Procedure for Dissolution of Marriage

Last updated on March 31, 2022

Featured image for the "Procedure for Dissolution of Marriage" article. It features a divorce couple speaking to a judge in court.

There are two stages to divorce proceedings. The first is the dissolution of the marriage, while the second concerns ancillary matters such as the division of matrimonial assets, the maintenance of spouse and children as well as custody, care and control of the children.

This article will primarily focus on the first stage of terminating a marriage in divorce proceedings. The person seeking to file for a divorce is known as the Plaintiff, while the other spouse is known as the Defendant.

Conditions to File for a Divorce

Before the Plaintiff may commence divorce proceedings, there are some conditions that must be fulfilled.

Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage

There are four ways of showing that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

1. Adultery

For the Plaintiff to show that the Defendant has committed adultery, a considerable amount of proof has to be adduced, such as by hiring a private investigator to obtain evidence. It would be advisable to file for a divorce under another ground if you have difficulty proving adultery.

2. Unreasonable behaviour

The Plaintiff may file for divorce on the basis that the marriage has broken down irretrievably due to your spouse’s unreasonable behaviour.

The Plaintiff will have to show that the Defendant has behaved in such a manner that you cannot be reasonably expected to live together with him/her any longer. Each marriage is unique with different circumstances, and the Plaintiff will be required to give incidences and examples of such instances of unreasonable behaviour in order for you to proceed on this ground.

3. Desertion

If the Defendant has deserted the Plaintiff for 2 years without any intention or sign of returning, the marriage may be terminated on the fact of desertion.

4. Separation

If the parties of the marriage have lived apart for 3 years and both parties have consented to a divorce, the marriage will be dissolved.

If there is no consent, parties must have been separated for 4 years.

Deed of Separation

If the parties have not yet met the conditions to file for a divorce, you may wish to apply for a deed of separation. This will effectively allow you to live separately from your spouse, before you officially commence divorce proceedings. Further, a deed of separation is only preliminary to a divorce proceeding and is not conclusive – parties may attempt to reconcile and salvage their marriage in the interim.

A deed of separation will typically establish an agreement on the following:

Do note that a Deed of Separation does not terminate the marriage, but merely serves as an instrument to sort out matrimonial finances and properties before proceeding with a divorce.

Stage 1: Terminating a Marriage

As the Plaintiff of the divorce proceedings, you will have to engage a lawyer to act on your behalf, and authorise a Warrant to Act to enable your lawyer to represent you. Your spouse, the Defendant, may decide to engage his own lawyer if he wishes to contest the divorce (see below).

Preliminarily, with regard to matrimonial property, if you and your spouse are or had been living in a HDB flat, you will need to obtain HDB’s approval on how the HDB flat should be dealt with after the divorce. HDB’s reply will take approximately one month.

If all conditions for a divorce are met, and there is no possible way to reconcile or salvage the marriage, you may file a Writ of Divorce.

1. Writ of Divorce

A writ of divorce is the mode of commencing a divorce suit. if you are filing this, the same writ will be served on the Defendant personally.

2. Statement of Claim

The Statement of Claim will specify the fact of divorce upon which you are claiming that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. It may be based on adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion or separation.

3. Statement of Particulars

The Statement of Particulars is a standard statement detailing the particulars of the Plaintiff and Defendant. It will also state the particulars of the fact invoked for the termination of marriage, such as particulars of adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion or separation, with examples illustrating how this has caused the marriage to break down irretrievably.

An experienced divorce lawyer will help greatly in drafting this.

For a comprehensive guide on the costs of engaging a divorce lawyer in Singapore, please refer to our Divorce Fee Guide.

4. Proposed Matrimonial Property Plan

The Proposed Matrimonial Property Plan will include the particulars of the matrimonial property and the proposed arrangements with regard to payment of outstanding loans on the property, as well as division based on contributions to purchase price.

5. Proposed Parenting Plan

This would relate to the custody, care and control of the children, if any. The Proposed Parenting Plan is only required if the children of the marriage are below the age of 21. The document will outline how each parent will care for the children of the marriage during and after divorce.

The divorce papers may be served personally or by substituted service, if your spouse is living overseas, for example.

Following the service of divorce papers on the Defendant, he/she will have to file a notice of intention to contest or not contest to state if he/she is contesting the divorce (this was previously known as “entering appearance”).

After the filing of divorce papers, the parties would have to go for compulsory mediation if there are children under the age of 21 in the marriage.

What if You Oppose the Divorce?

Once divorce papers are served on the Defendant, he has to file a notice of intention to contest if he/she wishes to contest the divorce. If the Defendant does not file a notice of intention to contest, it may be taken that he/she does not wish to contest the divorce. Alternatively, the defendant can file a notice of intention to not contest the divorce. The divorce will then be immediately set down for hearing and proceed to the second stage of divorce regarding ancillary matters.

Do note that during the first stage of divorce, the primary issue is the termination of the marriage. Any contest of divorce at this stage would relate to the dissolution of marriage. If you wish to contest the grounds of divorce, you will have to file a defence and a counterclaim.

For this, you will have to engage your own lawyer to commence litigation.

What If You Cannot Find Your Spouse?

If you cannot find your spouse, a Summons application will be taken out, and there will be a Court Order to proceed with the divorce. The Court may allow for substituted service or dispensation of service to your spouse.

It will be taken that the divorce is uncontested and you may proceed to the second stage of divorce regarding ancillary matters.

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 (2024)
  2. Can a Divorcing Couple Use the Same Lawyer? Pros and Cons
  3. 7 Best Divorce and Family Lawyers in Singapore (2024)
  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
  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. Typical issues in Singapore/England Divorces
  4. Immigration Issues for Divorcing Expatriates
  5. Can Foreigners Divorce in Singapore?
  6. Expat or Foreigner Divorce in Singapore: 10 Legal Issues to Consider
  7. Hague Convention: Overseas Child Abduction in Singapore Divorce
  8. Case Study: Cross-Border Child Custody and the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction
  9. Can British Expats in Singapore Choose to Divorce in England?
  10. Divorce for British Expats: Approach to Matrimonial and Non-Matrimonial Assets in England vs Singapore
  11. 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
  1. Annulling a Singapore Marriage: Requirements and Process
  2. What Happens to Your HDB Flat After an Annulment?
  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?