The 4 Most Difficult Issues in a High Conflict, Contentious Divorce in Singapore

divorce lawyer Singapore for contentious divorce

The 4 Most Difficult  Issues in a Highly Contentious Divorce in Singapore


Getting a divorce is a major, life-changing decision. Many divorce clients are naturally worried and stressed out. There are many things to worry about – where to live, money, wondering if your children are coping with the divorce, etc.

You and your spouse should not make it worse by going into a toxic, contentious divorce in Singapore. Unfortunately, there will be divorces that cannot be resolved amicably.  If your divorce is very contentious and stressful, do note what the common hotly disputed areas are.

Here are 4 of the most contentious aspects of a contentious and high conflict divorce in Singapore.


1.   Whose fault is it?

When a marriage breaks up, it is common that parties will blame each other for the divorce.

It is understandable that no one likes to take the blame for the break up and hence, parties go through the divorce process trying to prove that their spouse is at fault for the dissolution of the marriage.

Generally, however, it’s more expeditious and less expensive to water down the particulars of fault so that your spouse will find easier to agree to the divorce.  Or, if no one wants to take the blame, you may consider separation for 3 years before filing for divorce.

Take away that animosity and negative energy and stop fighting over who is at fault. Trying to put all the blame on one party does not help the innocent party in ancillary matters.  You will find that the courts in Singapore will try to encourage parties to move beyond who is at fault and try to find common ground so that the divorce can proceed with as little acrimony as possible.


2.   Maintenance for spouse and children

Maintenance is a form of financial support. Under the Women’s Charter (Cap. 353), Section 69, you can apply for maintenance;

  • For your child, from the other parent, if he or she neglects or refuses to provide the child with reasonable maintenance;
  • For yourself, from your husband, if you are a married woman whose husband neglects or refuses to provide you with reasonable maintenance;
  • For yourself, from your wife, if you are an incapacitated husband whose wife has neglected or refused to provide you with reasonable maintenance; or
  • For yourself, from your parent, if you are over 21 and you are still a full-time NSman or student.

It is extremely difficult to convince someone who no longer has feelings for the ex-spouse to pay towards the ex-spouse’s maintenance.  And that maintenance can be paid over for many years.

Thus, couples often argue heavily about the need to pay maintenance and the amount.

While most people have no problem with paying maintenance for their children after divorce, a common complaint is that the other spouse is not paying his/her own equal share.  An additional factor that makes the issue of maintenance so contentious is that the money is usually paid not direct to the children, but (usually) to the ex-wife. The result is that the paying party is especially unhappy because they feel their ex may not be using the children maintenance for the children.


3.   Division of matrimonial assets

Singapore courts will divide matrimonial assets in a “fair and equitable” way. However, what is fair and equitable in the eyes of the law may not always be fair and equitable in the eyes of the ex husband and ex wife because of the high emotions involved.

Hence, division of matrimonial assets is one of the most difficult issues in a high conflict, contentious divorce in Singapore.

Most Singaporean couples will at least have a HDB flat or a private property. The need to have a roof over one’s head makes negotiation for asset division very challenging for a divorce lawyer.  Many times, the wife will want to have the property left for her, but the husband will want to take his money back so that he can buy another property in the future.

If the matrimonial property is a HDB flat, there is also the difficult issue of whether it can be sold or it must be returned to HDB, or whether one party can keep it.  These are issues that affect the long term future of all divorce couples.  The issue may be complicated if the person who wants to retain the HDB flat is not qualified to retain it, or has no financial means to service the mortgage.

Both parties may also feel emotionally attached to their shared possessions, and deciding who gets what is a difficult process. The most prevalent issue in this category are usually gifts – especially gifts in the form of houses from parents.  Do these gifts form part of the matrimonial assets to be divided?  In a contentious and high conflict divorce, it is not uncommon for parties to mount arguments trying to prove or disprove that the gift should be divided.

In large and complex divorce cases that we have done,  the most challenging and difficult ones are those involving private companies, trusts, assets in multiple jurisdictions and assets that are hidden. You would need to find out the assets and how much they are worth.  Valuation of the business and assets is a highly complex exercise and your divorce lawyer should work closely with accountants and valuers to make sure that valuations are as accurate and fair as possible.

Your lawyer should be able to make sense of all the assets, come up with a fair valuation, and be able to articulate clearly what your share of the assets should be – taking into consideration the law, the circumstances of your case, and your direct and indirect contributions.


4.   Custody of Children

Without any doubt, custody, care and control and access to children is the most difficult topic in any contentious divorce.

In many of the contentious, high conflict divorce cases that we do, we find that some parents fight for custody, care and control of their children because they honestly think that they are the better parent. They honestly believe that the children are better off living with them or that the other parent is not a good parent.   When both parents honestly believe that they are good parents and both want the child, this can be a difficult issue to mediate.

It is also becoming more common for divorces in Singapore to involve an “international” element, that is, between a Singaporean and a non-resident or between two non-residents.  Where there is a foreigner involved, questions will arise about with whom and in which country the child will live in after divorce. International divorces or cross border divorces involving children are complex and will require skills, compassion and patience by the lawyers to help parties to reach an acceptable compromise.

In some cases, parents fight for custody of their children not because they actually want the children, but because they want to avoid paying child maintenance to the other parent or they simply want to punish the other parent. In such situations, it helps to have a strong divorce lawyer who can tell that parent not to go down that path.



A divorce is a very hard experience. If you are facing a difficult and contentious divorce, you should stay calm, get emotional support, protect your children and get yourself a good divorce lawyer.   It is really not an easy time, but trust us – it will blow over and you will be in a better place soon.



PKWA Law - divorce lawyer Singapore

PKWA Law is a leading family law firm in Singapore.  We specialise in complex and contentious divorces.

Our team of Family Lawyers are consistently named as leading Singapore family lawyers by respected independent legal publications such as Asian Legal Business, Singapore Business Review, Global Law Experts and Doyle’s Guide to Singapore Family Lawyers. 

For more information on how we can help you with a difficult divorce, please contact PKWA Law at tel 6854-5336.



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