How Can I Divorce Overseas After Marrying in Singapore?
You registered your marriage in Singapore and later moved with your spouse overseas. After living overseas for some time, your marriage unfortunately went south and you’re now considering filing for a divorce overseas.
Here’s how you can do so, and the issues that may arise in the process.
Filing for Divorce Overseas
If you file for divorce in a foreign country, you will first have to fulfil that country’s legal requirements for divorce and obtain a foreign divorce order.
However, getting this order may not be as straightforward as it sounds. For example, your spouse may file for divorce in Singapore even though you have already commenced divorce proceedings overseas. This could happen if your spouse thinks he or she will be able to get a more favourable outcome under Singapore’s divorce laws, in terms of maintenance or otherwise.
If you are adamant that the divorce should be heard in the foreign country, you may apply for a stay to suspend the divorce proceedings in Singapore.
The Singapore court will then consider whether it would be more appropriate for the court to be heard in the Singapore court or the foreign court. In making this decision, the Singapore court will consider factors such as the locations of both parties’ assets, and where your children live (if you have children).
If you succeed in staying the Singapore divorce proceedings, you may continue with the foreign divorce proceedings.
After obtaining the foreign divorce order, you may then have the order recognised in Singapore to dissolve your marriage in Singapore.
Recognition of the Foreign Divorce Order in Singapore
Provided that the court granting the foreign divorce order is of “competent jurisdiction”, you may use that foreign divorce order to dissolve your marriage in Singapore.
However, the foreign divorce order must first be recognised in Singapore. A foreign divorce order may be recognised in Singapore in 3 ways:
- The order was granted by a court of the domicile of one of the parties;
- The order was granted by a court which exercised jurisdiction on the same basis that a Singapore court would have exercised jurisdiction; or
- There is a real and sufficient connection between the court granting the order and either party to the marriage.
If the foreign divorce order is recognised in Singapore, your marriage in Singapore will be dissolved. Both parties to the marriage will then also be able to commence ancillary proceedings in Singapore to determine issues such as division of assets and spousal maintenance.
This also applies to Muslim women who had married under Syariah law in Singapore and subsequently divorced overseas. After their foreign divorce, they will be able to apply to the Singapore court to have their Singapore assets divided.
What if I Want to File for Divorce in Singapore Instead?
If you want to file for divorce in Singapore, the Singapore court must have jurisdiction to hear your divorce.
The Singapore court will have jurisdiction to hear the divorce if either party to the marriage is:
- Domiciled in Singapore at the time of commencement of the Singapore divorce proceedings. If one party to the marriage is a Singapore citizen, the court will presume him or her to be domiciled in Singapore, unless this is disproved; or
- Habitually resident in Singapore for a period of 3 years immediately preceding the commencement of the Singapore divorce proceedings. Short absences from Singapore are unlikely to be counted as breaking the continuity period of 3 years.
On a separate note, you will also need to see if your spouse files for divorce overseas (and accordingly applies to have the Singapore divorce proceedings stayed). If that happens, you will need to apply to the foreign court to stay the foreign divorce proceedings in favour of the Singapore divorce proceedings.
After you have convinced the Singapore court to assume jurisdiction over the marriage, and any foreign divorce proceedings have been stayed in favour of the Singapore divorce proceedings, you will finally be able to proceed with the Singapore divorce proceedings to dissolve your marriage in Singapore.
Read our other article for more information on divorce fees in Singapore.
Filing for divorce overseas can be a complicated affair, depending on the circumstances of the marriage and how hard your spouse contests where the divorce proceedings should be heard.
If you find yourself in such a position, you may consider getting in touch with one of our divorce lawyers to discuss the best way forward.
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