Getting a Divorce Due to “Irreconcilable Differences” in Singapore

Last updated on September 11, 2019

unhappy man and woman

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 countries 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 as grounds for divorce. They are instead facts which are used to prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down:

  1. Adultery: Your spouse has committed adultery and you find it intolerable to live with him/her;
  2. Unreasonable behaviour: Your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot be reasonably expected to live with him/her;
  3. Desertion: Your spouse has deserted you for at least 2 years; or
  4. Separation: You and your spouse have been separated for at least 4 years, or 3 years if your spouse has consented to the divorce.

You may also refer to our other article which 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:

  1. 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
  2. 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.      

Before getting a divorce
  1. Process for Getting Divorced in Singapore (With Infographic)
  2. How Can I Divorce Overseas?
  3. Mandatory Parenting Programme Guide for Divorcing Parents
  4. Online Divorce in Singapore: How It Works and Should You Get One?
  5. Getting a Divorce Due to “Irreconcilable Differences” in Singapore
  6. Judicial or Legal Separation in Singapore: When and How to File
  7. Should You Make a Post-Nuptial Agreement in Singapore?
  8. How to Get a Divorce Within 3 Years of Marriage
  9. Guide to Personal Protection Orders in Singapore
  10. Prenuptial Agreements in Singapore
  11. What are the Legal Grounds for Getting a Divorce?
  12. Separation in Singapore
  13. Annulment of Marriage in Singapore
  14. Practical Preparations for a Divorce
  15. 3 Finance Questions To Ask Before a Divorce
Divorce Fees
  1. Comprehensive Guide to Divorce Fees in Singapore
Getting a Divorce Lawyer
  1. The Complete Guide to Choosing a Good Divorce Lawyer in Singapore
  2. First Meeting with Your Divorce Lawyer: What to Bring
  3. Don’t Just Go for the Cheapest Divorce Lawyer in Singapore
  4. Find Experienced Divorce Lawyers in Singapore
  5. Child Custody Lawyers in Singapore
Proving Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage
  1. How to Prove Adultery for Divorce Purposes in Singapore
  2. Getting a Divorce: How to Prove Desertion
  3. How to Prove Unreasonable Behaviour
  4. How to Prove Separation for a Singapore Divorce
Application for Divorce Part I: Dissolution of Marriage
  1. Procedure for Dissolution of Marriage
  2. Divorce Mediation in Singapore
  3. Divorce Application: What to Do If Your Spouse Cannot be Found
  4. Simplified Uncontested Divorce vs Contested Divorce in Singapore
Application for Divorce Part 2: Ancillary Matters (Maintenance, Assets, Custody)
  1. Procedure for Ancillary Matters
  2. What Happens to Gifts Between Spouses During a Divorce?
  3. What Happens to Property and Assets Located Overseas Upon a Divorce in Singapore?
  4. Getting Divorced: Child Maintenance in Singapore
  5. Singapore Divorcee's Guide to Relocating Your Child Overseas
  6. Maintenance of Spouse in a Singapore Divorce
  7. Guide to Child Custody, Care and Control, and Access in Singapore
  8. How the Court Divides Matrimonial Assets in a Singapore Divorce
Post-divorce
  1. What Happens to Your HDB Flat after Divorce?
  2. Variation of Maintenance Orders in Singapore
  3. Division of CPF Assets (Monies, House, Investments) after a Divorce
  4. Divorce Certs in Singapore: How to Get a Copy and Other FAQs
  5. Transfer of Matrimonial Home to Ex-Spouse After Divorce
  6. What to Do If Your Ex-Spouse Denies You Access to Your Child
  7. What to Do If Your Ex-Spouse Does Not Provide Maintenance
Expatriate Divorce
  1. Can Foreigners Divorce in Singapore?
  2. Expat or Foreigner Divorce in Singapore: 10 Legal Issues to Consider
  3. Immigration Issues for Divorcing Expatriates
  4. Hague Convention: Overseas Child Abduction in Singapore Divorce
  5. Case Study: Cross-Border Child Custody and the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction
Muslim or Syariah Divorce
  1. Muslim Divorce in Singapore
  2. Applying for Nafkah Idaah and Mutaah in a Muslim Divorce in Singapore
Other divorce matters
  1. What Happens to Your HDB Flat after an Annulment?
  2. Case Study - Love conquers All: The Divorce That Didn’t Happen