Process for Getting Divorced in Singapore (With Diagram)
What is the Divorce Process in Singapore?
In Singapore, divorce is a 2-stage process for both contested and uncontested divorces. The first stage is called dissolution of marriage, where the court will decide whether the marriage has irretrievably broken down. If it has, the court will grant an Interim Judgment to officially dissolve the marriage.
The second stage of the divorce is called the ancillary matters stage, where the court will decide how the parties’ affairs should be dealt with. Such affairs include spousal maintenance and child custody.
Parties can only apply to make the Interim Judgment final 3 months after receiving it, or upon settling all ancillary matters, whichever is later. The parties will then receive a Certificate of Final Judgment. This concludes all divorce proceedings.
This article will cover:
In this article, “Plaintiff” refers to the spouse filing for divorce, and “Defendant” refers to the other spouse who is defending against the divorce.
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: what are the grounds for divorce in Singapore?
Next, you must prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This is the only legal ground for divorce in Singapore.
- 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.
Before Filing for Divorce in Singapore
If you and your spouse have at least one child under 21 years old, and are unable to agree on the legal ground for divorce and all ancillary matters, both of you will be required to attend a Mandatory Parenting Programme.
This programme is conducted by Divorce Support Specialist Agency counsellors and aims to help divorcing parents make informed decisions that prioritise their children’s needs and well-being. You may find out more about the Mandatory Parenting Programme in our other article.
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.
The party who intends to file for divorce first will need to file certain documents in the Family Justice Courts to start the divorce process. The relevant filing fees need to be paid as well. These documents include:
|Document||Purpose of Document|
|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.
|Statement of Facts||A statement that provides details on the reason for the marriage’s irretrievable breakdown (as stated in the Statement of Claim), among other information.
For example, if the Plaintiff is asserting that the parties have separated for 3 years, the Statement of Facts must state information such as:
|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.
For more information, refer to our article on Matrimonial Property Plans in Singapore.
Stage 1: Dissolution of the Marriage
After the Writ for Divorce and all accompanying documents have been filed in court, they also have to be served on the Defendant.
The Defendant will then have 8 days to decide whether or not to contest the divorce and/or the ancillary matters.
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 Resolution 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 to file in court and serve on the Plaintiff:
- The Memorandum of Appearance within 8 days from the date of being served the Writ for Divorce; and
- The Defence within 14 days from the deadline for the serving of the Memorandum of Appearance.
All in all, the Defendant has 22 days to file and serve both the Memorandum of Appearance and Defence.
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 within the above timeframes, 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 for the court to decide on the ancillary matters, such as maintenance and child custody.
After all ancillary matters have been settled, both parties can apply for the Final Judgment if at least 3 months have passed since the grant of the Interim Judgment.
Can I Divorce Without a Lawyer?
It is possible to file for divorce in Singapore without engaging a lawyer. It would certainly involve lower financial 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.
Hence it may be advisable for you to seek a divorce lawyer’s help, especially if you anticipate that your spouse will contest the divorce. This is because it could lead to complex and lengthy proceedings.
Frequently Asked Questions About Divorce
Can I get a divorce before 3 years of marriage?
Yes it is possible to get a divorce before 3 years of marriage in Singapore if you can prove that you have suffered exceptional hardship, or that your spouse has engaged in exceptional depravity.
Divorces have previously been granted for marriages shorter than 3 years where, for example, one spouse engaged in exceptional depravity by committing adultery at home while the other spouse was in the same house, causing the latter to fall into depression.
The threshold requirements for a situation to be considered exceptional hardship or exceptional depravity are quite high. We suggest consulting a divorce lawyer if you are thinking of divorcing before 3 years of marriage.
How much does it cost to get a divorce in Singapore?
It may cost between $1,500 to $3,500 to hire a divorce lawyer for a simplified uncontested divorce in Singapore, while contested divorces may cost at least $10,000 or more. These figures may not include fees for disbursements and GST.
Should you need any guidance on the costs of engaging a divorce lawyer in Singapore, please refer to our Divorce Fee Guide.
How long does it take to get a divorce in Singapore?
The duration of divorce proceedings depends on factors such as the complexity of the matter. Simplified uncontested divorces tend to be settled quicker, namely within 6 months to a year. On the other hand, contested divorce cases may take a year or more to be resolved in Singapore.
Apart from that, at least 3 months must have passed since the granting of the Interim Judgment before Final Judgment can be granted. If there are still outstanding ancillary matters at this 3-month mark, then the Final Judgment can be granted only after all ancillary matters have been settled.
It is only when the Final Judgment has been granted that all divorce proceedings are considered completed.
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