Common Divorce Questions in Singapore – Answered by Matrimonial Lawyers Gloria James-Civetta & Co
There is a lot to learn about the divorce process in Singapore. Even if you and your spouse have mutually agreed on terms to dissolve your marriage, you should understand your rights and obligations so that you can make proactive decisions about your future.
Divorce is, after all, “A life changing experience”.
Below, we have listed the most common divorce questions people ask and need to know more about.
If you require further information, please visit Singapore Divorce Lawyer Blog, a valuable resource if you’re considering a divorce.
What Are My Divorce Options?
The various options are as follows:
1. Court Litigation Process
This process comes into play when parties are acrimonious and are unable to come to an agreement on the termination of the marriage and/or ancillary issues.
There are 2 stages to divorce proceedings:
In the first stage, the Family Court will decide whether the marriage should be dissolved i.e. the grounds of divorce. Divorce papers will be filed and served on your spouse. Upon receiving the papers, your spouse has a right to file a defence and/or counterclaim. The Court will then hear the matter to determine if there has been an irretrievable breakdown of marriage. At the end of this stage, parties will receive an Interim Judgement.
In the second stage, the Court will deal with the ancillary matters such as division of matrimonial assets, final orders on custody of the children and maintenance of wife and children (if applicable). Parties will have to file their respective Affidavit of Assets and Means (AOMs) setting out their position on the ancillary matters. Thereafter, parties will have to prepare their written submissions with supporting case law which will be submitted before the Ancillary Hearing.
At the end of this stage, the court will make a decision after considering both parties’ position, and parties’ can extract the Final Judgement 3 months after.
2. Uncontested Consent Divorce
This process is available to parties who have decided to terminate their marriage and have come to an agreement on the terms of their divorce.
This process is the quickest way to terminate your marriage in Singapore. It takes between 4 to 5 months (with ownership of private property) to 6 months (with ownership of HDB property) to get to the final certification stage.
The benefits of an uncontested divorce are as follows: –
- Cheaper and faster – couples negotiate with each other to settle the terms of agreement. Parties engage the services of one divorce lawyer after an agreement is reached;
- Private and confidential– even though divorce papers are filed in court, it is not necessary to put all the agreements on record as parties may be flexible on the agreed terms;
- Lessens hard feelings– as there is minimum intervention from the divorce lawyer, uncontested divorce proceedings encourage couples to take time and talk with each other, thus encouraging healing and forgiveness between parties.
3. Private Mediation
This process is designed to help couples arrive at an agreement on the terms of the dissolution of their marriage prior to the filing for divorce.
How does the mediation work?
The appointed Family Mediator is a neutral third party, who will encourage couples to address and settle issues such as property distribution, child and spousal maintenance, division of assets and any other key problem areas. The mediator will also give parties a realistic indication as to how a court might rule on any number of disputed issues.
This may take longer than one session. Upon couples reaching an agreement, the lawyer-mediator will then draft a divorce agreement that the court is likely to approve.
4. 4-Way Lawyer Negotiation with Parties
This process is employed prior to and subsequent to filing for a divorce. Divorcing couples, together with their lawyers, sit through “without prejudice” meetings to come to an agreement on divorce terms.
Clients may attend these meetings, or leave it to their lawyers to negotiate on their behalf in this process.
The role of your Divorce Lawyer-Mediator in this process is to provide you with information, assistance and advice to ensure that you are well-informed to make decisions throughout the mediation and negotiation sessions.
The end result is to help parties successfully reach a settlement that satisfies parties` needs as much as possible.
5. Collaborative Divorce
Collaborative Family Practice (CFP) is a process that aims to help parties engage in a non – acrimonious settlement of differences without going to court. Divorcing couples are each represented by Collaborative Divorce Lawyers who come together to assist divorcing couples resolve conflicts by employing cooperative techniques rather than adversarial strategies and litigation. The collaborative process is most suitable where there are substantial assets and issues involved.
Parties’ lawyers will come together to assist in the following issues:
- Division of matrimonial assets;
- Maintenance of wife and children;
- Child custody.
Benefits of CFP include:
- Significant savings in costs for both parties; and
- Parties undergo less stressful and traumatic matrimonial proceedings, as they will avoid being put through cross-examinations in an open court which is emotionally draining.
This process allows parties to negotiate the terms of their separation on a without prejudice basis. Parties will not be allowed to use any part of their negotiations against each other in court upon failure to reach an agreement through CFP process.
Generally, How Long Does the Court Litigation Process Take?
Typically, the entire divorce proceeding process can take between 4 months (uncontested) to a year (contested). However, the exact length of proceedings is dependent on the nature of the dispute, as well as parties’ relationship with each other. If parties are hostile and unwilling to co-operate, that may drag out the entire process. Visit this site for a more detailed breakdown and overview of the court litigation process.
What Will The Divorce Cost?
Uncontested Divorce packages are as follows: –
- $1,500– with no children or property
- $2,500– with children, maintenance and HDB/private property
You and your spouse will need to agree on: –
- The grounds for divorce
- Division of matrimonial asset (HDB/private property, CPF monies, savings, insurance and other ancillary matters)
- Issues involving the care and control of the children
- Maintenance arrangements for wife and/or children.
With regards to contested divorce proceedings, it will depend on the nature of the case and amount of work done. You may contact our Singapore divorce lawyers today to book a consultation.
How Will Our Property Be Divided?
When dividing your property, the Court’s primary objective is to make sure that all parties are treated fairly. Under Singapore law, the court has the power to order the division of matrimonial assets in a “just and equitable manner”. Some of the factors that the court will consider in arriving at a just and equitable division include: –
- The extent of direct and indirect contribution made by each party in monetary terms;
- The needs of the children of the marriage;
- The extent of contributions made by each party to the welfare of the family (indirect contribution);
- Any agreement made between parties with regards to the division of the property upon divorce.
Generally, property acquired before the marriage is not a matrimonial asset subject to division during a divorce. This is unless the property is ordinarily used by the family or has been substantially improved during the marriage by both parties or by the party who was not the original owner of the property.
A property acquired by way of “gift” or “inheritance” will not be a matrimonial asset subject to division unless it is the “matrimonial home” and has been substantially improved by both, or the other party.
How is Spousal Support Calculated?
In Singapore, pursuant to Section 113 of the Women’s Charter, the court may order the husband to pay maintenance to his wife either during the divorce, or subsequent to the grant of judgement of divorce, judicial separation or nullity of marriage.
When making a decision on spousal maintenance, the court has wide discretion to decide on the amount of maintenance to be paid to the wife or ex-wife, taking into account all the facts of the case. Some of the factors that the court will consider include: –
- The salary and earning capacity of each party in the past, present and future;
- The financial needs and obligations of each party in the future;
- The standard of living of each party before the marriage broke down;
- The age of both parties and how long they were married for;
- Any direct and indirect contributions made by each party to the household;
- Any losses suffered by each party as a result of their marriage;
- The length of the marriage.
Changes to the Women’s Charter means that wives may also be ordered to pay maintenance to their husbands or ex-husbands who are incapacitated and unable to work and support themselves if there is a clear need. Spousal maintenance may be paid either on a periodic basis or calculated as a lump sum payment.
Who Will Get Custody Of My Children?
The various types of child custody orders given in the Singapore Courts include sole custody order, joint custody order, hybrid order and split custody order.
As a general guide, the court will most likely make an order for joint custody. This means that both parents will be involved in making major decisions for the child, such as matters relating to religion, education and healthcare.
In deciding the type of custody order, the Court’s paramount consideration is the welfare of the child. This includes the child’s moral and religious welfare, his/her physical well-being, ties of affection, happiness, comfort and security.
Care and control, on the other hand, concerns the day-to-day decision makings for the child, and is awarded to the party who is to reside with the child. As a general guide, the court is inclined to award care and control to the mother, especially when the children are still very young. Only in exceptional circumstances, for instance if the mother lacks mental capacity to look after the child or if the husband claims that the mother abuses the child, the court will award care and control to the father.
How Do Courts Decide Parenting Time?
Parenting time, or access, is granted to the parent who is not given care and control of the child. The starting point of access orders is the presumption that the child should have access to the non-custodial parent as it is beneficial to the child. Contention often lies in the quantum of access to be given.
The Court will take into account the following factors when deciding the quantum of access, including but not limited to: –
- The child’s wishes
- The child’s needs
- The non-custodial parent’s previous contact with the child;
- The history of the relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent.
Ultimately, the Court will look at what is in the best interests of the child in determining the amount of access time to be given.
Examples of access orders include weekday access, weekend access, public holiday access and school holiday access.
How is Child Support Calculated?
In Singapore, it is the duty of both parents to provide financial support to their children until the age of 21. However, maintenance orders may be extended above the age of 21 under certain circumstances such as if they are pursuing tertiary education or undergoing national service.
The quantum of child’s maintenance is arrived at by taking into account the child’s education expenses, daily living expenses, medical, insurance and health related expenses and other daily living expenses.