Divorce for Foreigners in Singapore

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overseas divorce singapore

How do parties divorce in Singapore in the event they were married overseas?

It is not an uncommon query received by our International Divorce Lawyers in the globalised world we live in today.

As a starting point, the three essential questions our Singapore Divorce Lawyers will ask are as follows:-

  • How long have parties been married?
  • Is either party to the marriage a Singapore Citizen?
  • If no, how long have parties been residing in Singapore?

In this article, we will explain why the questions are important in turn.

Length of marriage

In Singapore, parties must be married for at least three years before filing a Writ for Divorce in the Singapore Family Justice Courts under Section 94(1) of the Women’s Charter (Chapter 353).

As a policy reason, the purpose of the 3-year time bar appears to protect the sanctity of the marriage.

Whether either party to the marriage is a Singapore Citizen

Suppose either party to the marriage is a Singapore Citizen. In that case, the party will need to be domiciled in Singapore under Section 3(5) of the Women’s Charter (Chapter 353). Accordingly, the Singapore Family Justice Courts will have jurisdiction to hear parties’ divorce proceedings.

If no party to the marriage is a Singapore Citizen, how long have parties been residing in Singapore?

The length of time parties has been residing in Singapore is important because it determines whether the Court has jurisdiction to hear parties’ divorce proceedings based on domicile or habitual residence for at least three years before the commencement of proceedings under Section 93(1) of the Women’s Charter (Chapter 353).

If you do not meet the above criteria

Less than three years before the commencement of proceedings

In the event parties have been residing in Singapore for less than 3 years, the party who wishes to commence divorce proceedings may consider showing his/her intention to be domiciled in Singapore. This means that he/she has to show the following: –

  1. Voluntary residence as an inhabitant rather than a casual visitor;
  2. His/her intention to remain in Singapore indefinitely.

An example to show the same would be shifting a party’s substantial assets to Singapore.

At least 3 years before the commencement of proceedings

If parties have been habitually residing in Singapore for at least three years before the commencement of proceedings, the Singapore Courts will have jurisdiction to hear parties’ divorce proceedings. To show habitual residence in Singapore, one must show a degree of continuity in his/her residence in Singapore, which is a question of fact.

To sum up, in the event parties have married overseas and wish to divorce in Singapore, they must fulfill the following: –

  1. Married for at least three years;
  2. One party must be a Singapore Citizen;
  3. Suppose no party to the marriage is a Singapore Citizen. In that case, either party must show intention to be domiciled in Singapore or be habitually resident in Singapore for at least three years.

Read More: Divorce Eligibility for an Expat

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