Getting a Divorce Due to “Irreconcilable Differences” in Singapore

Last updated on January 21, 2022

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 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:

  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.

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:

  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. Drafting a Deed of Separation in Singapore (Instead of Divorcing)
  2. Alternatives to Divorce in Singapore: A Practical Guide
  3. Process for Getting Divorced in Singapore (With Diagram)
  4. What are the Legal Grounds for Getting a Divorce?
  5. 3 Finance Questions To Ask Before a Divorce
  6. Practical Preparations for a Divorce
  7. How to Divorce Within 3 Years of Marriage in Singapore
  8. Getting Divorced: Documents and Evidence to Prepare
  9. Getting a Divorce Due to “Irreconcilable Differences” in Singapore
  10. Online Divorce in Singapore: How It Works and Should You Get One?
  11. How Can I Divorce Overseas After Marrying in Singapore?
Divorce Fees
  1. Comprehensive Guide to Divorce Fees in Singapore
Getting a Divorce Lawyer
  1. 7 Experienced Female Divorce Lawyers in Singapore (2022)
  2. Can a Divorcing Couple Use the Same Lawyer? Pros and Cons
  3. 7 Best Divorce and Family Lawyers in Singapore (2022)
  4. The Complete Guide to Choosing a Good Divorce Lawyer in Singapore
  5. Don’t Just Go for the Cheapest Divorce Lawyer in Singapore
  6. Find Highly Rated Divorce Lawyers in Singapore
  7. Child Custody Lawyers in Singapore: Do I Need One?
Proving Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage
  1. How to Prove Adultery for Divorce Purposes in Singapore
  2. Getting a Divorce: How to Prove Desertion
  3. Getting a Divorce by Mutual Agreement in Singapore
  4. How to Prove Unreasonable Behaviour in a Singapore Divorce
  5. How to Prove Separation for a Singapore Divorce
Application for Divorce Part I: Dissolution of Marriage
  1. Your Spouse Doesn't Want to Divorce: What to Do
  2. Procedure for Dissolution of Marriage
  3. Simplified Uncontested Divorce vs Contested Divorce in Singapore
  4. Mandatory Parenting Programme Guide for Divorcing Parents
  5. Divorce Mediation in Singapore
  6. Divorce Application: What to Do If Your Spouse Cannot be Found
Application for Divorce Part 2: Ancillary Matters (Maintenance, Assets, Custody)
  1. Contempt of Court in Divorce: When You Can be Punished
  2. Guide to Co-Parenting for Divorcing Parents in Singapore
  3. Procedure for Ancillary Matters
  4. Maintenance of Spouse in a Singapore Divorce
  5. Filling in a Matrimonial Property Plan for a Singapore Divorce
  6. Dividing Matrimonial Assets in a Singapore Divorce
  7. What Happens to Your HDB Flat after Divorce?
  8. What Happens to Gifts Between Spouses During a Divorce?
  9. What Happens to Property and Assets Located Overseas Upon a Divorce in Singapore?
  10. Child Custody, Care and Control & Access: Singapore Guide
  11. Getting Divorced: Child Maintenance in Singapore
  12. Singapore Divorcee's Guide to Relocating Your Child Overseas
Post-Divorce
  1. How to Vary a Child Custody Order in Singapore
  2. How to Appeal Your Divorce Case in Singapore
  3. Divorce Certs in Singapore: How to Get a Copy and Other FAQs
  4. Transfer of Matrimonial Home to Ex-Spouse After Divorce
  5. Can Divorcees Buy or Rent HDB Flats, and How?
  6. What to Do If Your Ex-Spouse Does Not Provide Maintenance
  7. How to Vary a Maintenance Order After a Singapore Divorce
  8. What to Do If Your Ex-Spouse Denies You Access to Your Child
  9. Division of CPF Assets (Monies, House, Investments) After a Divorce
Expatriate Divorce
  1. Divorce for British Expats: Spousal Maintenance Under the Law of England and Wales
  2. Settling Ancillary Matters in Singapore After Foreign Divorce
  3. Immigration Issues for Divorcing Expatriates
  4. Can Foreigners Divorce in Singapore?
  5. Expat or Foreigner Divorce in Singapore: 10 Legal Issues to Consider
  6. Hague Convention: Overseas Child Abduction in Singapore Divorce
  7. Case Study: Cross-Border Child Custody and the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction
  8. Can British Expats in Singapore Choose to Divorce in England?
  9. Divorce for British Expats: Approach to Matrimonial and Non-Matrimonial Assets in England vs Singapore
  10. Divorce for British Expats: How the English Courts Deal with Financial Matters
Muslim or Syariah Divorce
  1. Fasakh in a Muslim Divorce in Singapore: Grounds & Process
  2. Divorce by Cerai Taklik: Guide for Muslim Wives in Singapore
  3. Muslim Divorce in Singapore
  4. Talak in a Muslim Divorce in Singapore (and Its Effects)
  5. Guide to Divorcing by Khuluk for Muslim Wives in Singapore
  6. Applying for Nafkah Idaah and Mutaah in a Muslim Divorce in Singapore
Other divorce matters
  1. Guide to Personal Protection Orders in Singapore
  2. Case Study - Love conquers All: The Divorce That Didn’t Happen
Annulment
  1. Annulling a Singapore Marriage: Requirements and Process
  2. What Happens to Your HDB Flat After an Annulment?
Separation
  1. Separation in Singapore Via Deed of Separation and More
  2. Judicial or Legal Separation in Singapore: When and How to File
Prenuptial and Post-Nuptial Agreements
  1. Prenuptial Agreements in Singapore
  2. Should You Make a Post-Nuptial Agreement in Singapore?