Proving adultery for divorce in Singapore


Adultery (Frequently Asked Questions)


What is adultery?

Adultery is committed when a person voluntarily engages in sexual intercourse with a person of the opposite sex, other than his/her spouse. This means that acts of affection, such as kissing or hugging the opposite sex would not amount to adultery.


Can I rely on adultery as a ground for divorce?

In Singapore, for a divorce to be granted, parties have to be married for at least 3 years and it has to be proven to the satisfaction of the court that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. Adultery is one of the 5 grounds that can be used to prove this ground of “irretrievable breakdown”.

When relying on adultery as a basis for divorce, it has to be shown that there was adultery on the part of the Defendant (other party in a divorce) and the Plaintiff (person filing for divorce) finds it intolerable to live with the Defendant. This means that simply showing that the Defendant has committed adultery is not sufficient and the Plaintiff would also need to show to the satisfaction of the courts that it was intolerable to live with the Defendant. Additionally, it is important to note that the Plaintiff cannot be the person who has committed the adultery. This means that only the aggrieved spouse can file for divorce on the basis of adultery.


What must be shown to prove adultery?

Where the Defendant denies committing adultery, the courts will require the Plaintiff to adduce evidence to prove that the adultery had taken place. Evidence of the act of adultery itself or the birth of a love child would amount to actual evidence which the courts will take into account. As it is sometimes difficult to secure such evidence, the services of a private investigator can be engaged.

In the event where there is no direct evidence, the Plaintiff can also rely on text messages, email exchanges, travel records or credit card bills to prove that the Defendant was inclined to commit adultery, and that there was an opportunity to do so.


What happens if there is no evidence?

It can sometimes be difficult to gather concrete evidence to prove that one party has committed adultery. Even though the services of a private investigator can be engaged, the fees incurred can sometimes be even higher than the cost of the divorce proceedings itself.

Further as the threshold to prove adultery is relatively high, in the event that there is no concrete evidence, the Plaintiff can consider filing for a divorce based on the Defendant’s unreasonable behaviour instead. If divorce is filed on the basis of unreasonable behaviour, all the Plaintiff would need to provide would be that the Defendant has behaved in such an unreasonable manner that the Plaintiff finds it intolerable to live with him/her, leading to the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. This would be easier to prove as compared to adultery where evidence is required.


Is there a time limit?

The Plaintiff would need to file for divorce within 6 months upon knowing of the Defendant’s adultery. If the Plaintiff has lived with the Defendant for more than 6 months after it comes to the Plaintiff’s knowledge that the Defendant had committed adultery, then the Plaintiff would not be able to use adultery as a basis for divorce. As such, once the Plaintiff is certain that the Defendant has committed adultery, and would like to commence divorce proceedings on the basis of adultery, it is advisable that he/she file for divorce as soon as possible.


Does adultery affect children custody, maintenance or the division of assets?

In Singapore, the courts would not take the Defendant’s act of adultery into account when deciding matters relating to children custody, maintenance or the division of assets. This is because the fault factor is not something the courts will consider when dealing with these ancillary matters and as such these matters would be dealt with independently. However, the courts will still take into account the unique circumstances of each case. For example, if the Defendant leads a promiscuous lifestyle and has many sexual partners, the courts will take that into consideration and likely deem that it would not be in the best interests of the children if custody were to be given to the Defendant. However, this is entirely up to the discretion of the courts.


Do I need to name the person whom my spouse committed adultery with?

The Plaintiff may elect to name the third party as a co-defendant in the divorce proceedings. However, it is important to note that naming and ‘shaming’ the other person has minimal impact on the outcome of ancillary matters and it is not necessary to do so.




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