How To Save Money And Avoid A Costly Divorce

LEGAL TIPS

Divorce legal fees in Singapore can be costly.  Below are some tips on how you can reduce your divorce fees in Singapore.

1. Talk to your spouse and try to agree on the divorce and ancillary issues

Both of you should try to agree on the reason for the divorce.  For children, you need to agree on custody, care and control, and access issues.  For property, you need to agree on whether to sell or retain the property and the split of proceeds.  For maintenance, you should agree on the amount of maintenance for the spouse and children.

It is important to agree to a divorce, otherwise you are going to spend time and money litigating on the cause of the divorce. If you and your spouse insist on blaming each other, it will complicate matters and increase legal fees. It is therefore recommended that you try to reach a consensus and try to limit fault.

2. Understand that proving fault is not going to get you a better deal

It is widely misunderstood that you will get a better deal from the courts if you can prove that your spouse was at fault (example, if your spouse had an affair).  This is generally not true.  The Singapore courts generally do not look at the reasons for the divorce when deciding on children, property and money issues.

So, do not spend unnecessary money trying to show that your spouse is at fault.  The fact that your spouse has an affair is not going to get you a bigger share of the assets.

The only time fault may get you a better deal is if your spouse had acted in a manner that is clearly detrimental to the interests of the children.  Then, the court may take this into consideration when deciding on children issues.

3. There is no such thing as a completely perfect settlement

Recognise that in a divorce, there is no such thing as a completely fair settlement.  There has to be give and take. Both of you will probably come out of the divorce without getting a perfect split – this is normal.

The Singapore Courts themselves have repeatedly said that if parties cannot settle, they will take a ‘broad-brush approach” in deciding on division of assets.   This means that the Singapore Courts are not going to engage in a minute and detailed examination of every single cent spent or every single transaction.

4. Where possible, always go for an Uncontested Divorce

If you and your spouse can agree on the divorce and ancillary issues, then you are ready to file for an uncontested divorce.  An uncontested divorce route is – by far – the quickest and fastest way to get a divorce.

The differences between an uncontested divorce and contested divorce in Singapore

Take a look at our table below to see how much you save in terms of fees and time if you and your spouse can agree on an uncontested divorce and ancillaries.

Uncontested Divorce Contested Divorce
Legal Fees $1,500 to $2,900 It depends on time taken and the complexity of the case
Court Visits Not Necessary Necessary
Preparation of Financial Documents No need to prepare Need to prepare
Preparation of affidavits regarding children issues No need to prepare Need to prepare
Interim Judgement and Settlement About 1 month Anything from several months to more than 1 year.

5. When do you know that an uncontested divorce is not possible?

We encourage our clients to try to agree.  However, there may be situations where an uncontested divorce is simply not possible.  These situations include:

  • If your spouse cannot be found.
  • If your spouse refuses to discuss with you.
  • If your spouse has unreasonable demands.  For example, we have a case where the other spouse demanded that our client provide her with an unlimited credit card even after divorce.
  • If your spouse is irresponsible or is violent, and parties cannot agree on children issues.
  • If your children’s well-being is at risk.
  • If the matrimonial assets are substantial, and parties cannot agree on the division of these assets.
  • If your spouse demands a greater share of the property profits (which is not in accordance with the law).
  • If the maintenance offered is too low.

6. Always go for mediation even if your divorce is contested

If your divorce is contested, do not worry.  There is still a very good chance that your case will be settled through counselling and mediation at the Family Justice Court.  The Singapore Court is extremely pro-mediation and has an excellent record of helping parties to settle.  Only a relatively small number of divorce cases go all the way for trial.

The writer is the Head of PKWA Law Family Department, one of the largest family practices in Singapore.  He can be contacted at (65) 6854 5336 or at chongboon@pkwalaw.com.

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