Can you file for divorce if you have been married for less than 3 years?
The Women’s Charter specifically prohibits parties from filing for divorce before the expiry of 3 years since the marriage.
Despite the general rule, you can file for divorce before 3 years have passed since the marriage. However, the bar to succeeding in such an application is high. The Court would only allow such an application in exceptional cases.
Under what circumstances can a spouse file for divorce before 3 years have elapsed?
In order to file for divorce before the expiry of 3 years, a spouse must show that he or she had suffered exceptional depravity or hardship.
What exactly constitutes exceptional depravity or hardship?
Exceptional depravity or hardship can be defined as circumstances that are so extreme that an ordinary person cannot reasonably be asked to bear.
For example, the Court ruled in the case of Foo Teck Kuan v Chan Yoke Han that blatantly committing adultery in the matrimonial home when the other spouse is present constitutes exceptional depravity and hardship.
Another example is a combination of factors which shows that a spouse blatantly disregards the sanctity of the union. In Ng Kee Shee v Fu Gaofei, the Court held that the wife’s avoidance of any form of physical contact, intimacy and her reluctance to return to the husband after deserting him constituted exceptional depravity and hardship.
Having said that, the standard to showing exceptional depravity or hardship is high and may not be easily satisfied. For example, committing adultery in itself may not constitute exceptional hardship or depravity and parties would likely have to meet the 3 year requirement before filing for a divorce.
In light of the above, the Court will examine the facts of each case to see if there was exceptional depravity and hardship before reaching a decision on the divorce application. It is also worth noting that the burden of providing evidence of such depravity or hardship falls on the party making the application.
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