Getting a Divorce Due to “Irreconcilable Differences” in Singapore
Most of us would not be strangers to headlines in newspapers or reports in the media about the latest Hollywood celebrity couple getting a divorce, citing “irreconcilable differences” as the reason for their divorce.
However, can you legally get a divorce due to “irreconcilable differences” in Singapore?
This article will explain whether “irreconcilable differences” is in fact a legally recognised ground for divorce and the valid grounds for divorce in Singapore.
What Is “Irreconcilable Differences” and Is It a Valid Ground for Divorce in Singapore?
“Irreconcilable differences” is regarded as a no-fault ground for divorce. This means that no party is deemed to be at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. One would therefore not need to prove any act of wrongdoing (e.g. adultery) committed by a spouse in order to obtain a divorce.
Citing “irreconcilable differences” is not a legally recognised ground for divorce in Singapore. This is unlike the United States (US), where irreconcilable differences is a legally recognised ground for divorce. As of 2010, all states within the US have offered some form of no-fault divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences.
What is a Valid Ground for Divorce in Singapore?
The only legally recognised ground for divorce in Singapore is an “irretrievable breakdown of marriage”. This differs from irreconcilable differences, as parties must prove that their spouse had committed an act of wrongdoing to obtain a divorce.
Besides Singapore, other legal jurisdictions in which the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage is the only ground for divorce include England and Wales, India and Australia.
Under section 95(3) of the Women’s Charter, there are 4 ways through which you can prove that your marriage has irretrievably broken down in Singapore. Do note that these 4 ways are not considered grounds for divorce. They are instead facts that are used to prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down:
- Adultery: Your spouse has committed adultery and you find it intolerable to live with him/her;
- Unreasonable behaviour: Your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot be reasonably expected to live with him/her;
- Desertion: Your spouse has deserted you for at least 2 years; or
- Separation: You and your spouse have been separated for at least 4 years, or 3 years if your spouse has consented to the divorce.
From 2023 onwards, Singapore will also allow spouses to prove irretrievable breakdown of marriage through mutually agreeing that the marriage has broken down in that way. When this “divorce by mutual agreement” route comes into effect, you and your spouse will be able to divorce without pinning blame or fault on one another for the breakdown of the marriage.
This would be the most similar option to getting a divorce on the no-fault ground of “irreconcilable differences” for divorce (which is not a legally recognised concept in Singapore).
You may also refer to our other article that explains in further detail how you can prove irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
What Do I Need to Know Before Filing for Divorce?
Before filing for divorce, either you or your spouse must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Be domiciled in Singapore at the point of commencement of the divorce proceedings, or habitually resident in Singapore for at least 3 years, before the commencement of the 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.
After you have met these eligibility requirements, you would then need to prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, as explained earlier.
You may wish to refer to our other article for further information on the procedure for getting a divorce in Singapore.
Do note that the eligibility requirements set out in sections 93 and 94 of the Women’s Charter also apply if you have been married under Muslim law. However, other considerations, such as the grounds for divorce are governed by Muslim law.
You can learn more about getting a Muslim divorce in Singapore in our other article.
Couples seeking a divorce in Singapore should bear in mind that the only legally recognised ground for divorce is an irretrievable breakdown of marriage.
If you need further advice on filing for divorce in Singapore or need clarification on what is required to prove irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, it is recommended that you consult a divorce lawyer who would be able to assist you further.
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