covered in other articles.
Stage 4: Grant of Final Judgment of divorce
- After hearings on ancillary matters have been concluded, the party in whose favour the Interim Judgment of divorce was made may then apply to the Court for the Interim Judgment of divorce to be made final.
- Upon the grant of the Final Judgment of divorce, the marriage between the parties is legally dissolved. In most cases, the Final Judgment of divorce will end the divorce proceedings between the parties. It is hoped that parties will then be able to smoothly transition into their new lives while working together as parents to the children of the marriage. Parties should abide by the orders made by the Court in the divorce proceedings.
Comparing between a contested divorce and a simplified uncontested divorce
- The above article has given an overview of the Singapore Divorce process, where divorce is a contested one. It is worthwhile to consider the differences between a contested divorce proceeding and a simplified uncontested divorce proceeding. The latter is a simpler process and usually would conclude in a much shorter period of time.
- In a simplified uncontested divorce, although the Court would also have to grant an Interim Judgment of divorce, make orders on ancillary matters, and grant a Final Judgment of divorce, the process is much shorter because the divorcing parties would already have reached an agreement on all the outstanding issues. This means that the Court may grant an Interim Judgment on the agreed grounds of divorce and make orders on ancillary matters (which orders have been agreed on between parties) at the same time. Since parties have reached an agreement on ancillary matters, parties would not have to engage in protracted litigation regarding the same.
- Subsequently, after 3 months from the date of Interim Judgment, the party in whose favour the Interim Judgment has been granted may apply to make the Interim Judgment final. Upon such application, the Court may grant the Final Judgment of divorce, putting an end to the simplified divorce proceedings.
- It may also be observed that another advantage to the simplified uncontested divorce is that there is likely to be less acrimony and bitterness between the parties to the divorce proceedings, as parties would have amicably discussed and agreed on the terms of the divorce.
A more detailed overview of the simplified uncontested divorce proceedings in Singapore may be found in another article.
ABOUT PKWA FAMILY LAW
PKWA Law has been recognised as one of “Singapore’s Best Law Firms” in 2021 by the Straits Times. Our lawyers are also consistently ranked as leading family lawyers by respected publications such as the Asian Legal Business, Benchmark Litigation Asia Pacific and Doyles‘ Guide.
Disclaimer: The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only and to enable you to learn more about our firm, our services and our lawyers. Information on this website may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information. Readers of this website should engage a lawyer to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter.