Before you think about getting a divorce

Before you think about getting a divorce, you may wish to consider the possibility of reconciliation between you and your spouse. Going through a divorce is not pleasant and the effect it may have on you and your child can be traumatic.

However, if you are certain you wish to proceed with a divorce, there are several requirements which you will have to meet before a Court will grant a divorce:

You must have been married for at least 3 years before you can file a Writ for divorce on the ground that your marriage has broken down irretrievably. However, and with permission from the Court, you may proceed to file a Writ for divorce before 3 years of marriage if you can prove that you have suffered exceptional hardship or if your spouse has been exceptionally unreasonable and cruel. You are advised to consult a lawyer.

You or your spouse must be domiciled (treated Singapore as your permanent abode) at the commencement of the divorce proceedings. Alternatively, either of you must have resided in Singapore for 3 years immediately before the commencement of divorce proceedings.

The Court will only be satisfied that your marriage has broken down irretrievably if the Plaintiff (the person suing for divorce) proves one or more of the following factual basis:

The Defendant (the person being sued) has committed adultery with another person (the Co-Defendant) and the Plaintiff finds it intolerable to live with the Defendant.

The Defendant has behaved in such a way that the Plaintiff cannot reasonably be expected to live with him/her.

The Defendant has deserted or left the Plaintiff for a continuous period of 2 years without any intention of returning.

The Plaintiff and Defendant have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 3 years and the Defendant agrees to a divorce.

The Plaintiff and the Defendant have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 4 years. No consent is required from the Defendant.

See a lawyer for advice and assistance. You will be advised whether you can file a Writ for divorce. The lawyer will then prepare the necessary legal documents on your behalf.

In a divorce proceeding, the parties may apply for:

In deciding on the division of matrimonial assets, the Court will take into consideration various factors including:
  • the extent of contributions made by each party in moneys, property or work towards the acquiring of the assets and non-financial contributions made by parties;
  • any debts owing by either party which were contracted for this joint benefit; and
  • the needs of the minor children (if any) of the marriage. Please see article on Custody and Maintenance for more information.

Please take note that you should organise all the documents you have in support of your claim as these will have to be shown to the Court. Documents may well include pay slips, CPF statements, Income Tax assessments and documents relating to the matrimonial home amongst others.

You will be served with the Writ for Divorce together with several other Court documents. You should consult a lawyer if you are unsure as to the implications and procedures.

If you wish to contest the divorce, you should state so in the Memorandum of Appearance sent to you and then file a Defence and in some instance, a Counterclaim. These documents have to be filed in Court and served on the Plaintiff's lawyers.

Even if you do not wish to contest the divorce, you can still dispute the Plaintiff's claims for custody and/or care and control/access, matrimonial assets, maintenance and costs of the proceedings. If the Plaintiff is your husband, you may wish to claim for maintenance as a spouse.

You must comply with the legal procedures and the time limits stipulated. The Writ for Divorce served on you states clearly the procedure, which you have to follow. Please consult a lawyer for assistance.

If the divorce is not contested, both the Plaintiff and the Defendant will be given a day to appear in Court. The Plaintiff will be required to confirm the contents of the Statement of Claim and Statement of Particulars.

If the divorce is contested, both the Plaintiff and the Defendant will be required to appear in Court to give evidence to support their claims. Such proceedings are usually lengthy and may prove to be unpleasant. After hearing the evidence of the parties, the Judge will decide on the disputes and claims of the parties.

Once the Judge is satisfied that there is an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, the Judge will grant an Interim Judgment (Divorce), which is an interim divorce order.

An Interim Judgment will usually be made final after all questions relating to custody and/or care and control/access, maintenance and other ancillary matters have been settled. Generally, an Interim Judgment will only be made final (or commonly known as the 'Final Judgment') after 3 months from date of the Interim Judgment. Only when the Certificate of Making Interim Judgment Final ('Final Judgment') has been issued by the Court can either party marry again.

If you wish to live apart permanently but do not wish to commence divorce proceedings for various reasons, then you may make an application to Court for judicial separation.

A Judgment of Judicial Separation granted by the Court does not allow you to remarry. Your marriage has not been dissolved. However, you would be entitled to similar claims as in a divorce, e.g. custody, matrimonial assets.

You may apply to Court to annul your marriage in some circumstances, for example:
  • if at the time of your marriage, your 'spouse' is already married;
  • your "spouse" has refused to consummate the marriage;
  • the marriage has not been consummated because you or your 'spouse' is incapable of consummating it;
  • if at the time of your marriage, your 'spouse' is suffering from venereal disease and you are not aware of this.

The above grounds are not exhaustive. Please consult a lawyer if you require further information.

You may wish to be separated from your spouse for a period of time before you decide on a divorce. In this case, you may sign an agreement called a Deed of Separation which will set out the terms and conditions governing the relationship between you and your spouse during the period of separation. It would be advisable for you to consult a lawyer to draft the Deed of Separation.

You may decide to reconcile with your spouse after signing the Deed of Separation. Alternatively, you may proceed with your divorce after 3 years (if your spouse consents) or 4 years (if your spouse does not of separation).