If I get divorced in a foreign country, can the Singapore courts grant financial relief for matrimonial assets situated in Singapore?
Under Singapore law, the courts have the power to divide matrimonial assets or order maintenance for the spouse where a marriage had been terminated in a foreign country1. While it would generally be more appropriate for both the divorce and the division of assets to be managed in the same country, the Singapore courts have acknowledged that there may be circumstances where it would be fairer and more practical for the issue to be resolved in Singapore2.
To determine whether you can apply for financial relief, you should consider the following:
1) Is the foreign divorce, annulment of marriage or judicial separation recognised as valid in Singapore?3
Generally, a foreign judgment of divorce will be recognised as valid if it is granted by a court of either parties’ home country.
2) Do you or your spouse have a strong enough connection with Singapore?4
There are two ways to show this connection:
- At least one of the parties is “domiciled” in Singapore, or
- At least one of the parties has been “habitually resident” in Singapore for a continuous period of one year before applying to court for financial relief, or before the divorce, annulment or judicial separation is effective.
“Domicile” is a complex legal concept, but in layman’s terms, it is the country that the person treats as their permanent home. A person who is citizen of Singapore will be deemed, until contrary is proved, to be domiciled in Singapore.
To be “habitually resident”, one must be able to prove his or her residence for one year. Short absences (such as work trips or holidays) do not break the continuity required.
Adapted from JURISDICTION OF COURT IN MATRIMONIAL PROCEEDINGS
The court will also consider the following matters in order to determine if there is merit in your application5:
- How connected you and your spouse are to Singapore or any foreign country. For instance, a clear connection could be determined if you are a permanent resident of Singapore6.
- Whether you have already received or are to receive any financial benefit from the divorce, annulment or judicial separation.
- Whether you have any right to apply for financial relief under the law of any foreign country, and your reasons if you have chosen not to do so. It is nevertheless not necessary to prove that all options in the foreign country have failed before applying for the relief in Singapore.7 There is also no need to show that Singapore is the more appropriate country to grant financial relief.8
- The availability of the matrimonial asset in Singapore and whether an order for financial relief is likely to be enforceable. For instance, it is more likely for an order to be enforceable if the asset is situated in Singapore9. Conversely, if the asset is located in Singapore, it would be difficult to enforce an order by a foreign court10.
- The length of time since the divorce, annulment or judicial separation.
For more information on the division of matrimonial assets, contact our divorce lawyers who will be able to assess your case to see if you are eligible to apply for financial relief in Singapore.
2 UFN v UFM  SGCA 54
3 Section 121B of the Women’s Charter (Cap 353, 2009 Rev Ed)
4 Section 121C of the Women’s Charter (Cap 353, 2009 Rev Ed)
5 Section 121F of the Women’s Charter (Cap 353, 2009 Rev Ed)
6 UFN v UFM  SGCA 54
7 UFN v UFM  SGCA 54
8 UFN v UFM  SGCA 54
9 UFN v UFM  SGCA 54
10 UFN v UFM  SGCA 54