How to Get a Divorce in Singapore in 2019: Process and Requirements
Divorce is a legal procedure that ends a marriage.
The divorce process in Singapore consists of two stages: dissolution of the marriage and ancillary matters (e.g. spousal maintenance, child custody). In the first stage, the court will decide whether there is sufficient evidence to end the marriage. If there is, Interim Judgment will be granted.
Parties can only apply to make the Interim Judgment final (which ends the divorce proceedings) 3 months later or upon settling all ancillary matters, whichever is later.
Requirements for Getting a Divorce in Singapore
Eligibility for divorce in Singapore
In order to obtain a divorce in Singapore, either you or your spouse must meet the following eligibility requirements under sections 93 and 94 of the Women’s Charter:
- Be domiciled in Singapore at the point of the commencement of divorce proceedings OR habitually resident in Singapore for at least 3 years, before the commencement of divorce proceedings; AND
- Have been married for at least 3 years, unless the party filing for divorce has suffered exceptional hardship or exceptionally unreasonable and cruel behaviour
The above-mentioned requirements may not be applicable to you if you were married under Muslim law. Find out how to get a divorce under Muslim law here instead.
Irretrievable breakdown of marriage
Next, you must prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This is the only legal ground for divorce.
There are a few ways of showing that your marriage had irretrievably broken down. These ways are found under section 95(3) of the Women’s Charter. In this article, “Plaintiff” refers to the spouse filing for divorce, and “Defendant” refers to the other spouse who is defending against the divorce:
- Adultery: The Defendant has committed adultery and the Plaintiff finds it intolerable to live with the Defendant
- Unreasonable behaviour: The Defendant has behaved in such a way that the Plaintiff cannot reasonably be expected to live with the Defendant
- Desertion: The Defendant has deserted the Plaintiff for at least 2 years
- Separation: The parties have separated for at least 4 years (or 3 years if the Defendant consents to the divorce)
Read more about these facts for proving irretrievable breakdown of marriage in our other article.
“What about ‘irreconcilable differences’? Can I use that to get a divorce in Singapore?” – The answer is no – that’s only a legit ground if you’re getting divorced in the US. In Singapore, you’ll have to prove 1 of the 4 ways above. Speak to a lawyer if you need advice on this. #SingaporeLegalAdvice
Application Process for Divorce in Singapore
The following is a step-by-step infographic that summarises the eligibility requirements for getting a divorce, and the process of obtaining a divorce in Singapore. You may click on it to download it in a new tab.
Several documents need to be filed in the Family Justice Courts in divorce proceedings. The relevant filing fees need to be paid as well. These documents include:
- Writ for Divorce: The court document filed by the Plaintiff to commence divorce proceedings against the Defendant.
- Statement of Claim: A statement providing information such as the parties’ particulars, the length of their marriage, any children they have, and the reason why the marriage has irretrievably broken down (i.e. adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion or separation). The Statement of Claim will also state the Plaintiff’s claims for ancillary relief, e.g. that the Plaintiff is seeking custody of the children or division of the matrimonial home.
- Proposed Parenting Plan: The Plaintiff’s proposal for how the parties’ children, who are below 21 years old, should be parented after the divorce. If both parties can agree on this, an Agreed Parenting Plan is filed instead.
- Proposed Matrimonial Property Plan (only if the parties own an HDB flat): The Plaintiff’s proposal for what should happen to the HDB flat after the divorce. If both parties can agree on this, an Agreed Matrimonial Property Plan is filed instead.
Stage 1: Dissolution of the Marriage
Following the serving of papers on the Defendant, he/she will have 8 days to decide whether or not to contest the divorce.
If the Defendant chooses to contest the divorce
If the Defendant chooses to contest the divorce, he/she will have to file a Memorandum of Appearance and a Defence. You can also request for a Resolution Conference with a judge of the Family Resolutions Chambers, or a counselling session with a court counsellor, to try to reach an amicable settlement via divorce mediation with your partner.
If both parties are unable to agree on the reason for divorce on their own, the case would go to court for a judge to determine if the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The Defendant will have 22 days to file a Defence in court and serve it on the Plaintiff.
Alternatively, if the Defendant wants to put forth their own reason for the divorce and/or other claims on the ancillary matters, the Defendant will file a Defence and Counterclaim instead of a Defence.
If the Defendant chooses not to contest the divorce
If the Defendant chooses not to contest the divorce, but wishes to be heard on the ancillary matters, he/she should still file the Memorandum of Appearance to indicate the issues he/she wishes to be heard on.
If the court is satisfied that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, it will grant an Interim Judgment ordering the marriage to be dissolved. The case will then move to the ancillary matters stage of divorce proceedings.
Stage 2: Ancillary Matters
Prior to the hearings on ancillary matters, both parties are required to file Affidavits of Assets and Means. In their affidavits, they are to disclose all assets/liabilities, income and expenditure. Up to 3 rounds of affidavits will be exchanged.
Should the net value of the estate(s) amount to more than $1.5 million, the case will be transferred to the High Court and be heard there.
Following the filing and exchange of documents, an ancillary hearing date will be set before the court decide on the ancillary matters heard.
After all ancillary matters have been settled, both parties can apply for the Final Judgment once 3 months have passed since the grant of the Interim Judgment.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Get a Divorce?
It is possible to file for a divorce without engaging a lawyer. It would certainly involve less costs than having a lawyer. Nonetheless, bear in mind that this will not excuse you from the legal, procedural and formal requirements of conducting court proceedings.
In other words, you will be held to the same standards as if you were represented by a lawyer. Furthermore, the Family Justice Courts cannot advise you on your matter.
Should you need any guidance on the costs of engaging a divorce lawyer in Singapore, please refer to our Divorce Fee Guide.
- How to Get a Divorce in Singapore in 2019: Process and Requirements
- How Can I Divorce Overseas?
- Mandatory Parenting Programme Guide for Divorcing Parents
- Online Divorce in Singapore: How It Works and Should You Get One?
- How to Get a Divorce Within 3 Years of Marriage
- Personal Protection Orders (PPOs), Expedited Orders (EOs) and Domestic Exclusion Orders (DEOs) in Singapore
- Prenuptial Agreements in Singapore
- What are the Legal Grounds for Getting a Divorce?
- Separation in Singapore
- Annulment of Marriage in Singapore
- Practical Preparations for a Divorce
- 3 Finance Questions To Ask Before a Divorce
- Procedure for Ancillary Matters
- What happens to gifts between spouses when a marriage breaks down?
- What Happens to Property and Assets Located Overseas Upon a Divorce in Singapore?
- Getting Divorced: Child Maintenance in Singapore
- Maintenance of Spouse in a Singapore Divorce
- The Guide to Child Custody, Care and Control, and Access in Singapore
- How Does the Court Divide Matrimonial Assets in a Divorce?
- What Happens to Your HDB Flat after Divorce?
- Variation of Maintenance Orders in Singapore
- Divorce Certificates in Singapore: How to Get a Copy and Other FAQs
- Transfer of Matrimonial Home to Ex-Spouse After Divorce
- What to Do If Your Ex-Spouse Denies You Access to Your Child
- What Happens If Your Ex-Spouse Does Not Provide Maintenance?
- Can Foreigners Divorce in Singapore?
- Expat or Foreigner Divorce in Singapore: 10 Legal Issues to Consider
- Immigration Issues for Divorcing Expatriates
- Hague Convention in Singapore: Overseas Child Abduction in Divorce
- Case Study: Cross-Border Child Custody and the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction