Singapore, known for its robust legal system, offers a well-established framework for divorce proceedings. However, expat divorces often involve additional complexities such as jurisdictional issues, cross-border assets, and child custody matters.
Being well-informed about the legal requirements, options, and potential challenges specific to an expat divorce in Singapore is essential for a smooth transition and for protecting your rights.
In the following sections, we will delve into the divorce process in Singapore, discussing;
- eligibility criteria,
- filing procedures,
- mandatory mediation,
- ancillary matters,
- child custody and maintenance considerations,
- division of matrimonial assets,
- finalising the divorce, and
- the possibility of appeals.
Throughout the guide, we will pay particular attention to aspects that expatriates should consider when divorcing in Singapore.
Eligibility for Divorce
In Singapore, the law recognizes only one ground for divorce: the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. However, this breakdown must be proven through one of five legally recognized facts:
- unreasonable behaviour,
- separation for three years with consent,
- or separation for four years without consent.
Read more: The Ground for Divorce in Singapore
Filing for Divorce
To initiate the divorce process, either you or your spouse has to be domiciled in Singapore (i.e. treated Singapore as your permanent home) at the start of the proceedings, OR either party has to have resided in Singapore for 3 years immediately before filing the divorce application.
Upon filing the Writ for Divorce, where the divorce is contested, parties are required to attend mandatory mediation at the FJC’s Child Focused Resolution Centre (CFRC). Mediation encourages parties to reach an amicable settlement regarding child custody, maintenance, and division of assets. If mediation fails, the case proceeds to the next stage.
The ancillary matters phase involves resolving financial and child-related issues. The Court expects parties to negotiate and mediate to reach a consensus on matters such as child custody, access, division of matrimonial assets, and spousal maintenance. If an agreement is reached, the Court will convert the agreement into a legally binding court order.
Child Custody and Maintenance
In determining child custody arrangements, the Court prioritizes the child’s best interests. Parents are encouraged to agree on a parenting plan covering custody, care, and control.
If an agreement is not possible, the Court will decide based on various factors, including the child’s welfare and the ability of each parent to meet their needs.
Maintenance for children is also determined based on the child’s financial needs and the parties’ financial capabilities.
Read more: Child Issues (Access & Maintenance)
Division of Matrimonial Assets
Singapore does not follow the principle of equal division of matrimonial assets acquired by either spouse during the marriage.
Instead, the Singapore court will consider various factors such as the direct and indirect contributions made by each party, the length of the marriage, the parties financial needs, and the welfare of their children, if any.
Parties are encouraged to negotiate and reach a settlement. If an agreement cannot be reached, the Court will decide based on the relevant circumstances.
Finalizing the Divorce
If parties agree on all issues for the divorce and ancillary matters, the Court will grant an interim judgment. Once all matters are resolved, and there are no further disputes, the Court will issue a Certificate of Final Judgment 3 months after the date of the Interim Judgment to declare the end of the marriage officially.
If dissatisfied with the Court’s decision, either party has the right to appeal within a specific time frame. Appeals are typically heard at the High Court (Family Division).
Navigating the divorce process in Singapore requires a comprehensive understanding of the legal framework and procedures involved. Our international divorce lawyers can guide you to ensure your rights are protected and facilitate a smoother transition.
While divorce can be emotionally taxing, focusing on amicable negotiations and the children’s best interests can lead to more positive outcomes. Remember, settling through mediation is often the preferred approach. However, if that fails, the Court will make necessary decisions based on the relevant factors.