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CAN A FOREIGNER DIVORCE IN SINGAPORE?

Pkwa divorce lawyers

Date: 1 September 2020

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Based on the cases filed in the Singapore Family Courts1 from 2011 to 2015, the number of divorces filed between a Singaporean and a non-resident or between non-residents has grown steadily from about 1,015 to 1,314. International divorces, or divorces involving at least one foreinger now account for around one in five divorces in Singapore (source:  International Divorces in Singapore:  A Study of Trends by Joyce Low [2019] SAL Prac 31).

As the number of divorces involving at least one foreigner in Singapore has increased substantially, we often get enquiries from expats or foreigners on whether they can divorce in Singapore.

Here are some of the most common questions asked:

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Can a foreigner divorce in Singapore?

Yes, foreigners can divorce in Singapore if they have been married for at least 3 years and one of them have lived in Singapore for at least 3 years before filing for divorce.

Once you have fulfilled the above requirements, you would have to show that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.  This can be shown by proving any one of the 5 following facts:

  • that your spouse has behaved in such an unreasonable way that you cannot reasonably be expected with the defendant.
  • that your spouse has committed adultery and you find it intolerable to live with the defendant.
  • that your spouse has deserted you for a continuous period of at least 2 years preceding the divorce proceedings.
  • When you and your spouse have been separated for at least 3 years and your spouse consents to the divorce.
  • When the parties have lived apart for at least 4 years preceding the divorce proceedings.

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Is my pre-nuptial agreement valid in Singapore?

Your prenuptial agreement is one of the factors that the Singapore Family Courts will look at in arriving at a decision.

Generally, the Singapore courts will uphold a prenuptial agreement if it is fair and if it is concern with division of assets and maintenance.

However, when it comes to children custody issues, the Singapore court will look at the prenuptial closely.  It will not rubber stamp the agreement because it wants to ensure that the welfare of the children and the interests of the children are protected.

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I am in Singapore on a Dependent Pass.  Can I stay in Singapore after my divorce?

It is common for foreigners holding an Employment Pass in Singapore to cancel their spouse’s Dependant’s Pass once they have decided to file for divorce.

This means that the spouse who has relied on the Dependant’s Pass to reside in Singapore, must leave Singapore immediately, usually after the expiration of their Short-Term Visit Pass, which would be issued upon the cancellation of the Dependant’s Pass.

This creates a very difficult situation for the spouse who must leave Singapore without the children and while divorce proceedings are on-going.

If you are a trailing spouse and you have had your Dependent Pass cancelled, you only have the following options if you wish to remain in Singapore:

  • Apply for an interim injunction to prohibit a spouse from terminating your Dependant’s Pass.
  • Apply for a Long-Term Visit Pass if your child is a Singapore Citizen or a Singapore Permanent Resident; or if you are a mother or grandmother of a child or grandchild studying in Singapore with a Student’s Pass.

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Can I go home and take my children with me?

Unfortunately, your children can only relocate with you if your spouse agrees, or if you have a Singapore court order that allows you to do so

If your ex-spouse has wrongfully taken your children out of Singapore without your permission and without a court order, your ex-spouse may be liable for international child abduction under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

To get your children back, you would have to apply under The Hague Convention.  You can do one of the following:

  • You may apply to the Singapore Family Court or inquire with the Singapore Central Authority (i.e. the Ministry for Social and Family Development) to assist you to apply to the overseas authority for the return of your children.
  • You may apply directly to the Central Authority of the country your child was abducted and you may choose to directly commence foreign judicial proceedings against your ex-spouse.

If your children were taken to a country who is not a signatory to The Hague Convention, your options become very limited.  In such a situation, you should consult with a lawyer from that country.  .

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Are overseas assets included in the Singapore courts’ decision?

Yes, in coming to a fair and equitable decision on division of assets, all matrimonial assets will be divided up by the Singapore Family Court.  If your spouse does not comply with the Singapore court’s decision on overseas properties, then you have to consult with the lawyer from that jurisdiction on your enforcement options.

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ABOUT PKWA FAMILY LAW

At PKWA Law, our team of Family Lawyers are consistently named as leading Singapore family lawyers by respected independent legal publications such as Benchmark Litigation,  Asian Legal Business, Singapore Business Review and Doyle’s Guide to Leading Singapore Family Lawyers. 

Contact us at tel 6854-5336 for a free first consultation. 

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