How Can I Divorce Overseas?

Last updated on May 24, 2018

Featured image for the "How can I divorce overseas?" article. It features two hands each holding one half of a heart broken into two, superimposed over an image of the American flag.

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:

  1. The order was granted by a court of the domicile of one of the parties;
  2. The order was granted by a court which exercised jurisdiction on the same basis that a Singapore court would have exercised jurisdiction; or
  3. 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 assetsmaintenance and child custody.

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.

Before getting a divorce
  1. How to Get a Divorce in Singapore in 2019: Process and Requirements
  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. How to Get a Divorce Within 3 Years of Marriage
  8. Personal Protection Orders (PPOs), Expedited Orders (EOs) and Domestic Exclusion Orders (DEOs) in Singapore
  9. Prenuptial Agreements in Singapore
  10. What are the Legal Grounds for Getting a Divorce?
  11. Separation in Singapore
  12. Annulment of Marriage in Singapore
  13. Practical Preparations for a Divorce
  14. 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 Does the Court Divide 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 Certificates 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 Happens 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