How to prepare for a divorce
You’ve made up your mind. You never imagined that this day would come, but you’ve thought it through countless times and you have finally decided that the marriage has to come to an end. You will be getting a divorce. This will be an undeniably difficult period of your life, but you don’t have to go through it alone. You shouldn’t have to feel helpless and alone. An experienced guide taking your hand and leading the way will bring great comfort and reassurance. We have had the solemn duty and privilege of walking with many of our clients through the painful process of ending a marriage and we are able to provide the same support to you. Impossible tasks always seem more manageable once broken down into smaller parts. Having a clear game plan as you head into your divorce will ensure that it does not overwhelm you. If you are certain that you wish to proceed with your divorce, or if you have been the one that divorce papers have been served on, please read on to find out more about steps you can take to prepare for your divorce.
Choose a lawyer that is experienced in both litigation and mediation
Contrary to some popular portrayals, divorces are not always nasty affairs with divorcing couples slinging mud at each other while writing cheque after cheque to their lawyers. There are far cheaper and more amicable ways to end a marriage, that allow you to keep both your relationship with your ex-spouse and your bank account intact. In Singapore, a divorce can proceed on a contested basis or an uncontested basis. A contested divorce is where there is at least one issue of the divorce is in dispute. The divorce proceedings can potentially become a great financial burden to both parties if they are unable to come to an agreement on the issue(s) and end up having to litigate the matter in court. The legal fees for a contested divorce can cost between $10,000 to $20,000 and beyond. On the other hand, an uncontested divorce is one where both parties are able to reach an agreement on all issues relating to the divorce. The legal fees for an uncontested divorce usually cost between $3,000 to $5,000. Good divorce lawyers will always aim to do what is in the best interests of their clients, and more often than not, this means encouraging them to reach an amicable settlement with the other party. These lawyers do so by taking the time to help their clients have a clear understanding of their legal rights and obligations in the divorce. They protect their clients from being taken advantage of, yet also encourage them to adopt a reasonable position in the negotiations at divorce so that the divorce can be concluded more quickly and cheaply. Nevertheless, should the situation require that the matter proceeds to litigation, you should be confident that your lawyer is someone who will be able to protect your interests fiercely. Do your best to find yourself a lawyer who is both trained in mediation and has a strong track record in the courtroom. Avoid viewing your divorce proceedings as an opportunity to express your grievances and disappointments about the marriage, or using your lawyers to “punish” your spouse. Instead, treat your divorce proceedings as a transitional process where you are making changes to your living arrangements from a married person to a single one, and your lawyers are the professionals who will make that transition easier. This change in perspective will give you greater control over your emotions and the money you will spend on your divorce.
Gather the necessary documents and evidence
Regardless of whether you are eager to reach an amicable settlement with your spouse, or if you are looking to fight it out in court, it is essential that you have access to all the necessary documents and evidence relevant to the divorce. These documents will have a tremendous impact on the negotiations relating to division of the matrimonial assets, custody of the children, and maintenance for yourself and the children. When parties are making contradictory claims about their income, the extent of their contributions towards the family, the matrimonial home, or other matrimonial assets, the court will be looking to these documents to decide which party is more trustworthy. Once divorce proceedings begin, there are timelines that parties have to adhere to. Preparing the documents before the divorce ensures that you will have comfortably sufficient time to do so and not find yourself in a frantic search for them. Furthermore, when you are gathering and preparing these documents, it is a good idea to make extra softcopies of them and save them to an external drive or cloud storage, so that they will not be easily lost. You may wish to prepare your documents and organise them into the following categories. Where possible, you should also try to obtain the same documents belonging to your spouse:
- Documents relating to income – Your salary payslips for the past three months, and your IRAS Notice of Assessment statements for the past three years.
- Documents relating to bank accounts – Bank statements of all individual or joint accounts held by you and your spouse, including savings accounts and investment accounts.
- Documents relating to real estate – Documents showing the legal description of any property owned jointly or separately by you and your spouse. Also prepare documents showing your CPF contributions to the property, cash contributions to the property, cash contributions to the renovation of the property, and mortgages on the property.
- Documents relating to other marital assets – Documents showing the value of shares, investments, and insurance policies owned jointly or separately by you and your spouse.
- Documents relating to living expenses – Prepare a list of items of the monthly expenses incurred for yourself and your children (if any) and any documents such as receipts, invoices and bills evidencing the same.
Have a clear plan for your post-divorce living arrangements
As we have mentioned previously, divorce is not an end in itself, but a transitional phase. As you prepare for your divorce, you must necessarily also consider what your post-divorce living arrangements will be like. Consider below some of the questions to aid you in planning your roadmap for a new season of your life.
Relating to employment, income and living expenses:
- Will you be re-entering the workforce and if so, what are the working hours like?
- How would that affect the care arrangements for your children, if you have been granted care and control of them?
- Given the current economic climate, how long do you think it would be before you are able to find employment?
- How stable do you think your ex-spouse’s job is? Are you confident that he will be able to provide you with maintenance consistently every month?
- Will you face an increase in living expenses after your divorce? Is your income and/or the maintenance able to cover your new living expenses? If not, what are some lifestyle changes you will have to accept in order to make ends meet?
Relating to living accommodations:
- There are certain regulations governing the sale/retention of HDB flats in a divorce. Are you able to meet the requirements to retain the HDB flat?
- If you are keeping the matrimonial home, are you able to afford the monthly mortgage payments and the maintenance of the house?
- If you are moving out of the matrimonial home, where will you be staying? Do you have to rent an apartment, and how might the cost of rental affect you?
- How would your new living accommodations affect the care and control/access to your children?
- Will you or your ex-spouse be keeping the matrimonial home, or will it be sold on the open market?
- Take care of your own wellbeing.
In the midst of the frenzied activity and stress that accompanies a divorce, it will be easy for you to neglect your own health and mental wellbeing. Studies show that persons going through a divorce become much more susceptible to anxiety, drastic weight change, insomnia, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. These results are probably unsurprising, given the upheaval that divorce causes in one’s life. Therefore, be sure to take active steps to minimise the impact that divorce can have on your health. Give yourself the time and space to mourn over the breakup of your marriage. No matter how painful a marriage might have been, the loss of a marriage still brings grief to most. Keeping a journal is a helpful way to deal with the painful emotions of a divorce. By writing about your feelings, you are making a conscious decision to face the reality of your separation, accept it, and then move past it. This healing process is a necessary step in your transition to a new phase of your life. Surround yourself with friends and family whom you can trust to support you through this period. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. We often underestimate the extent to which our loved ones care for us. Ask them to make appointments with you to meet for meals or outings and ensure you maintain these close connections. Realise that your identity does not revolve around you being a married person, and that you are still deeply cherished by many others in your life. Do your best to quickly get into a new routine for yourself. Routine and habits bring stability into our lives and make us happier overall. Pick up that new hobby that you never had time for. Sign up an interest group and meet people that are excited about the same things as you are. Do things that keep you happy and fulfilled and you will soon emerge a stronger person ready to leap into the next chapter of their life.
ABOUT PKWA FAMILY LAW
At PKWA Law, our team of Family Lawyers are consistently named as leading Singapore family and divorce lawyers by respected legal publications such as Benchmark Litigation Asia Pacific, Straits Times, Asian Legal Business, Singapore Business Review and Doyle’s Guide.
Contact us at tel 6854-5336 for a free first consultation.
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