A divorce is the legal process that ends the legal relationship between a husband and wife. There are 2 stages in a divorce proceeding – Dissolution of Marriage and Resolution of Ancillary Matters.
Dissolution of Marriage
The first stage of the divorce proceeding is to dissolve the legal relationship of marriage. To get a divorce, the general rule is that you must be married for at least 3 years.
There are exceptions to this rule when the courts exercise their discretion to grant a divorce, such as mental distress or physical abuse. If you could not fulfil the exceptions of the rule, you could also opt for a Nullity of Marriage
, which means to treat the marriage as never happened before.
If you are in such a situation where divorce is needed urgently, please send in a request for a meeting with our specialist lawyer.
In Singapore, there are 5 grounds of divorce, pursuant to S95(3) of Women’s Charter:
- • Adultery;
- • Unreasonable Behaviour;
- • Desertion for at least 2 years;
- • Separation for at least 3 years for uncontested divorce; and
- • Separation for at least 4 years for contested divorce.
Once your divorce is granted by the courts, you will get an Interim Judgement of Divorce.
Resolution of Ancillary Matters
With the Interim Judgment, you proceed to the 2nd stage, Ancillary Matters.
Ancillary Matters refer to the issues of matrimonial property and assets; custody, care and control of the children; and maintenance. After the ancillary matters are resolved, you get the Final Judgment and that concludes the divorce proceeding.
These 2 stages are separate legal proceedings.
It is common for parties to agree to a divorce, but have disputes over the ancillary matters.
If the parties could amicably agree on the divorce and the ancillary matters, it can be a smooth process which can be as fast as 3 months and cost as low as $1,500 nett.
However, if the parties could not agree at either stage, the process becomes arduous and lengthy, while the legal costs increase correspondingly. Parties would have bear with the emotional distress involved and the financial burden of high legal costs.
At Yeo & Associates, we do our best to alleviate the difficulty of the parties by providing FIXED FEES STRUCTURE
for each stage of the legal proceeding, instead of charging by hour like other law firms.
See our FIXED FEES STRUCTURE here
You must show that your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with him or her. Unreasonable behaviour is now the most common fact on which to prove the grounds for divorce in Singapore. In an unreasonable behaviour writ, the Plaintiff sets out a number of allegations against the Defendant.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the court does not insist on really severe allegations of unreasonable behaviour in order to grant a divorce. Relatively mild allegations such as devoting too much time to a career, having no common interests or pursuing a separate social life may suffice. Using mild allegations may make it easier to agree the contents of the writ with your spouse.
You must prove through actual admission or through sufficient circumstantial evidence that your spouse has had sexual intercourse with another person of the opposite sex and that you find it intolerable to live with your spouse. Not more than six months must have elapsed since you became aware of the adultery before the writ is sent to the court, unless the adultery is continuing.
The fact of your spouse’s adultery can be proven by obtaining a Private Investigator’s report. However, such reports may be expensive for most ranging from S$2000.00 to S$8,000.00 or more.
Therefore, if you cannot tolerate the spouse due to his or her affair and both parties agree to a divorce, it is suggested that the unreasonable behaviour ground is used instead. Usually, the writ will indicate that the deviant spouse has “improper association” with the opposite gender.
In Singapore, suing a spouse for adultery would only mean that your divorce will be granted based on that reason. It may not necessarily help you in obtaining more money out of the division of the house or be awarded more maintenance. It will not land your deviant spouse in jail either.
If you decide to go on with the divorce based on adultery, you can name the third party as a co-Defendant. It’s best to seek legal advice before doing so and know your legal rights and consequences.
3 years Separation
This is for cases where the parties have been living apart for at least three years, and they agree to a divorce. Usually, if parties have already decided on the divorce, they should approach a lawyer to draft a Separation Agreement at the start of their separation, to set out the ancillary matters in the agreement before filing for the divorce.
With a Separation Agreement in place, the divorce proceedings would be easier and faster.
Speak to our specialist family lawyer on how to proceed with a separation.
4 years Separation
This is for cases where the parties have been living apart for at least four years. There is no need to seek your spouse’s consent for a divorce in this case.
This is where your spouse has deserted you for a continuous period of at least two years. For example, your foreign spouse left the family for a period of 2 years and you are unable to find him/her.
If you cannot fulfil the exceptions to the 3 years marriage rule, and still wishes to end the marriage before the 3 years marriage requirement, you could consider annulling the marriage.
A Nullity of marriage treats the marriage has never happened before. However, it is extremely difficult to establish the grounds of Nullity.
There only 6 accepted grounds for Nullity:
- 1. When the parties could not consummate their marriage due to inability, either party can apply for nullity.
- 2. When the parties could not consummate their marriage due to wilful refusal of one party, the party being refused can apply for nullity.
- 3. When there is a lack of valid consent to marriage, either party can apply for nullity, and must do so within 3 years of the marriage.
- 4. When there is a lack of fitness for marriage, eg. One party was suffering from mental disorder at the time of the marriage, either party can apply for nullity, and must do so within 3 years of the marriage.
- 5. When one spouse contracted a sexually transmitted disease at the time of marriage and the other spouse was not aware at the time of the marriage, the unaware can apply for nullity, and must do so within 3 years of the marriage.
- 6. When the wife was made pregnant by third party at the time of the marriage and the husband was unaware at the time of the marriage, he can apply for nullity, and must do so within 3 years of the marriage.
The court has the discretion to reject the nullity application if it is not satisfied that the case has been proven or the conditions of the nullity were not met.
Nullity of a marriage has exceptional high bars to fulfil, hence the preferred alternative is always a divorce. However, if you really do need a nullity of your marriage, you should speak to our specialist lawyer, who has extensive experience in nullity cases.