Simplified Uncontested Divorce vs Contested Divorce in Singapore
The request for the dissolution of marriages is one of the most frequently filed cases in court. Unfortunately, divorce application processes and procedures can be tedious, and even daunting.
If you decide to terminate your marriage, your spouse can choose whether he or she wants to contest it, that is, to file a defence to your claim for divorce.
The process of filing for divorce in Singapore comprises 2 main stages:
- The court determines whether the marriage has irretrievably broken down;
- The court then decides on ancillary matters such as custody, care and control of the children and the division of matrimonial assets.
Simplified Uncontested Divorce
A simplified uncontested divorce is one where both parties have come to an agreement on all issues to their divorce privately and amicably.
First, the Plaintiff (the person filing for divorce) will have to confirm that what is written in the Statement of Claim and Statement of Particulars is accurate. Since it is a simplified uncontested divorce, the Defendant (the other party in the divorce case) will not dispute the contents of either statement but will file a Memorandum of Appearance consenting to the divorce.
If both parties have made and agreed on care arrangements for their children below 21 years of age, they can file an Agreed Parenting Plan.
When both parties have come to a consensus on what to do with their Housing and Development Board (HDB) flat after the divorce, they can proceed to file an Agreed Matrimonial Property Plan.
Once both parties have agreed on all ancillary issues, a Draft Consent Order can be filed. As only one lawyer is required for filing the Draft Consent Order, parties need not incur additional legal fees to hire another divorce lawyer.
The court will review the parties’ divorce documents to decide whether the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
If the court is not convinced that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, the court can require both parties to attend an open court hearing for them to present further evidence to support their case.
Once the court is satisfied that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and that all ancillary matters have been settled, it will grant an Interim Judgment confirming that the marriage has been dissolved. This Interim Judgment can only be made final after 3 months.
Compared to contested divorce proceedings, simplified uncontested divorce proceedings are often more efficient and inexpensive, as hearings can be as short as 10 minutes.
Simplified uncontested divorce vs amicable divorce
In proving that a marriage has irretrievably broken down, a new fact of “divorce by mutual agreement” will be implemented in 2023. When this comes into effect, spouses will be allowed to prove irretrievable breakdown of marriage through mutually agreeing that the marriage has broken down in that way.
In other words, you and your spouse will be able to divorce without pinning blame or fault on one another for the breakdown of the marriage. Hence, known as an amicable divorce.
However, there are a few differences between a simplified uncontested divorce and an amicable divorce even though both routes cater to parties who have come to a mutual agreement.
The first difference lies in the matter that amicable divorce relies on a fact – “divorce by mutual agreement” – to prove irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. On the other hand, simplified uncontested divorce is a divorce process that parties in an amicable divorce can adhere to.
The second difference lies in what the parties have come to a mutual agreement on. In the case of an amicable divorce, this must be the fact of divorce by mutual agreement. However, in a simplified uncontested divorce, parties must have come to an agreement on all issues to their divorce. This includes the fact relied on for divorce as well as the ancillary matters.
If parties are able to agree on the fact of divorce by mutual agreement but are unable to agree on ancillary matters, then they must take the contested divorce route.
When a divorce is contested, it means that at least one issue of the divorce still needs to be resolved. In contested divorce proceedings, the couple will have to attend trial and provide evidence to support their respective cases on how that issue(s) should be resolved.
Such proceedings can be lengthy and arduous. It will hence take longer before the court can grant an Interim Judgment.
The main difference between a contested divorce and an uncontested one is that a contested divorce involves adversarial proceedings. As one party may feel aggrieved and disagree with a particular issue, he or she feels the need to file a counterclaim. Issues that are often in contention include child custody, child visitation rights, division of property and assets, as well as the allocation of debt.
A dispute may also arise when one party asserts that there has been a period of separation when in fact there may not have been one.
If the Defendant is contesting the Writ, he or she will have 22 days from the date of service of the Writ of Divorce to file a Defence and serve it on the Plaintiff.
Once the Defendant files a Defence, the Plaintiff will have 14 days from the date of service of Defence to file his or her Reply to Defence and counter-claim.
A contested divorce has to go through a Pre-Trial Conference. Alternatively in some cases, a date for mediation can be set. The Pre-Trial Conference looks into whether some issues can be resolved, and thus narrows the contested areas.
If the Pre-Trial Conference or mediation is not successful in resolving all outstanding contested issues, a date will be set for the trial. At trial, the court will determine whether the marriage has irretrievably broken down after weighing the evidence given by both parties in their affidavits and through cross-examination. If the court is not convinced, it will not grant an Interim Judgment.
These processes may prove to be unpleasant, especially where children are involved in the wake of the fallout of their parents’ marriage. Both parties must also be prepared for cross-examination. Thus, contested divorces can drag on for several days, causing the proceedings to be invariably costly as well as physically and mentally wearying.
While simplified uncontested divorce proceedings can take only a few minutes, a contested divorce may go on for days as the length of the trial is contingent on the number of witnesses and the complexity of each case. Thus, contested divorces are generally more time-consuming and costly.
Parties should carefully consider whether they are able to agree on the issues in a divorce between themselves as much as possible, to reduce the costs involved in getting a divorce.
If possible, parties should also attend marriage counselling prior to concluding on divorce.
This article was written by Bernice Goh
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