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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE SINGAPORE DIVORCE PROCESS

SINGAPORE DIVORCE PROCESS - WHAT HAPPENS INSIDE A DIVORCE COURT

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE SINGAPORE DIVORCE PROCESS

Have you ever wondered what goes on inside the courtroom of a divorce hearing in Singapore?

It is safe to say that it is very different from what you see on TV. On TV, they show scenes from trials, with flashy lawyers and dramatic scenes. In reality, what actually goes on inside a divorce court hearing in Singapore is a lot more serious and less dramatic.

One important thing to understand is that trials are extremely rare in Singapore. Most divorce cases are settled before they go for trial. Most court appearances take place inside chambers, which is closed to the public.

The second important thing to note is that your lawyer will be attending most of the court hearings. You only need to attend if there is a trial or if you are asked to for mediation.

  The Divorce Process - Your lawyer's first court date - the Status Conference

A Status conference is conducted by an Assistant Registrar of the Family Justice Courts in chambers - meaning that the hearing is closed to the public, and only those directly involved in the matter can attend.

At the Status Conference, the Assistant Registrar will check if all the necessary documents have been filed in Court. If the Defendant is contesting the divorce, the Assistant Registrar may refer the case for counselling with a professional Court counsellor, or for a Family Dispute Resolution Conference.

  The Case Conference

If your divorce is contested, your lawyer’s next court date after the case has been set down for trial will be a case conference date.

A case conference is conducted by an Assistant Registrar of the Family Justice Courts in chambers - meaning that the hearing is closed to the public, and only those directly involved in the matter can attend.

The purpose of a case conference is to get both parties ready for the contested divorce hearing, which will take the form of a trial in open court. If there is a possibility of settlement, the Assistant Registrar may refer the case for counselling with a professional Court counsellor.

If the settlement is not possible, the Assistant Registrar will ask both parties to file Affidavits of Evidence-in-Chief.

  Divorce Trial

A contested divorce hearing is very different from an uncontested divorce hearing. Depending on the number of witnesses and the complexity of the case, the whole process may require from one day to several days. Contested divorces are much more time-consuming and costly than uncontested divorce hearings.

At the end of both types of divorce hearing, the Judge will grant an Interim Judgment if he or she is satisfied that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. Any ancillary matters will be adjourned to be heard in chambers.

The Interim Judgment is a provisional order for divorce. It is made final, or confirmed, after three months. You cannot remarry until the Interim Judgment has been made final.

This is the end of the first stage of your divorce case.

  Ancillary Matters Pre-Trial Matters

The second stage of your divorce case begins when an Ancillary Matters case conference is called.

The Ancillary Matters case conference is usually called within a month of the Interim Judgment being granted. The Court will send you a letter to notify you of the Ancillary Matters case conference date.

An Ancillary Matters case conference is conducted by an Assistant Registrar of the Family Justice Courts in chambers - meaning that the hearing is closed to the public, and only those directly involved in the matter can attend. You do not have to attend the Ancillary Matters case conference yourself if you have a lawyer. Similarly, if the Defendant has a lawyer, his or her lawyer will attend the case conference.

The purpose of this case conference is to get both parties ready for the ancillary matters hearing, which will take place before a District Judge of the Family Justice Courts in chambers. If there is a possibility of settlement, the Assistant Registrar may refer the case for counselling with a professional Court counsellor. In a high conflict case where children are involved, the Assistant Registrar may consider referring the matter to a professional Court counsellor or social worker, so that a confidential report on custody or access may be prepared for the purpose of the ancillary matters hearing. The Assistant Registrar may also appoint a Child Representative. The Child Representative's role is to represent the children's interests for the ancillary matters hearing. The Child Representative will file a written submission for this purpose.

If settlement is not possible, the Assistant Registrar will ask both parties to file Affidavits of Assets and Means.

  Ancillary matters hearing     

If both parties manage to reach agreement on the ancillary matters, the Court will give directions for a consent ancillary matters hearing to be fixed. Your lawyer will prepare a Draft Consent Order.

If there is no agreement, the Assistant Registrar will fix your case for a contested ancillary matters hearing.

  Conclusion

It is hoped that you now have a better understanding of the various types of court appearances you may encounter in Singapore during the course of your family litigation.

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 Asian Legal Business, Singapore Business Review, Global Law Experts and Doyle's Guide to Singapore Family Lawyers.

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

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